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impact storytelling
Unmesh Sheth 9/8/22 10:50 AM 6 min read

Social Impact Storytelling: Using Impact Data to Drive Change

What is social impact storytelling?

Social impact storytelling allows you to communicate positive or negative outcomes to stakeholders. It is also the best tool to share plans to reach target goals. Compelling impact storytelling involves communicating goals and results and collaborating with stakeholders' feedback.
In this article, we will provide a step-by-step process of communicating impact. Often this technique involves using frameworks such as the theory of change or logic model. It also combines "five dimensions of impact" from the Impact Management Project (IMP).
A social impact story's goal is to communicate the value and importance of a particular initiative. A well-designed story can inspire others to take action and support the cause. When combined with data, evidence, and personal narratives, these stories can be powerful tools for driving positive change.

Read More: Can impact data improve our health and wellbeing?

As an impact manager, you create a dashboard that communicates your organization's impact to the board. During a board meeting, you present your dashboard to the team, and one of the members asks you to show them a specific chart. Unfortunately, you cannot locate the chart and have lost the battle.

Effective impact storytelling is an important element of creating a successful dashboard. It involves using a clear and compelling narrative to communicate the impact of your organization and inspire action. A compelling impact story should be able to engage your audience and convey the value and importance of your work. To create an effective impact story, it is important to consider your audience, use data and evidence to support your claims, and incorporate personal narratives to help make the story more relatable and engaging.

Impact Story is NOT

  • Presenting emotional testimony or pictures of beneficiaries that you serve
  • Dashboards full of pie charts and bar charts on how many meals you served

Read More: Economic Development Through Centralized Impact Management Platform

Effective storytelling

Imagine you have spent several weeks or months creating an impact dashboard and can present it to your board. The purpose of communicating social impact is to clearly and transparently share the results of specific impact experiments with stakeholders to gather feedback and confirm hypotheses. These experiments can be related to product/program need validation, product/solution fit, or any other relevant area. You have designed your experiment to collect data from internal and/or external sources.

During your presentation, your first sixty seconds are crucial. The board will pay close attention to your opening; if it is not strong, they may not be engaged for the rest of the impact story. It is important to start with a compelling opening that focuses on the key learning from the impact experiment and how you plan to make improvements before the next experiment.

To create an effective impact story, it is important to follow these steps:

  1. Impact Statement: Clearly articulate the purpose of the impact experiment and the overall impact you are trying to achieve.
  2. Impact Summary: Provide a brief overview of the key findings from the experiment.
  3. Impact Experiment: Detail the specific experiment that was conducted and the data that was collected.
  4. Impact Dimensions: Explain who was impacted, what was impacted, how much impact was achieved, and the contribution made by the experiment.
  5. Future Action: Describe the next steps that will be taken to continue driving impact.

By following these steps, you can create a compelling impact story that effectively communicates the value and importance of your work to your board and inspires action.

Impact Statement

Impact Statement starts with, “What is the problem we are trying to solve?” Impact Statement is often derived from your mission and vision but is quite definitive. Impact Statement leads to Impact, Outcome, Output, Activities, and Input. 

  • If We...
  • by...
  • then...
  • and ultimately…

 If we provide dignified, affordable housing to these underserved populations.

By dignified housing, we care about using quality and sustainable materials as part of the architecture and providing families with a safe and healthy environment.  This includes access to basic amenities, transportation, schools, and businesses.

Then improve affordability and stability.

And ultimately ensure a reduction in gentrification within Oakland's downtown.

What is impact storytelling?

Read More: Case study: Transforming Families with Affordable Housing in Africa.

Strategic Storytelling: Impact Summary

This is the most important element of your story. It must be clear, transparent, and with actionable lessons. A good summary will start with

We engaged our residents to gather feedback during the last <..> months. 

WHAT: An immediate outcome that your impact experiment wanted to validate

whatSocial impact storytelling

Read More: 5 Biggest Challenges that nonprofits face in impact measurement

WHO: Which stakeholders should your program focus on

Impact Storytelling Example

social-impact storytelling

HOW: Activities necessary to achieve the above outcome

storytelling for social change

storytelling for social changeImpact Storytelling

Impact Learnings

  • Learning 1
  • Learning 2
  • Learning 3

Read More: New approaches to report social impact in real estate projects.


Data Story Example

The following example is based on affordable housing programs led by Smart Heaven Africa in Uganda.

social-impact storydissatisfaction-reasons-2022-08-17T09-45-54.141Z

Read More: Design Effective Impact Experiments

Impact Experiment

Impact experiments are short and frequent experiments designed to gather stakeholder feedback.  While an impact experiment can be as simple as asking a few questions to understand product features or other benefits, you should consider following to get an in-depth impact analysis.

  • Theory Of Change
  • Stakeholder Survey
  • Goal
  • Stakeholder Survey Link
  • Survey Type
  • Population Size
  • Sample Size
  • Confidence Level
  • Margin Of Error

Read More: Demystifying Social Impact Management


Impact Evidence

While impact experiments focus on actual stakeholder feedback, organizations should often focus on other evidence. While everyone's situation may be unique, but you may consider following different options.

  • External Research
  • External Data
  • Data Unification and Query Approach 
  • Scoring 
  • Other Calculations
  • Benchmarking

Read More: 3 Steps to Move from Shareholder to Stakeholder Impact

Impact Stories

Using inspiring photos and stakeholder stories can be a powerful "social impact storytelling strategy" for several reasons.

First, visually striking images can help grab your audience's attention and draw them into your story. These images can evoke emotions and inspire action when paired with a compelling narrative.

Stakeholder stories, or stories told by people directly impacted by the issue at hand, can also be a powerful storytelling tool. These stories offer a human perspective on the issue, helping to make it more relatable and relevant to your audience. By sharing the experiences and perspectives of people who have directly encountered the problem, you can help drive home the issue's importance and inspire others to take action.

Combining these two elements - inspiring photos and stakeholder stories - can create a compelling narrative that has the potential to inspire change. Whether you are working to raise awareness about a social issue, advocate for policy change, or drive support for a particular cause, using these elements can help to create a powerful and impactful story that resonates with your audience.


Impact Story from Leading Social Enterprises

To raise impact capital, you must listen to the following impact stories by four leading social enterprises.


Design tips to improve impact storytelling and learning

In Dashboard, TAB offers a unique separation to separate topics. However, the choice of TAB should be carefully considered. Depending on the type of organization, you can design a dashboard based on primary goals. For examples, 

Social Impact Program Aligned To Impact Management Project (IMP) can use -

  • WHAT
  • WHO

Funders might want to design based on impact portfolio composition.

  • Aggregated Results
  • Tabs By Portfolio Company
  • Tabs By Impact Theme
  • Tabs By Region
  • Tabs By SDG 

Read More:

Image: Canva


Unmesh Sheth

32 years of track record In technology companies, innovation, leadership. Deep understanding of bottom-up and top-down data trust challenges in high impact philanthropy and impact investments.