Applying the ABT Narrative Framework to Wildland Fire Communication
USFS Collaborates with the ABT Narrative Framework
Starting in 2021, the U.S. Forest Service began a collaboration with the ABT Framework Narrative Training program founded by Dr. Randy Olson based on his 2015 book, “Houston We Have A Narrative.” The training is built around the ABT Narrative Template (And, But, Therefore) that captures the narrative core of any project, paper, presentation or proposal. In an age of too much information, the ABT is proving to be a powerful tool for focused communication. A wide range of government agencies have been booking the training, including NPS, USDA, USGS, NIH, and USFWS. The course consists of ten one-hour sessions along with separate half-hour Working Circles where each participant gets a half-hour session devoted to working on their own project narrative assisted by the circle of several other course participants.
The ABT Framework, WFM RD&A, and a Podcast Episode on Wildfire Communication
Alison Mims, a USFS Visual Information Specialist working in the Wildland Fire Management Research, Development & Application Program (WFM RD&A), set up the ABT training for the USFS in 2023. In her previous position with NPS, she took part in the training and saw the power of the ABT Framework. She is now working with Dr. Olson and WFM RD&A to share the ABT Framework as a tool for wildfire communications. Together with Christy Brigham, Chief of Resource Management and Science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, they appeared on the ABT Time podcast in March, 2023 to discuss the value of the ABT in fire communication. You can listen to the episode here.
Colleen Hagerty Essay: Wildfire Size Doesn’t Matter
Colleen Hagerty is a California-based journalist who (according to her website) specializes in, "telling narrative stories through video, print, and social mediums. She specializes in covering disasters, including deeply-reported features and dives into how policies and technologies impact mitigation, effects, and recovery.” In April, 2023 she published this excellent article titled, “Wildfire Size Doesn’t Matter” that is directly relevant to wildfire communication.
ABT Framework Resources
The basic elements of the ABT Framework are presented in Dr. Olson’s initial TEDMED Talk in 2013, this video collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and in the series of Narrative Gym books, for which the most recent version (for Science Graduate Students and Postdocs) provides the more up to date version of the ABT model.
Randy Olson Essay: Two Important Elements in Wildfire Communication
After his podcast episode with Alison Mims and Christy Brigham, Randy Olson wrote a short essay explaining how two elements from the ABT Framework Narrative Training apply to the communication of wildfire. Specifically, he discusses the importance of what he terms The Urgency Spectrum, as well as the fundamental divide of audiences between Inner and Outer Circles. You can download it here.
Two Narrative Gym Sessions with USFS
The Narrative Gym is the ultimate real world communication application of the ABT Framework. After completing a round of the ABT Framework course, a 90-minute Narrative Gym event is conducted where two “Hosts” present the basics of their projects, then a team of 25 “Builders” (graduates of the training) apply the ABT Framework tools to help “strengthen the narrative”. For the recent USFS round of the course, you can view the second Narrative Gym session here and read the basic details of how the Narrative Gym works here.