School of System Change

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Executive Director, Narrative Initiative


Rinku Sen, Executive Director of Narrative Initiative, is a social justice strategist and strategist. She is formerly the Executive Director of Race Forward and was Publisher of their award-winning news site Colorlines. Under Sen’s leadership, Race Forward generated some of the most impactful racial justice successes of recent years, including Drop the I-Word, a campaign for media outlets to stop referring to immigrants as “illegal,” resulting in the Associated Press, USA Today, LA Times, and many more outlets changing their practice. She was also the architect of the Shattered Families report, which identified the number of children in foster care whose parents had been deported. Her books Stir it Up and The Accidental American theorize a model of community organizing that integrates a political analysis of race, gender, class, poverty, sexuality, and other systems. As a consultant, Rinku has worked on narrative and political strategy with numerous organizations and foundations, including PolicyLink, the ACLU and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. She serves on numerous boards, including the Women’s March, where she is Co-President, and the Foundation for National Progress, publisher of Mother Jones magazine.

I teach about the systems of narrative power: the difference between strategic communications and long-term narrative shift; the relationship between audiences, production and distribution; and the role of community and labor organizing in setting narrative. I share a broad view, decades-long view of social movements and philanthropy to generate racial, economic and gender justice.

What are you most excited about in your current work and why?
I'm most excited about our plans to work closely with changemakers on the ground to develop their narrative strategy and capacity. One such program is Word Force, a ghost-writing service for organizers and community leaders. We work with these leaders to produce Twitter threads, OpEds and Letters to the Editor, helping them develop their argumentation and storytelling skills to gain visibility for their work.