Victoria Preston and Igor Merheim-Eyre: Bridging the Narrative Gap Through Culture and Commerce
Bridging the Narrative Gap Through
Culture and Commerce
Victoria Preston (King’s College London, United Kingdom)
Igor Merheim-Eyre (International Republican Institute, Belgium)
• Conditions of the individual (e.g. social, economic, or personal)
• Frustration with the direction of the country or a bigger polis (e.g. the EU)
• Existing prejudices inherent in a given society
• Lack of knowledge and a fear of the unknown ‘Other’
• Weak democratic institutions
• Narratives targeting specific groups (e.g. conservative segments of the society)
• Narratives often based on genuine concerns but increasingly tailored to appeal
Case study of the Czech Republic and Slovakia
• Western moral degeneracy
• Putin’s Russia as a defender of traditional values
• Migration destroying our/European culture
• Religion-based values are incompatible with liberal democracy
• Western subjugation of Central-Eastern Europe
• Loss of national independence and sovereignty
• Peace in Europe is threatened
• Russia has a legitimate right to a sphere of influence
turn to native
• Paradigm of externalities – history, nationality, language, ethnicity, ‘otherness’
• Emotional rhetoric emphasises differences in values or identity.
• Broadly binary narrative of ‘us and them’.
• Limited focus on diversity and inclusion.
• Absence of narrative on Estonia’s social vision or goal.
• The debate is framed by narratives about geo-politics, nationality, language
and socio-economic issues.
• But in strategic communications, before we attempt to address any
problem, we go right back to basics to reframe it.
• So what does this particular problem look like if we reframe it?
Re-framing the problem
• It’s not just about media and rhetoric: there are underlying structural
• Ethnic inequality - Bad for social cohesion and prosperity; disrupts trust and loyalty
to the state; can generate internal as well as external security issues.
• Gender inequality – If you don’t develop and reward all your available talent, you
cannot compete with countries that do.
What are the obstacles?
• Start with 100% adult population fit and available for work (OECD figure for Estonia
is c. 845,000)
• Deduct 25% to account for the ethnic Russians who are typically educationally
disadvantaged (Lindemann & Saar 2012)
• That leaves 75%. Deduct 50% to account for gender inequality (Statistics Estonia
estimate gender pay gap in Estonia is the worst in EU at 20.9% )
• That leaves 37.5% of your workforce fully trained and fairly rewarded. (c. 316,000)
• What if the football team looked like this?
Some rough maths (not statistics!)
• History dictates the present, but it need not compromise the future.
• Building a fairer and more equal society will take generations to achieve.
• Structural and constitutional change is necessarily cautious and slow.
• But social enterprises and the arts can afford to take bigger risks.
• Let’s look at some cultural case studies, then generate a few ideas.
Change takes time
1. EMOTION: Identity, nationality, language, security are highly emotive concepts, here
2. RHETORIC: There is an opportunity here to reframe the public conversation using a
more collective narrative, and a more inclusive vocabulary.
3. ACTION: While resolving structural obstacles to diversity and inclusion is a longer-
term challenge (in Estonia and in the UK) there is an opportunity to make a difference
to the lives of many individuals in the near term through social enterprise and the arts.