Social profits generate stories and connections

"The greatest champion for your organization is that person staring back at you in the mirror."

I facilitated our Birdsong Connections "Telling Your Story" workshop with a group of about 25 social profit organizations yesterday as part of the United Way Agency Forum.  It was the largest group we've ever had for this process that helps people rediscover their genetically encoded storytelling abilities.

The workshop is broken up into a number of sections:

1.  Prompting the tale teller

Participants get a series of prompts and activities that engage them in sharing moments, memories and stories using the spoken word - first in a small table top environment and then with a larger group, writing, and drawing. The results are striking, as a diverse group of people realize their commonalities and innate abilities to articulate interesting anecdotes and ideas.

2.  Crafting why they exist as an organization

With colourful papers, scissors, markers, glue sticks and magazines scattered all over the tables, participants are tasked with a creating a collage postcard that expresses why they exist.  It is an essential question that all organizations should explore from time to time, outside the box of a mission statement or vision.

"I haven't done something this fun in a long time," said one participant.  They were smiling, chatting, searching, cutting, assembling and pasting for about 45 minutes before each person shared their "Why We Exist" postcard with their table.

3.  Connecting the THINGS WE DO with WHY WE EXIST

All the activities in the "Telling Your Story" workshop lead up to the final activity that challenges people to identify a moment, anecdote, or circumstance that connects the things they do every day with why they exist as an organization - the emotional centre of why they are working in the social profit sector and their particular agency. With only a few exceptions, almost everyone was able to share a story that was compelling, memorable and in several cases, emotionally powerful.  I found myself welling up a number of times.

I was struck by how social profit agencies interconnect.  They form a fabric of support that relies on each others' strengths and services to provide resources to people who need a hand up, children who need mentorship, families who need support.  Probably the most valuable part of the exercise was listening to all the stories and realizing that the social profit sector is a remarkable place to be.

I started the day by telling my Robin Williams story, and the connection to my oldest son, whose middle name is Patch, inspired by the movie Patch Adams.  Earlier in the day, Diane Shannon, executive director of the United Way of Fort McMurray, shared an interesting perspective about the apparent suicide of this global star, which I shared with the 50 people in attendance.

"Here is a guy who had all the resources in the world," I said.  "He had the means and the access to any doctor, program or support and still....."

"What about those people who have no resources?"

"Well, that's where you come in; that's why what you do every single day matters so much."

If you are interested in gathering your team to inspire them to be the champions of telling your organization or business's story, get in touch with us at Birdsong. We'd love to work with you on delivering this magical workshop, and getting your folks to connect the THINGS THEY DO with WHY YOU EXIST.


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