ABT Framework Student Resource Page Round 37 – Emory – MSCR 515

ABT Framework Student Resource Page Round 37 – Emory – MSCR 515


Working Circles

Course Dates & Time

Sign up to host your Working Circle here (separate page)

Sign up to participate in Working Circles here (separate page)

Before the first class

Session 1 Resources –  Intro

Session 2 Resources – Singular Narrative & Outer Circle

Session 3 Resources – Hero’s Journey

Session 4 Resources – The Two Moments & Narrative Metrics

Social Media

ABT Booklist

Working Circles 

If you’re new to Working Circles, start by watching this:

Synopsis on Working Circles

Working Circle Half Hour Schedule – Use this to guide you through how to host your half hour Working Circle.

To complete the class, you must sign up to host 1 Working Circle and sign up to participate in 2 Working Circles.

Sign up to host a Working Circle

  • Pick an available half hour time slot on this page.
  • Fill in your first name, last name, and a short title for your Working Circle based on your ABT.

Host responsibilities

  • Email your participants your ABT before the Working Circle so they have time to review it – we’ll send you the list of your participants’ email addresses 3-5 days ahead of time.
  • You can send your participants a revised ABT of what you originally submitted to class or use a brand new ABT all together.
  • During the Working Circle, use the ABT Blue Card and follow the half hour schedule.
  • You’re the moderator of the discussion, so do your best to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak and provide input.
  • We’ll send you and your participants a Zoom link for your Working Circle 3-5 days before you’re scheduled to host, so no need to worry about that.

Participant responsibilities

  • Sign up to participate in a minimum of 2 Working Circles.  Sign up link coming soon.
  • Review the ABT that the host sent you ahead of time and come up with your version of the 5 Word Problem (this will be discussed in class) for the host’s ABT before the Working Circle starts.
  • One participant should volunteer to be the notetaking Scribe.  The Scribe will share their screen so that everyone can view it and have a Word document up to take notes.  You can find a premade Scribe document in Word here.
  • (Optional)  Participants can rewrite the host’s ABT and present the rewritten ABT to the host during the Working Circle.  This approach is for participants who want a little extra practice and to give the host more options and ideas for rewriting their ABT.  So far we’ve had reports back that hosts are incredibly grateful when participants do this.
  • Be prepared to use the ABT Blue Card and all the tools you’ve learned in class to help the host clarify their narrative.

Course Dates and Times 

Virtual Sessions

Thursdays, 1:00 – 2:00pm Eastern Time (Sept 7, 14, 21, 28, – Oct 5, 12, 19, 26 – Nov 2, 9)

Before the first class 

Sign up to host a Working Circle (see above)

Download the ABT Blue Card – Have it open or printed out and ready for each class.  

Session 1 Resources – Intro

Chat Log

How to Create a Powerful 90 Second Project Summary Using the ABT Framework

Randy’s seminar with Scripps Research, “The Biomedical Maelstrom:  Narrative Mechanics of Failed COVID Communication from CDC and Elsewhere”:

Uri Hasson’s Paper on Neurocinematics – For a look at how narrative and non-narrative affects the brain.

Risk Communication on Climate: Mental Models and Mass Balance – The IPCC Report on climate change is supposed to be simple enough for policy makers to interpret it, but it’s so complicated that even MIT grads with STEM backgrounds can’t decipher it.

Download the ABT Blue Card – This is our 3 step model for revising an ABT to make it more effective.

John Roome from the World Bank has become one of our star pupils.  He regularly sends us ABT structured videos from his site visits around the world.  We’ve created an archive of his ABT structured videos here.

Optional Exercise #1 – “This is a story of…” – Change

This is an exercise that would be handy to have done before your in class ABT Build with Randy because Randy asks this question for roughly 99% of ABT Builds.

For this exercise, tell us what your ABT is about by finishing this sentence and using only 3 additional words “This is a story of____.”

It seems simple, but this exercise is tricky because participants tend to focus on the subject. But stories need more than a subject, they need change. Look at your ABT and see what major change you want to occur.  Your story starts at point A and ends at point B – what’s the change that you want to get us to point B?

Examples of changes in past ABTs:

  • Protecting a species
  • Strategizing building restoration
  • Managing conservation efforts
  • Restoring wildlife
  • Adapting to change
  • Educating our stakeholders
  • Understanding a disease

Look at this example ABT:

Congressional funding is a key requirement for the continuation of important avian research, and we know that our research allows us to be better able to manage our wildlife habitats and protect endangered species. But program managers don’t feel confident about securing future funding because some research areas are not receiving enough attention. Therefore, we need to effectively promote the proven success in these research areas to secure future funding.

When asked to complete the sentence “This is a story of____,” a possibility is “This is a story of avian research.” But this is just the subject and it doesn’t tell us what change is taking place in this story.

