How Social Impact Storytelling Is Different

 

How is a social impact pitch different from other kinds of startup and company pitches?

1. You have to tell the most compelling version of the story (even especially the emotional / non-business part). After interviewing dozens of thinkers and doers in the social impact space, one thing has become clear. The why that inspires a social innovator’s work often eclipses the what, in terms of impact storytelling.

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Whether because of a personal life experience, a pivotal observation, or an life-shifting epiphany—something subtly or glaringly profound shifted your path from “conventional business” to mission-driven. My challenge to you, is find a way to express that impetus clearly, confidently, and briefly. Even if it is uncomfortable or seems out of place in a “pitch” setting. Sharing a personal anecdote can put you and your audience “on the same page” and can help them not only like you more, but remember and root for you and your impact venture.

2. You have to quantify impact (which can be hard to do). One of the most fascinating areas of the emerging social innovation space has everything to do with quantifying and measuring impact. There are a number of emerging organizations, nonprofits, sets of criteria, and even startups that are tackling this part of the social entrepreneurship spectrum— but there is not yet consensus on adoption of any singular methodology for measuring impact. What that means for you is that your core team and extended support network of advisors and mentors should have meaningful discussions (debates even) about criteria you will use to measure and track your impact and how you will quantify it. Is it one-for-one (think TOMS), is it 1-1-1 (think of the model Salesforce articulated early on, and that B corporations like Rally Software have adopted), is it the number of procedures performed (think Aravind Eye Care) — or is it another method unique to your initiative or solution.

Once you are clear on the how and why of your impact measurement– you can find a way to succinctly and simply explain it as part of your pitch. These metrics can absolutely change as your social enterprise pivots, gets customer feedback, and gathers more kinds of data— but establishing and articulating your impact in quantitative terms lends credibility and focus to your company’s vision and work.

3. You have to educate your audience on basic elements of social enterprise. Growing up, my brother liked to remind us that when you “assume, it makes an ‘a–’ of ‘u’ and ‘me’”. It was a colorful (and memorable) way to convey a key insight. It especially rings true for impact storytelling. If you go into a pitch scenario assuming any number of things including : that the audience knows or cares about impact, that they know or care about a ‘triple bottom line’, that they know or care about definitions of social enterprise— you might be in for an unwelcome realization. They didn’t know (or care) and your assumption that they did made them less seek clarification, and they basically tuned out.
Instead, practice explaining key concepts about social enterprise that contextualize your solution and the problem it solves, so that you can do it efficiently and with such ease that a middle-schooler could understand it. As a participant in the still-emerging social innovation space, you are a de facto ambassador of the space too. Use your platform to inform and educate as you pitch.

4. You have to think bigger about your ask. No matter what kind of story you are telling (impact or otherwise), your pitch should lead to some kind of an ask. Are you seeking funding? If yes, how much, for what, and by when. Potential investors will want to know these details. However, for social innovators, it’s key to think bigger. You may be seeking strategic partnerships to gain access to potential new market segments. You may be looking for an advisor or mentor. You may be seeking certain resources — such as technical, marketing, or data analysis support to scale and amplify your work.

Funding is often the main objective in pitching — but as a social innovator, your ability to think bigger, more creatively, and with an innovator’s mindset can help weather startup challenges and continue the sail ahead.

5. You have to quantify success, and quantify failure. What does success for your social venture look like? Because your audience may be new to the solution and problem you are solving, they will look to you to define success. For example, success could be traction of 10M users for a micro payment app aimed at populations who do not participate in the traditional banking system, or it could be the adoption of impact criteria by 500 global brands. Metrics like these can paint the potential of impact-driven companies and show the need for new solutions.

What does failure look like? When your work is rooted in impact, among other considerations, it can powerful to show how your failure can be detrimental to communities or to the environment. For example, failure of a smartphone app designed to assess water quality could have a broader negative impact for communities who lack inexpensive, mobile assessment tools. Remember the phrase “too big to fail”? It is another example of creating urgency for success by making the prospect of failure a bleak one.

Why does social impact storytelling matter?

If you cannot tell your story, you cannot create or expand your impact. It’s as simple as that.

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It’s well-noted that 90 percent of startups fail in the first two years. That includes all startups — mission-driven and otherwise. Social enterprises often need far more than funding to survive. They need impact partners, they need traction, they need proof that their social innovation is actually creating the impact they anticipated. Your ability to tell your story can help you build an ecosystem of support around the specific problem and solution your venture is addressing.

It takes a village to raise a social enterprise—and sometimes you are part of the village, and sometimes you are the social enterprise. Being able to tell your story can help you be effective at both.

Neetal Parekh, is the Founder & CEO of Innov8social — which helps social entrepreneurs, companies, and individuals reach their impact potential. She is a social entrepreneur, impact storyteller, and attorney passionate about connecting people with the social impact sector.  Original post can be found here (link to: http://i8s.us/1KlO8QP)

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