Whose and what kinds of stories can we tell?

Andy Goodman

Andy Goodman

No organization can be summarized in a single story. In an interview with the Bridgespan Group, nonprofit-storytelling guru Andy Goodman talks about an organization’s “sacred bundle” of stories:

  • The nature-of-our-challenge story illuminates the people behind the problem that you are trying to address.
  • The creation story, generally for audiences who already care about your issue, shares who started your organization and why and when.
  • The emblematic-success story affirms that your organization is doing unique good in the world.
  • The values story illustrates your organization’s core values and how it lives them.
  • The striving-to-improve story helps create a culture of empathy and growth within an organization by reflecting on mistakes and what was learned from them.
  • The where-we-are-going story answers the question: if your organization does its job, what will we see in 5 to 10 years?

The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. – Walt Whitman, “O Me! O Life!

Any number of people can tell these stories. Oftentimes, it’s a staff member or someone directly affected by the issue. But your protagonist might be an activist, a neighborhood person, the mother of a client, a board member.

By opening up the range of possible protagonists, you expand your notion of who is or can be involved in your cause.

Storytelling as Best Practice

Credit: Andy Goodman

Further exploration:

  • Storytelling as Best Practice, by Andy Goodman. The seventh edition of Goodman’s book culls the best articles from 15 years of his newsletter.