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$25 million new gift to encourage community engagement in schools, announced by Jackie Bezos
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$25 million new gift to encourage community engagement in schools, announced by Jackie Bezos

Narrative 4, a global nonprofit that harnesses the power of storytelling to encourage action and change among young people, has announced a groundbreaking $25 million gift from the Bezos Family Foundation. The investment will be used to encourage community engagement in thousands of schools across the United States.

The gift comes on the occasion of the organization’s 10th anniversary and will allow Narrative 4 to reach over half a million students and almost 20,000 teachers in the next five years.

“This is a stunning gift that pays homage to the notion that our stories and our storytellers can change the world,” said Narrative 4 CEO Lisa Consiglio. “Thanks to the enormous support of the Bezos Family Foundation, we will be able to inspire countless young people to become the civic leaders of tomorrow. Narrative 4 – which is supported by artists as diverse as Sting and Terry Tempest Williams, Marlon James, Gabriel Byrne, Ishmael Beah and Lila Azam Zanganeh – was founded on the notion that stories are the building blocks of the world.”

“I have always been inspired by the power of young people and storytellers,” said Jackie Bezos, co-founder of the Bezos Family Foundation. “Change comes about by participating in and understanding the stories of other people.  Narrative 4 does this in a profound way.”

Narrative 4’s work is grounded in the idea that through the exchange of personal narratives, young people will see the world, themselves and one another more empathetically — and learn, in the process, to act more compassionately. The Story Exchange program, available virtually and in schools globally, involves a facilitator-guided exercise where students exchange, recount and take on another’s story, building deep empathetic connections along the way.

“The Bezos Family Foundation and its co-founder, Jackie Bezos, are among the greatest visionaries behind our organization,” said Narrative 4 co-founder and National Book Award-winning author Colum McCann. “They understand that stories are our fundamental democracy and have helped us become prominent in schools across the United States and in 42 countries around the world. We feel that Jackie is ringing the bell for profound long-term change.”

Narrative 4 aims to facilitate at least three million story exchanges in the next five years.

“Thanks to my experience with Narrative 4, I now have the confidence to turn my ideas into reality and have been able to give pieces of myself to some of the most incredible people I have ever met. The world doesn’t feel so big anymore,” said Emily Branham of Floyd Central High School in Eastern Kentucky. “With all the hate and violence that goes on every single day, I believe Narrative 4 is helping us find common ground.” Emily has been a participant of Narrative 4’s Bronx, NY and Kentucky Field Exchange program for the past four years.

“We would like, eventually, to be in every school in the world,” said Consiglio. “With the help of this donation, we can develop our trailblazing programs and help equip students to create the changes they want to see in their communities. In the end, their imaginations, stories and fresh thinking will help solve some of the world’s seemingly most intractable problems.”

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