Narrative Braiding and the Role of Public Officials in Transforming the Publics Conflicts

  • Sara Cobb George Mason University
Keywords: narrative, community conflicts, leadership, public officials


Deliberative processes should enable public officials to stay connected to the changing needs and interests of the communities for whom and with whom they work. Theoretically, these practices should enable public officials to help citizens negotiate with each other, and with the government, problem-solving in a way that produces timely solutions to the kinds of wicked problems that are critical to governing in the globalized context where media sensationalizes divisions that create the Us as different from Them. Theoretically, these practices should enable public officials to foster a quality of relationships within a community that supports the community to learn about itself, to become a reflecting community (Laws, 2010). However, it is all too often the case that these practices enact the form of engagement only, without significantly altering the nature of relationships or the (his)stories that are the comet tail of wicked problems. This paper offers a narrative lens on deliberation, describing a practice called braiding, which would allow public officials to weave together the storylines and the identities that anchor them, creating the conditions for public deliberation that could actually transform the publics conflicts.

Author Biography

Sara Cobb, George Mason University
Sara Cobb is the Director of the Center for the Study of Narrative and Conflict Resolution School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University.