NARRATIVE 4 Story Exchange Pilot

 power of storytelling

'Stories are the one common bond every person shares.  The ultimate democracy— but with a touch of magic!'

Throughout late 2024/early 2025, Narrative Alchemy are working with Global-based Narrative 4 to pilot their incredible Story Exchange model in a number of participating UK schools.  As part of this collaboration, Narrative 4 is providing funding so that we can train UK school staff  to deliver the N4 Story Exchange model free of charge. 

Every journey starts with a single step.  The step we want UK schools to take is to integrate the sharing of stories into their ecology, in order to build community, build relationships, build connections, and create a shared sense of our common humanity.  We want schools to be places where everyone is connected.   Where they have told each other's stories and 'walked in their shoes.'

This initiative aims to demonstrate the benefits of integrating Narrative 4's approach into UK school environments, fostering empathy, compassion, understanding, and dialogue among both students and staff.

Our ultimate goal is for young people to feel safe, secure, seen, and heard within their schools anf for students to use the power of stories to drive change in their communities.  We recognise the importance of creating environments where every individual's voice is valued and respected.  Through the Story Exchange model, we aim to empower students to share their experiences, perspectives, and challenges in a creative, supportive and inclusive space.

Additionally, we hope to leverage the Story Exchange model to tackle some of the behaviour, attendance, and engagement issues that schools are currently facing in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.  By fostering connections and strengthening relationships among students and between students and staff, we aim to create a more positive and supportive school culture that encourages participation and active engagement in learning.

Through this partnership with N4 and with the participating schools, we aspire to not only promote empathy, compassion, and understanding, but also address pressing challenges within school communities, ultimately creating environments where every young person feels valued, connected, supported, and empowered to succeed.

WHo is narrative 4?

Narrative 4 was founded in 2012 by a group of passionate authors, activists, and educators, including renowned Irish writer Colum McCann and entrepreneur Lisa Consiglio.  Their inspiration stemmed from witnessing the power of storytelling to break down barriers and unite people during tumultuous times.

Motivated by a shared belief in the potential of storytelling to inspire empathy and drive social change, McCann, Consiglio, and their collaborators embarked on a journey to create Narrative 4.  They sought to harness the universal language of narrative to foster understanding and connection among individuals from diverse backgrounds, with the ultimate goal of building more compassionate and inclusive communities.

Narrative 4 quickly gained momentum and, recognising the universality of human experiences and the importance of cross-cultural dialogue, expanded its reach internationally - now working in 35 countries, with hubs in The US, Ireland, Israel, Palestine, Nigeria, and Mexico.

Today, Narrative 4's mission remains deeply rooted in the belief that storytelling has the power to transform lives and societies.  By facilitating exchanges of personal narratives and promoting empathetic listening, they empower individuals worldwide to recognise their shared humanity and work towards a more equitable and interconnected world.  Central to this mission is their dedication to working with young people and educators within educational settings.

Understanding the pivotal role of education in shaping future generations, Narrative 4 prioritises partnerships with schools and educational institutions globally.  using their core methodology, the 'Story Exchange', they engage with students and teachers through tailored workshops, curriculum integration, and immersive experiences designed to foster empathy, compassion, understanding, dialogue, and positive action.  By providing young people with the tools and opportunities to share their stories and listen to others, Narrative 4 equips them with essential skills for navigating an increasingly diverse and interconnected world.

Through their work in education, Narrative 4 not only cultivates empathy but also nurtures critical thinking, communication skills, and cultural understanding among students. 

By empowering young people to embrace their own narratives and appreciate the perspectives of others, they lay the groundwork for a more compassionate and inclusive society, where individuals feel safe, secure, seen, and heard, and are better equipped to collaborate, empathise, and effect positive change.

What is a Story Exchange?

There are four parts to a Narrative 4 Story Exchange:-


In the weeks leading up to an exchange, trained staff (using N4 lesson plans) will guide students through a series of creative and practical activities that focus on listening skills, oracy skills, empathy, and story-telling.  Each activity works towards the students crafting their own stories that they will use in the upcoming exchange.


On the day of the exchange staff will guide students through some practical and fun exercises to get the group working together, feeling safe within the group, feeling confident in themselves, setting group rules, and listening to each other.  Staff will then model how the Story Exchange works, and students will be paired up and will have time to share their story with their partner, and will actively listen and connect whilst their partner shares their own story.


The whole group will come back together in a circle and each student will retell their partner's story, but in the first person - they will 'walk in their shoes'.  It's not a test of memory, but an exercise in empathy and relationship.  Connection is more important that precision!


Guided by the trained staff, students will reflect on how they feel, what it was like to 'walk in someone else's shoes', what it was like to have their own stories born witness to, and what they have learned from the Story Exchange.

research, statistics, and impact

The University of Chicago

Researchers from the University of Chicago collected data from 9th grade students at University Heights High School (UHHS) in the Bronx, New York, in Spring of 2016 and Spring of 2019.  Since 2016, all 9th grade students at UHHS have participated in story exchanges.  UHHS pioneered a student facilitator training program, gradually turning freshmen into Narrative 4 leaders by the time they reach their junior year.

Researchers found that in the two years since partnering with us, UHHS experienced:

See the study

Narrative 4 students in the US feel more supported, according to Yale University

In 2015, the Center for Emotional Intelligence at Yale University launched the Emotion Revolution Survey.  In this nationwide survey, researchers asked high school students about their emotions and experiences at school.

In contrast to many other schools, students at Narrative 4 schools experienced positive emotions more frequently than students in the national sample. The reported benefits were:

See the study

Interventions – Building the Evidence Base

Narrative 4 Ireland has teamed up with researchers from the University of Limerick to expand the evidence base around the Story Exchange which is currently being prepared for publication in the European Journal of Teacher Education.

Gill, J & McMahon, J (2022). Teacher Perspectives of a Storytelling Teacher Training Intervention. [European Journal of Teacher Education].

Key findings:

UK PIlot Programme news and updates

News and updates about the pilot project and participating schools will be posted here.

Below are some featured articles and news items from Narrative 4 around the globe.

Narrative 4 on NBC's TODAY show.  (Video.  March 03, 2023)

8 Complete strangers tell their life stories.  See what happens next.  (Video.  Freethink.  May 06, 2022)

Using Storytelling for Trauma-Informed Pedagogy During COVID and Beyond.  (Article.  Ethical ELA.  Aug 15, 2021)

Synchronisity: A celebration of Art , Empathy, and Action.  (Youtube.  Sept 02.  2020)

Interschool Story Exchange in Zimbabwe.  (Youtube.  July 26, 2022)

Art as history in our lives.  (Article & Video. June 28, 2022)