Working with Stories is a textbook for people who want to use participatory narrative inquiry (PNI) in their communities and organizations. PNI methods help people discover insights, catch emerging trends, make decisions, generate ideas, resolve conflicts, and connect people.

Participatory narrative inquiry draws on theory and practice in narrative inquiry, participatory action research, oral history, mixed-methods research, participatory theatre, narrative therapy, sensemaking, complexity theory, and decision support. Its focus is on the exploration of values, beliefs, feelings, and perspectives through collaborative sensemaking with stories of lived experience.

Working with Stories is available in four formats.






(suggested donation)


(suggested donation)


The Kindle version can also be read on the iPad, iPhone, and Android using Amazon's free Kindle app. Donations are not tax-deductible as charitable donations. If you want to print pages of the PDF book, you can download a higher-resolution PDF file (111 MB). You can also download the book's figures in PDF or PPT formats.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Fundamentals of Story Work
    • What Is a Story?
    • What Are Stories For?
    • How Do Stories Work?
    • Stories in Communities and Organizations
  • A Guide to Participatory Narrative Inquiry
    • Introducing Participatory Narrative Inquiry
    • Project Planning
    • Story Collection
    • Group Exercises for Story Collection
    • Narrative Catalysis
    • Narrative Sensemaking
    • Group Exercises for Narrative Sensemaking
    • Narrative Intervention
    • Narrative Return
  • Appendices
    • Example Models and Templates for Group Exercises
    • Further Reading: Your PNI Bookshelf
    • Bibliography
    • Acknowledgements and Biography
  • Glossary
  • Index

Reader praise

  • "I wanted to say thanks for making Working with Stories available. It's an amazing piece of work, so simple (not the ideas, but the presentation) and unintimidating."
  • "[Working With Stories] is very thorough and helpful to me in exploring ways that I might capture the narrative of a project I am involved in."
  • "Your detailed description of [the sensemaking] process is so useful and helpful. It makes seasoned facilitators like me yearn to try out the ideas."
  • "Over the past few months I have been reading, reflecting, and feasting on your experiences working with stories. I am really excited to have found Working With Stories because it seems like a rich set of options for our needs."
  • "Your terminology and explanation of participatory narrative inquiry have helped me greatly in understanding what I want from my practice and what I might be capable of achieving in social change."
  • "I have been returning to Working With Stories time and again over the past six months to help support a community project, and my printed copy is underlined, noted and dog-eared."

About the author

Cynthia F. Kurtz is a researcher and consultant who has been helping communities and organizations work with their stories since 1999. She has consulted on more than eighty narrative projects for a variety of government agencies and for-profit and non-profit corporations. Working with a series of collaborators, she developed an approach to story work that helps communities and organizations make better, more grounded decisions by making sense of their own stories. She is widely considered a leader in the field of organizational and community narrative. Cynthia lives in upstate New York with her husband, son, dog, cat, forest, and stories.

You can find out more about Cynthia's work at her web site and blog.

More Work with Stories

The companion book to Working with Stories (More Work with Stories) is in progress and should be completed sometime in the fall of 2014. You can download it in pre-publication form. Please and send feedback to cfkurtz at cfkurtz dot com.