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Telling and Spreading Stories That Fuel Change

In September 2014, a remarkable group of individuals convened at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy to discuss how to help those in the social impact sector use the full power of storytelling and infuse memorable, mind-changing stories into their work.

The room was filled with thought-provoking journalists, accomplished documentarians, digital strategists who challenge traditional story construction, practitioners working with organizations every day, a leading voice from Kenya and one from the Philippines who shows how stories light up networks. They came from all over the world to learn and share their knowledge for developing powerful stories that connect people and experiences, win hearts and change minds.

The convening was born from a partnership between Spitfire and the Rockefeller Foundation as a way to further the insights gained from Rockefeller’s Digital Storytelling for Social Impact report. The demand for the report clearly shows the sector is hungry for advice on advanced storytelling techniques and best practices.

Inspired by the beautiful Italian country-side, the participants explored what makes a good story; the common mistakes in storytelling and ways to avoid them; the science behind why certain stories work; how to gather, publish, and distribute stories; how to nurture an organizational culture that embraces storytelling; and how to assess the value and impact of telling stories to further causes.

The conversation was rousing, lasting well into the evening after the formal agenda of the day was complete, and conquering even the worst of jetlag. The experts debated the merits of sticking with a classic storytelling structure or trading it in for a gif that might resonate more strongly in our ever evolving digital world. The filmmakers in the group reminded everyone to think about the last film we saw or story that we heard which triggered that moment when we felt we are all human. Those are the emotions our stories should inspire.

Then it was time to ground the conversation. Participants challenged each other to offer concrete advice, share tools and resources, and make it possible for organizations to improve their storytelling to advance important issues and engage people in social change. Ultimately, the members of this bold team organized the thinking from the gathering into three main categories:
• When and how to tell stories;
• How to make storytelling part of the
organizational culture; and
• How to track and assess the impact of stories.

What do you get when you put filmmakers, cause experts, digital specialists and journalists in a room against a magnificent backdrop of Lake Como?An invaluable resource of wisdom, tools, and expertise that can help everyone, but particularly those in the social impact sector, bring their storytelling to new levels. We are proud to share this collection of resources in the voices of the experts themselves.