Using Stories to Change the World

Consumer insights on using stories to change the world

Fascinating presentation by Andrew Slack, executive director of The Harry Potter Alliance, during the Millennial Mega Mashup entitled, “Using Story to Change Story of Our World.”

Since I haven’t read any of the Harry Potter series, I almost didn’t stay for Mr. Slack’s presentation.  I’m glad I did.

I written blog posts before about the power of stories to communicate a message.  What Andrew Slack is doing is even more powerful.

The Happy Potter Alliance has given Harry Potter fans a venue through which they can advance the values of Harry Potter with the weapon of love.

The alliance has been recognized by J.K. Rowling, “I am honoured and humbled that Harry’s name has been given to such an extraordinary campaign, which really does exemplify the values for which Dumbledore’s Army fought in the books.  To Andrew and all the others who work on this most inspirational website: the world needs more people like you.”

Andrew Stack’s vision to use the emotional connection people have with the Harry Potter brand to make the world a better place is amazing.  Andrew calls this model of civic engagement “cultural accupuncture.”

The Harry Potter Alliance has already provided four plane loads of food to those affected by the earthquakes in Haiti.

I will look forward to see how the mission and vision of this alliance evolves.

Do you know anyone involved with The Harry Potter Alliance?


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20 Responses to Using Stories to Change the World

  1. Elizabeth dove says:

    This is a great story

  2. andrewslack934 says:

    thanks so much for this wonderful article about the HPA, Tom!

  3. froregon says:

    I AM involved in the Harry Potter Alliance and it’s awesome!

  4. Thank you so much for covering the important work of the harry potter alliance. Andrew is both a friend and colleague. When I first learned of HPA five years ago I didn’t ‘get it.’ After watching them grow, now I consider what they are doing to be one of the most visionary and innovative contributions to movement building in our country. Andrew and HPA have tapped into mobilizing a whole new base of people, book fans, as a social change constituency. And they have mobilized these book fans both with great creativity and by being the change through consistently sticking to their tagline ‘the weapon we have is love’. HPA is a very special group and Andrew is a true genius.

  5. Paul Adler says:

    Hi Tom: Another big fan of the Harry Potter Alliance and a friend of Andrew’s. But let me confess: like Aaron I’m not sure I *got* it at first and actually felt rather cynical. I see a lot of messages about social change and justice throughout all kinds of popular culture, but at the same time those did not seem to actually motivate a lot of people to become active. So I was feeling skeptical that a series of young adult novels, no matter how popular, could really motivate people. But over the years watching the HPA grow, I’ve been 1000% convinced. People do live in stories and what the HPA does is help interpret those stories in ways that are joyous for fans, but also lead them to become involved in the here and now in really profound ways. It’s a wonderful group and thanks for the kind words about them.

    • ctsmithiii says:


      Thanks for the feedback and affirmation. It is much appreciated.

      Best regards,


      • sayhar says:

        Hi Tom. I, too, am a fan of the Harry Potter Alliance. I may be so bold, I’d like to tell you my story:

        My freshman year of college, I took a class that I was quite excited for – Social Class and Social Change. Throughout the class, I became more and more aware of the terrible injustices in the world, and the way that innocent people seemed to be trampled by the powerful. I wanted to do something about it, but to my chagrin, the class focused more on the problems associated with social class, and only lightly touched on how to make social change happen. It was so frustrating – we were learning all about what was wrong, but no one had answers about how to fix it!

        Then I met Andrew. Andrew was a guest speaker in our class in early 2008. He spoke about Harry Potter, and he spoke about the idea of Dumbledore’s Army for the real world. He didn’t stop there. Andrew used specific examples of how the Harry Potter Alliance fought evil and won – they didn’t just educate about issues, but also taught their membership how to stand up for Justice. FInally, I had the answer I was looking for: finally, I knew what sort of tactics I could use to protect my community.