Instead of the subject (avian research), focus on the change. If you wanted the change for the broader story, then you might say “secure,” since ultimately the purpose is to secure the future funds. “This is a story of securing future funding.”

“Securing future funding” is the broader change that you want to have happen, but you can take it down to a narrower level by focusing on the specific change you want to go through to get that future funding:  “This is a story of promoting our successes.” 

Point A of the story:  We are not promoting our successes.

Point B of the story:  We are promoting our successes.

Try to fill in “This is a story of____” for your ABT using only 3 additional words (focusing on the change) or less.

Session 2 Resources – Singular Narrative & Outer Circle

Chat Log

The One Thing:

Nicholas Kristof’s Advice for Saving the World  –  The importance of the singular narrative.  Once you increase the size of a narrative from one person in need to two people in need, compassion drops in the audience.

Compassion Fade: Affect and Charity Are Greatest for a Single Child in Need – The research article that “Advice for Saving the World” references.

What It Will Really Take to Restore Trust in the CDC – Randy’s Medpage article where he talks about the importance of the singular narrative.

‘Data-Driven’ Campaigns Are Killing the Democratic Party  – The article in which Dave Gold coined the term “Christmas Tree” when looking for an overarching problem.  It’s okay to have several problems in your narrative, but you need to find the overarching Christmas Tree problem for your narrative that all the other problems can hang off of like ornaments.

Optional Exercise #2: Using the Dobzhansky Template to find your “One Thing.”

Restructure your ABT in the form of a Dobzhansky Template to help you find your singular narrative.  This is an excellent tool to use during Step 1 of the ABT Blue Card.  

Dobzhansky Template: Nothing in _______ makes sense, except in the light of ________.

Examples: Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution.

Nothing in geology makes sense, except in the light of plate tectonics.

Nothing in the management of mule deer makes sense except in the light of correctly estimating abundance.

Nothing in the challenge of teaching human anatomy makes sense except in the light of time management.

Session 3 Resources – Hero’s Joureny

Chat Log

Matthew Winkler Video: What makes a hero? – We only watched the first two minutes in class.  Watch this to the end to see how the hero’s journey applies to your life:

Bankspeak: The Language of World Bank Reports, 1946–2012 – The Literary Lab report on how the World Bank reports are completely unreadable, due in no small part to the overuse of the word “and” to glue together contradicting statements.

A spat over language erupts at the World Bank – The somewhat dismissive Economist article on the “conjunction dysfunction” about the Literary Lab’s report.

The Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English is a 7 year foundational study that took a quantitative analysis approach to the English language.  It found that the ideal percentage of Ands in a well edited document tends to converge around 2.5%. You can use this word frequency tool to find the number of Ands in your own document, then divide that by the total number of words to find your And Frequency. We consider an And Frequency of over 4% to be indicative of “deadly levels of boring.” The closer to 2.5% you are, the better.

Three Forms of the ABT – It’s recommended you read this excerpt from Houston, We Have a Narrative and get an understanding of the cABT (Conversational ABT).

Optional Exercise #3: cABT – Starting from simplicity

Randy might ask you the cABT version of your ABT, so for this exercise you’ll prepare your cABT ahead of time.

The cABT should have all specifics stripped off of it. Use nothing but generic words, like “thing” and “stuff.” For example, if your ABT dealt with a new way to clean junk from the ocean that’s an improvement and the old system is outdated, the cABT would be “We had a thing we were using for a while, but it’s not working that great, so now we want to use a better thing.”

See? We can’t tell that you’re working on cleaning the environment. You could just as well be telling me that you’re implementing a new accounting system at your bank for all we know. That makes it a good cABT.

This exercise is important in making sure you have an easily understood base narrative, that you really know what the narrative core of your ABT is all about.  And then from the base cABT, you can start adding specifics again when constructing your kABT.

Session 4 Resources – Two Moments

Updated after Session 4.

Social Media

Science Needs Story – Randy Olson’s Blog.

@ABTAgenda – Follow Randy on Twitter.

ABT Time Podcast – All things ABT, start to finish.  In this weekly hour long post Randy will discuss observations, applications and implications of this powerful tool that is at the core of his narrative training program and effective communication of all forms.

The ABT Agenda Newsletter – We send out a newsletter a few times a year with new ABT related events, news, and course updates.  If you sign up, we promise not to spam you with tons of junk!

ABT Booklist

Communication Books by Randy Olson

They Say, I Say by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein – A book for an ABT like approach to argumentation.

Step by Step to Stand-up Comedy by Greg Dean – A book that takes a structured approach to joke writing with a focus on the AND and the BUT (i.e., Setup and Punchline).  

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler – If you every wanted an in depth look at storytelling, THIS is the book. Draws heavily from Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and is based on Vogler’s 7 page memo that reshaped Hollywood.