Why story telling and resilience are key to social enterprise success

Two new awards that celebrate unshakably resilient social enterprises and those that have mastered the art of story telling have been launched by the RBS SE100 Index in the UK.

Nominees in the resilience category will have to show that despite the huge challenges they have faced – from unfeasibly small spending budgets to policy restraints – they have managed to come out the other side.

Duncan Sloan, head of community banking at RBS, has been involved in the RBS SE100 Index since it was launched in 2010. Comparing the current social enterprise landscape with what it was like four years ago, he said that there is a "more mature approach to sourcing suitable and appropriate finance, and a more developed approach to understanding the importance of commercial expertise." But when it comes to funding, access to appropriate finance remains the "biggest challenge the sector has," he said.

Reminiscing on the difficult times her organisation has been through, Gill Walker, co-founder of Patchwork People,  said: “Once we’d got our first shop in Darlington, we had to turn the heating off after a year.

“It was bitterly cold, money was getting less and less, and we weren’t sure what was going to happen…But we always had this massive sense of belief that we'd survive.”

Graham Bell of the Kibble Education and Care Centre also looked back at his organisation's history. The Centre “predates the widespread use of gas and electricity, the telephone, the motor-car and jet plane,” and has “survived through two world wars and many other skirmishes”.

The journeys of the thousands of organisations that make up the UK social enterprise landscape are fascinating, emotive and rich in human triumph. But if an organisation is not able to communicate their story effectively, they could be missing out on a massive opportunity to raise their profile and increase their social impact and reach. 

In a Harvard Business Review article Nick Morgan, founder of communications consulting firm Public Works, said that business leaders “won’t be heard unless they’re telling stories”. Facts and figures “don’t stick in our minds at all,” he said but stories create “sticky” memories.

For Duncan Sloan the best stories are those in which the social entrepreneurs behind the organisation promote an honest and direct communications strategy. He said they need to "showcase in very simple and clear terms where the idea came from, how it was developed, who was involved and what are the outcomes".

He also highlighted: "Honesty is key – People should not be afraid to talk about some of the mistakes they've made along the way and then combine them with the successes."

The RBS SE100 Index will announce the winners of these two new award categories at their annual awards event later in the year.

The RBS SE100 Index is a list of pioneering organisations involved in socially enterprising activity. It ranks and scores the social ventures according to their growth and social impact creating a powerful source of market intelligence that helps organisations manage and assess the delivery of their social mission.  

The RBS SE100 Index is now collecting data for entries into this year's awards and is calling for organisations to update their online profiles with their most recent Annual Return to be in with a chance of winning. 

Photo credit: Flickr