        Andrew Slack changed the trajectory of my life. Though we only talked for a minute or two after our class, he introduced me to other people who were using innovative organizing techniques to fight evil. I strive to emulate Andrew’s spirit of generosity and mentorship. I was not surprised to see him recruit, train, and manage a huge and effective volunteer staff in the years to come.

        I’m now an online organizer by trade. For the last three years, when I’ve been in discussions with others in my field, I’m proud to point to the Harry Potter Alliance as the most innovative online organizing group out there. Many groups recruit their membership from a fixed pool of self-defined activists, and marshall them to do standard uninspiring tasks like sign a petition. The Harry Potter Alliance “grows the pie” by showing young (and old) adults that yes, there is magic in the world; yes, we do care about justice; and yes we can fight for good in a weird, wonderful way.

        If I recall correctly, the motto of the Harry Potter Alliance is, “the weapon we have is love.” They live it every day.

      • ctsmithiii says:


        Thank you for sharing your story and best of luck in your organizing efforts.

        Best regards,


  6. Rhiannon says:

    I love the HPA, people always tell me that I take Harry Potter to seriously just because I know a lot about it and talk about the characters as if they were people and not constructs, but ha! The HPA is the Dumbledore’s Army for this world, it uses the parallels of injustice in Harry Potter to create change here – Harry Potter and other beautiful stories are just as powerful in this world as their own.

  7. Amy Shook says:

    With the tremendous increase in polarization in the US from politics to religion, from taxation to education, it is imperative for us to find ways to connect with one another rather than allow this disconnect to widen. Also not just in the US, but across our world there has been increasing violence and hatred and what better weapon than love? Through the power of story, and the power of love, let’s hope we can find and hold onto that which we share. Let’s continue to use the tradition of story to rally us together and accept one another as brothers and sisters, as equals, as comrades. The Harry Potter Alliance has a unique place in this fight against injustice because of those to whom they appeal. In order to change the world, you must be able to see from the eyes of youth. HPA has rallied and continues to draw more and more of our youth; high schoolers, college students, young adults and even the older generation who still look on the world with a look of wonderment and question where the grace has gone. People who believe they have the power to change their world. People who are changing our world a little bit for the better every day. We live in a world where some are so fearful and disillusioned they don underwear lined with explosives in acts of inexplicable hate. We have a choice to make. We can accept that as normal behavior, or we can do like Peter Pan and clap our hands together and believe that there has to be a better way. And then we have to make the choice to do something. The Harry Potter Alliance is an excellent example of those who make the choice every day to do something with love.

  8. Erin Millar says:

    When I tell people that I’m on the staff of HPA, I usually either get a confused look or a look that tells me I’m being a really big nerd again. But then when I go on to explain all the things that the organization has done—how it has sent cargo planes to Haiti and donated books all over the world and built a library, all in the name of stories—people tend to think it’s all pretty awesome. And it is. I never cease to be amazed by the power of the fan community. It makes me so happy that so many fans of stories are so passionate about bettering the world.

  9. ashleydonna says:

    The HPA is truly innovative and wonderful. The power of story and imagination is so important and it’s important for the world to realize that these stories that captivate us so fully, whether it be in the form of a novel, movie, or television show draw parallels to our world and they are vital. Stories allow imaginations to flow, to transport you to another world and take journeys with your favorite characters. It’s also a very great way to show situations and allow people to asses for themselves why these are wrong and how we can over come them. That’s one of the fantastic things about Jo’s novels, she has taken this world she created and put real situations from life in them so people of all ages can read this and say wow, that’s not right. From the slaying of muggle borns and muggles, to the different class systems and slavery they don’t shy away from the problems and that’s what the HPA works to do is take these lessons we’ve learned and fight them head on in the muggle world. Thank you so much for your wonderful post and for taking a chance to listen to Andrew speak and really hear him out on the mission of the HPA and it’s core principals and values.

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