How to create compelling impact stories and drive change (Part 2)
This article is Part 2 in the Innovation Insights series on the topic of impact storytelling. Read Part 1.
By Jane Aslanidis | Innovation Insights Series
Continuously delivering, negotiating and leading leaves little time for startups and innovators to communicate the results of their pilots, project outcomes and, importantly, impact. Yet, this could be a missed opportunity to scale impact and share important learnings and knowledge that can enable other actors in the humanitarian and development space.
In recent innovation bootcamps at the World Food Programme (WFP) Innovation Accelerator, participants have identified that storytelling remains an important topic to them. This second article in the series on impact storytelling complements the first article, which explained the impact story framework.
Once upon an innovation: How to create compelling impact stories and drive change
Why now is the era of impact stories
Impact story template
Once you have drafted your impact story framework with your purpose, objective, target audience and ideal outcomes, we recommend building on it using the impact story template below to communicate your progress and tell a compelling impact story for your innovation project.
Write 1–2 sentences in response to each of the following:
Where you’ve come from: To build trust with your target audience
Outline the process and steps you have taken recently. This allows you to share the most relevant and timely information about your innovation project. Sharing where you’ve come from allows the journey of your innovation to be outlined over time. This could include the guiding principles, experiment hypothesis or rules/guidelines that you and your team have implemented your work against.
Even if an experiment didn’t result in the outcomes you had hoped for, this is still noteworthy. This can be positioned as learnings that you are capturing and sharing as you iterate or pivot your work in a new or different way. For example, if during your first pilot you realized that your work is too early-stage to be replicated or scaled, this can still be of great interest to your target audience. As you iterate your work, and continue to share your journey, you can build trust over time in how you are overcoming challenges and creating a solution to contribute to ending hunger.
What makes your innovation unique: To reveal the novelty, improvement or creativity in your work
It may be obvious to you as you are dedicated to your innovative work, that the novelty, improvement or creativity is what you are working on every day. It may not be so obvious to your target audience.
Therefore, in storytelling, it is crucial to state important messages in clear, plain language — with no jargon or acronyms.
For example, let’s take blockchain technology. A sophisticated way to share how unique your blockchain solution is would be to focus on fitting decentralization, Web 3.0, immutability and cryptography all into one sentence. These technical terms may make sense to you as you’re working on your startup everyday, though it can be difficult for your audience to read and comprehend what you are saying. Taking this example further and providing a clear, plain message, you could try a simple and effective way to share how unique your blockchain solution is. The focus could also be on a specific problem you are solving by having a system of recording information in a way that makes it difficult and impossible to change, hack or cheat.
What’s in it for your target audience?
In sales and marketing, there is much written about ‘What’s In It For Me’ — the strategic message to your target audience that can be the deciding factor when they consider getting involved or funding your innovation. Refer to the ‘target audience’ section of your impact story framework and focus on outlining the benefits of your innovation to them.
A feature is something your innovation has or does. The benefits are the results your target audience will see and think about long after they have heard your story.
For example, let’s take hydroponics. A feature of hydroponics is that it is a soilless cultivation technique. It uses up to 90 percent less water and 75 percent less space while producing crops at growth rates much faster than traditional agriculture. A benefit is that even in the desert, a family can grow fresh vegetables in an easy and cheap way. This means that they will have a local source of food to nourish themselves and give them the energy to make it through the day.
What are the measurements to indicate impact: To share facts, data and insights
Empathy and your innovation’s connection to people is about providing evidence of the positive impact your innovation is having on people and the environment surrounding them.
This can be focused on your team’s breakthrough, the people whose access to food has positively changed with the help of your innovation, or the collective changes you are seeing in the local community you are working in.
No number is too small of a number to share how your innovation is changing lives and livelihoods. Sharing this data, particularly if you can share the changes over a period of time indicates your positive impact and can become a highlight of your impact story.
In parallel, sharing a quote or testimonial from an interview, feedback or learning from your team’s recent work brings a people-centered lens to your story.
Why your innovation still matters
Finally, this isn’t just a story that you are sharing. It’s a mission that you are aiming for to solve a particular problem. Ending your impact story with an optimistic next step outlining the future of your innovation is an engaging way to wrap-up.
An impact story is a powerful way to show the positive impact of your innovation on the community that it serves. In your final sentence, share what you plan for your target audience to take away after learning about your impact story. For example, this could be a question that you would like a response to, a roadmap of action on how to engage with you, or inspiration and motivation from your work.
Storytelling is as ancient as humanity itself. This is your opportunity, as startups and innovators, to start creating and sharing right now. You have the power to share an impact story that carries your own vision with it.
Jane Aslanidis is an award-winning global executive and has been an international consultant at the United Nations World Food Programme. She serves as a mentor to the startups and innovation teams participating in the WFP Innovation Accelerator programmes.
The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. We provide WFP staff, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support and WFP operations.