Manual for Change


For the past twenty years, we at Storywise have been engaged in an amazing experiment. We have had the chance to apply what we know about stories to help emerging leaders from conflict and post-conflict zones of the world. Our goal was to help them design and grow better stories to shape a better future. It has been one of the most challenging commitments of our lives. We have learned so much and unlearned so much more. By stealth, “that same old story” creeps into almost every innovation, threatening every chance of a Brave New World. Our experience resonates with what Lincoln wrote in December 1862 as the Civil War opened so badly for the Union forces and he called the nation to embrace a new story:

Image result for lincoln Abraham

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

Whether it be emerging leaders of Northern Ireland and Ireland or the post-Mandela generation of South Africa, or the embattled voices of Palestine/ Israel or the local volunteers of AmeriCorps Project CHANGE, we have evolved a method that we sum up with our mantra-“If you want to change the world, you have to change the story.” After two decades in this living laboratory and seeing our graduates emerge to serve at every level, including the highest offices of their nation, we are often asked to capture what this NSL- New Story Leadership method is all about. So here it is.

Being a recovering English teacher, we thought the simplest way would be to take each word or phrase and parse it for what we mean. We hope it conveys a sense of the energy behind this work and inspire you to apply it in your life. Right now, we seem to be so stuck in old narratives that don’t work, and yet, seem paralyzed to move into anything better. That is “the story” at least, and while it seems to aptly describe our dilemma, this manual will teach us that stories are less descriptions of reality and more prescriptions of possibility. If we say we can’t, we won’t. If we say we can, more than likely, we will.

Paul Costello BA Dip Ed. B.Th. BD. MFA
Founder and President- New Story Leadership Inc-
Director AmeriCorps Project CHANGE Montgomery
at The Center for Narrative Studies- Washington DC.  
July 4th  2019