I am passionate about storytelling, but often I meet people who are more passionate than me. Recently I had a conversation with Tony Phillips, commissioning editor of the arts at Radio 4 and at the BBC World Service. His most recent and perhaps most ambitious series is The Listening Project. Read More
Sadly, these days, with an elderly father regularly admitted for treatment, I am a frequent visitor at Royal Free Hospital in London. However, this weekend my visit was cheered by a volunteer doing her ward rounds serving tea and coffee to patients, and bringing much needed warmth into a cold ward. Read More
As I’ve watched the campaign against library cuts grow, I’ve been inspired by the passion of those involved. Community sit-ins in Barnet, high profile celebrity engagement online and varied use of social media. But yesterday, on a public libraries forum, a member of Westminster Libraries staff shared this open letter, written and published by colleagues addressed to their local councillors.
It is thought provoking and powerful and I hope staff working for charities in a similar position might be inspired by what they say. Read More
I’m not a huge fan of “best of”-styled lists myself and it’s not just because I’m unlikely to find myself on one. But I often think that it’s the people who I admire that are the ones who usually go unrecognised.
So I’ve been following with interest the blogs, tweets and conversations going on around BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Power List, which closes for nominations this Friday (30 November). The programme is inviting listeners to nominate the individuals who they feel have shaped the way we live today. Which women have the greatest impact on British politics, society, culture and the economy? Read More
In the last 48 hours I’ve had conversations with two different people that highlight some of the things that disappoint me about the way charities work.
I was having dinner with the CEO of a small human rights charity (income under £500,000) working with some of the most vulnerable and hidden groups in our society. She is one of the most inspiring leaders I know, who founded the charity 12 years ago and had driven it forward subsequently. The area her charity focuses on is particularly niche and she has been lauded by all those who know her – from her funders to the media. She has also been honoured by the Queen for her work. Read More
I’ve got to be honest, I’ve been on an Olympic holiday and am still basking in the afterglow. I took a week off, guilt-free, to immerse myself in all things sport-related, which was met with some amusement by friends as I’m not particularly sporty. I was lucky to have got some tickets and managed to see some amazing events, from beach volleyball and hockey to diving and swimming.
As someone whose biggest sporting achievement was dedicating six months to training to run the London Marathon, I was in awe of the dedication the athletes had put into their training. Apart from the empty seats saga, I was impressed by practically everything that was delivered by the organisers, especially the wonderful volunteer Games Makers. Read More
In 2007 there was a Third Sector article which featured an interview with the chief executive of a large grant funder. In the article he talked about the role of funders in encouraging storytelling within the projects they supported – an area very close to my heart.
It took over six months to get a meeting with him, but when we met we had a lively conversation about the role funders should play in skilling up and training the people to whom they give grants to help them capture their stories.
That conversation was nearly four years ago and although a little progress has been made in the funding environment in the intervening years – for example, I have been involved in some marketing and digital media training work with grantees – in general I still believe much more needs to be done.
I met the director of another large funder recently and she felt exactly the same, although lots of discussion on this topic is taking place.
As we all acknowledge, the next few years are going to be extremely tough and there will be more organisations applying for fewer grants. I think it’s the responsibility of grant funders to ensure that organisations are equipped with the skills to tell their stories.
Communications, marketing and digital skills shouldn’t be seen as a nice extra but an important part of the support that is provided. This will give people confidence to keep their stories alive once the funding runs out.
The question is – when organisations write up their funding bids, should they put training as a small part of their budget? Or should it be offered as part of the support package a funder offers?
I think that funders should make it a requirement of accepting a grant that recipients are compelled to keep a blog, capture photographs or produce some kind of content which they should be able to use online. In turn, the charity or community group can use this content for their own marketing, communcations and profile raising.
I know for many charities, particularly smaller ones, this kind of content gathering will be seem as a big ask, especially with feedback forms and other paperwork to fill in, but I have a sneaky feeling that this will be a key part of impact reporting in the year ahead.
I think both parties will benefit hugely, as long as they know how to maximise this content.
