People have used stories to store and convey information for longer than we have known how to write, and stories still appeal to us. Marketing and communications make frequent use of the power of stories, so let us include stories in the impact assessment toolkit, too! These instructions will help you to write a good impact story.
1. Choose the protagonist
A story needs a principal character whose adventures people want to follow. Choose an archetype as the hero of your story who represents a large number of service users or beneficiaries of the operations. The point of the impact story is to share experiences of a group that includes more than one person.
2. Explain why the story is important
The protagonist and his or her situation need a background. What kind of a person are we dealing with, how many people does he or she represent, why should we listen to his or her story?
From the point of view of impact assessment, it is a question of describing a need. Why do these people need our services and how many are they?
3. Outline a plot
In an impact story, the protagonist is first lead through the services to be assessed. Then we extend the perspective and describe how the protagonist’s wellbeing, conditions or behaviour slowly changes. Finally we get to tell how these changes are carried over and recurring in society. You can reach the societal level, if the protagonist really represents a group larger than him or herself.
A good story has action and thrill. In a credible impact story they do not stem from a creative scriptwriter’s pen, but from a solid impact model.
Before the sketching of an impact story can be started, one must understand how the impacts are generated. The impact chain is a good tool for collecting an impact model. You can find instructions for it in this text.
4. Define a time span
How long a piece of the principal character’s life should the story depict? A good rule of thumb is that the longer the time span, the harder it is to maintain credibility in the story.
5. Choose the actors for minor characters
Big changes in one person’s life affect others, too, such as family, circle of friends, or the work community. Consider whether they should be brought into the story.
You can also take along a person who supports the protagonist in the impact story.
6. Are you using scenarios?
Scenarios and stories make me think of the film Sliding doors. Impact assessment, too, often involves attempts to describe plausibly what would have happened to a person if the service or activity hadn’t existed. After that you explain how your services can improve his or her situation and future prospects.
Scenarios are a good basis for an impact story, but make sure not to exaggerate!
7. Don’t make it up
The impact story is facts, not fiction. It is like a visual research report that grips the readers’ or audience’s attention by presenting the roots and core of the impact on one sheet. This will happen when you bring in information from existing research, figures from statistics and registers, cost estimates from reliable research institutes, as well as results from your own research.
8. Visualize and communicate
The impact story is an excellent tool of communication as long as you spend time on refining the graphic look and designing communications. At least consider how you want to use the story, what format it should be written and illustrated in, and what the correct ratio between images and text is?
With these instructions you are sure to get started with the impact story!