Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Narrative and the Nonprofit Sector

I had an inspiring discussion yesterday about outcome-based communications with Bob Penna, author of Outcome Frameworks: An Overview for Practitioners, and the forthcoming (and eagerly awaited!) Outcomes Toolbox. Bob frames outcome-based communication as: 1) Who are you talking to? 2) What do you want them to do? Simple steps for remembering that all communication is a means to an end goal.

We talked about our mutual desire to expand applied narrative work within the nonprofit sector, to help nonprofits in finding and utilizing stories to help not just in communications, but also in program evaluation, organizational learning and knowledge sharing, and capacity building. We talked about the Army and their use of After Action Reviews, and how this type of immediate, constructive, and democratic analysis of programmatic action contributes to rapid organizational learning and advancement. And we talked about the dire need to expand this low-cost, high-benefit approach to capacity building within the sector, despite fears of fall out from a recessionary economy.

Without training, Bob said, nonprofits are limited in their constructive use of the stories and anecdotes surrounding them. He also talked about the need for organizations to fully vet the stories they are using for marketing and fundraising, to assure that the successful outcomes are also sustainable outcomes.

There's another reason to fully vet the stories and anecdotes that are gathered: so much is learned in the retelling! As you speak with the real-life characters, you not only corroborate the facts of the story, you also learn details that can help make the story more dynamic for future listeners. Small, sensory details help listeners to imagine and emotionally connect with the story. And, with each retelling, more meaning is uncovered, and more understanding is fostered.

x-posted to Neurocooking

1 comment:

  1. Great subject. I have been playing around with the idea of the comment structure recently.

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