Stories as Influencers for Socially Responsible Behavior
Compelling stories have emerged as potent tools in forwarding discussions about what values members gain when their associations are involved in socially responsible practices, programs, and goals. At both my morning and afternoon tables at the Global Summit on Social Responsibility, association professionals barely took a breath between sharing and commenting on each otherâ€™s stories, whether they had to do with an organizationâ€™s actions or an individualâ€™s choices. Frankly, itâ€™s a challenge to capture every anecdote for later thought or follow up, but one colleague told me that he had taken almost 25 pages of notes in less than six hours!
Iâ€™m feeling especially attuned to the power of storytelling today because Iâ€™m halfway through the excellent book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, which I thought would be good prep for the summit. Also, co-author Joseph Grennyâ€”whose last best-seller, Crucial Conversations, was referenced several times at my table today-- is speaking August 19 at ASAE & The Centerâ€™s Annual Meeting and Expo.
According to Influencer, â€œpeople will attempt to change their behavior if (1) they believe it will be worth it, and (2) they can do what is required.â€ Stories that guide people to those conclusions must contain both â€œa clear link between the current behaviors and existing (or possibly future) negative resultsâ€ and â€œpositive replacement behaviors that yield new and better results.â€
Those of us at the summit today heard such â€œhigh-point storiesâ€ recounted on the stage, in the coffee line, and from attendees at some of the 14 connected sites across America. I liked the examples given by CEO Scott Steen of the American Ceramic Society. First, Scott described the rapid membership growth achieved by the National Association of Counties after it cleverly arranged a deal with a corporation that allowed the association to provide prescription discount cards to members for free distribution in every county in America.
Second, he cited the National Academy of Engineersâ€™ inspiring work with members to identify 14 â€œgrand challengesâ€ such as making solar energy affordable and reverse-engineering the brain. The organization then spotlights research and grant money focused on those topics. â€œTheyâ€™re saying to their members, â€˜Here is where to go to make a difference as an engineer,â€ explained Scott, adding that the organization is using the initiative to â€œdefine their mission in the world and show how engineers and their industry are making huge differences.â€ I canâ€™t wait to hear what comes out of Thursdayâ€™s â€œdreamâ€ processâ€¦.