The World Bank recently published a noble and important report with answers to the question Is anyone reading our reports and publications? They note that nearly 50 percent of their policy reports have the goal to inform and influence the social impact sector, yet more than 31 percent of these reports are never downloaded, and 87 percent are never cited.
The findings sparked a good dialogue at the Rockefeller Foundation and in the social impact sector. Anna Patricia Valerio writing for Devex noted that reports don’t necessarily have to downloaded to be considered read or useful. Many are viewed in players, like Slideshare, or excerpted to webpages or blog posts. In the Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham commented “…downloads aren’t the be-all and end-all of information dissemination; many of these reports probably get some distribution by e-mail, or are printed and handed out at conferences.”
This issue particularly resonates in our recent report on Digital Storytelling for Social Impact, which—we know—is a PDF. We actually grappled with the best output of the research, noting that a static report made up mostly of text seemed antithetical to the theme of the work. We ultimately decided that the research would be most helpful to the sector presented in a traditional report, knowing that the ultimate implementation from the recommendations (read more here on that) would be interactive and iterative. (And, since we’re talking about numbers, our report was viewed or downloaded 10,000+ times in its first 15 days of publication, which excitingly demonstrates the eagerness by the social impact sector.)
We heard loud and clear in our research and cross-sectorial interviews that there’s a significant opportunity to rethink how storytelling is utilized and leveraged in reports like those mentioned in the World Bank article. Indeed, the format, content, storage and distribution of reports and publications could use a little reimagining.
- Could funders like the World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation prioritize storytelling as a reporting and evaluation mechanism?
- When can multimedia, such as video, or other narrative forms complement or replace a report?
- When a report is the best format, how can the content and format within be reconsidered so that it may be more findable and shareable?
- Should reports and publications be packaged with a content marketing plan—such as blog posts, stand-alone graphics, and social media content—to ensure the valuable insights are received by appropriate audiences?
These are just some of the questions we’re considering as we start workshopping the insights gained in our initial digital storytelling research.