Last year I was the very proud recipient of a series of grants for a pilot project I delivered offering a respite break in London for carers. In the budget I included the cost for a professional photographer to capture the trip and other content.
Unprompted, I offered multmedia content to all the funders and corporates who had been involved and most used it in some way – whether on their Facebook, websites or via their Twitter channel. In addition, different media channels including the BBC, The Guardian and regional outlets were delighted to take the content. A real result as far as I’m concerned.
So in the year ahead I’d like:
- To see more funders offering ‘storytelling’ training, in whatever guise that might take, as part of their package for grant recipients. The long-term rewards will be a real benefit.
- To see funders cutting down written feedback forms to encourage different kinds of impact reporting.
- To see people apply for grants, including training, in their budgets so that they can ensure they have the right skills to tell their stories.
- For everyone, whether the funder or fundee, to recognise that there is simply no point in leaving photographs, video footage, or oral history content in an office to gathe dust, and to ensure that this material is used to maximise impact.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
On behalf of all those who are passionate about reading, I want to offer huge congratulations to the London Evening Standard for working in partnership with the national charity Volunteer Reading Help to put a spotlight on literacy among Londoners.
I know that many of you reading this aren’t necessarily based in London, but over the last 18 months our free evening paper has been creating quite a stir in terms of how it campaigns on a particular issue. Last year it focused on exploring the stories behind poverty among Londoners through it’s ‘Dispossessed’ campaign.
But it’s the Evening Standard’s award-winning Get London Reading campaign that has really been an inspiration, with lots of lessons to be learnt by us all.
Its aim was simple, to get London reading by raising awareness of literacy issues and by working in partnership with a charity that would train ordinary adults to go into London’s most deprived primary schools to provide one-on-one reading support for struggling pupils.
Their ask was also simple, “volunteer today, donate today – and change lives.” People responded in their thousands. I would say the key things that have driven this campaign from its inception were its simple storytelling and powerful use of case studies. But there are some other elements that have ensured it has made a real impact, despite the issue being what many might consider unexciting. Those elements are:
1. It has been passionate, emotional, thought provoking and moving
The daily digest of first-hand case studies about ordinary Londoners who have been affected by literacy issues moved me to tears. The articles captured just what it means to be unable to read and write in a compelling way that made you want to keep reading. Every day there was a different case study highlighting the magnitude of the issue. I had simply not thought about it before. I am sure neither had many commuters.
2. It was unmissable – the campaign WAS the headline news
The editor put the campaign on the front page practically every day for months. It wasn’t sidelined to the middle pages but was a key part of their editorial. Pages of newspaper and online space were given to the campaign which allowed it to develop and breathe.
3. The right charity partnership
The Standard worked in partnership with Volunteer Reading Help, which trains volunteers to provide one-to-one reading in schools. So this wasn’t just a literacy awareness-raising and fundraising campaign. It was also encouraging volunteering. Double tick!
4. Corporates were clambering to be involved…
….as were celebrities, members of the Royal Family and other high profile names, many of whom had their own story to tell. It was fascinating to read about business people who had got to high positions without being able to read and write. For many of them, this was the first time they had been compelled to share their story. These were extremely honest and sympathetic portraits – again, extremely powerful content.
5. They adopted a school
A lovely twist on adopting villages in developing countries or sponsoring children overseas. This was in London, on our doorsteps, and people wanted to make a difference.
6. In it for the long haul
They have been running this campaign for months. Always with a different twist or a different angle. They’d make direct links to the lastest news stories to keep the campaign relevant.
I could probably write a thesis about this campaign. It didn’t use any tricks or gimmicks. It just used first hand evidence to tell the story. It recently won the People’s Prize for Literacy Development at the Brit Writers’ Awards for its “inspirational contribution to the promotion of literacy and creative writing”. The judging panel said: “Of all the literacy projects and campaigns we considered, we felt that the Evening Standard’s campaign has had the highest impact and has been most effective in achieving the aim of getting people into reading and writing. The Standard has encouraged people at every level of society to get involved to make a tangible difference in their schools and communities.”
I couldn’t agree with them more.
Jude Habib is director of Sounddelivery