For the past two years during which have actively been out and talking about the Waste Ventures story, we’ve experimented with many ways to talk about what is that we do. We would naturally have different ways of highlighting our story for different audiences, but also we found that there were some messages that would stick no matter what audience we targeted, and some which simply wouldn’t fly.
Often, things that we felt were crucial and of high significance, might not seem of so much importance to others. It was crucial for us to get out of our own understanding of the issue and place ourselves in the shoes of somebody who’s being introduced to the waste challenge in India for the first time (beyond the general knowledge that indian streets might get a bit messy…). The complexities of the issue needed to be revealed in steps, while not loosing critical details that would cause a faulty understanding of our work and the plight of Indian waste pickers. A clear example would be migration and citizenship issues for waste pickers. In many places across India (larger cities in particular), many waste pickers would be migrants of (to the authorities at least, and some times to them themselves) unclear origin. For them, even if they receive a tripling of income, it’s not necessarily true that their kids would be able to go to school. Another such issue is caste. Caste dynamics is a greatly misunderstood (and overgeneralized in common imagination) area.
However, neither of these issues are easily dealt with in a 20 minute presentation, 3 minute video or through our webpage. Interacting with issues of that degree of complexity might mostly be suited to the people working in the field, as opposed to people engaging with our issue from the outside.
Now, while I think that it’s crucial to engage people, catch their interest and provide a compelling story. I also think that it’s valuable to provide scope and channels through which people engaging in our issue can deepen their understanding and start grasping the complexities of social change. Just the simple realization that increasing somebody’s income is not necessarily enough to take them out of poverty is an important one (even a much vaunted field like micro finance seem to be of debatable benefit in poverty reduction).
What is your take? What is the best way to tell a compelling story, and yet allow for the person learning about your story to delve deeper and get a more in-depth understanding if they want to? What are the most useful tools to reach out with the social business story and how does that differ from a ‘regular’ entrepreneurial venture?
To give you some examples, of how telling your story well can lead to good results, our video has recently been selected as top 5 out of 100 non-profit videos (more about that later), and we’ve just entered a competition with the presentation (below) which can provide us with $10,000 if we get the most views:
What do you think? Does our way of telling the story clearly communicate what we do and the challenges we’re trying to face?