The power of storytelling

Stories are things that people know, love, and remember, but stories don’t tell us much about the facts, figures, or bottom line of a business. We consider that a good thing: narratives can be a real asset for an inclusive business and we are convinced that entrepreneurs can use storytelling to reach out to networks of investors, customers, and other stakeholders.

People ask for data but believe in stories. The best stories are not merely expository, biographical, or analytical. Often, stories take on the form of an adventure, following the journey of a hero or protagonist. There is a clear beginning, which is followed by specific events that touch on a wide range of emotions. The lead character faces difficulties, dangers, and conflicts, which need to be overcome to achieve some sort of growth or success. In the end, something has changed, insights are gained, and/or new connections are formed.

Good narratives can be used for organizational development, explaining the value proposition of one’s business for identifying and overcoming communication gaps, for a mutual understanding of the different partners in the ecosystem of inclusive business – revealing constraints, conflicts, cultural patterns of behavior etc. and for marketing and advertisement purposes.

Siemens Siftung initiated the project “Stories About Us“ in 2015 to increase the impact of capacity building programs through storytelling. Endeva has been part of the team since the beginning. The first phase of the project included the collection of stories of the Fish Farm, Echo Mobile, and TRIEX. Barbara Börner, of Endeva, collected the story of the founder, Alan Fleming, and his fish farm. She conducted 15 interviews with a broad variety of actors within the ecosystem of the business, which provided ample information and antidotes about the development of the fish farming business in a township, in South Africa. It also offered the opportunity to provide intensive coaching sessions to Alan Fleming. Mr. Fleming summed up his key takeaway by saying, “before I believed I was growing fish, now I know I grow people”.

The interviews and finished stories provided the basis for an ongoing creation of a set of workshops for entrepreneurs and facilitators on storytelling. The September 2016 workshop, in Nairobi, focused on sharing the experience of story collecting and on prototyping the workshop method. The next workshops are planned for the first quarter of 2017. Stay tuned!

This blogpost was authored by our Associated Expert Barbara Börner.

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