Tag Archives: mission

Does Your Mission Have a Compelling Voice?

“I was born in prison. My mother had just been sentenced to 7 years. And by the time I was a freshman in high school, I was already addicted to crystal meth. People would look at me with disgust, my family in particular.” 

“Life was hard for me growing up. I had no dad to look up to. I had no role model. My older brother was in and out of prison. I didn’t know what to do, so I started gang banging.”

What images come to mind about the characters making these statements?

2014-02-21 09.01.11Recently, the Not-For-Profit Network of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a storytelling workshop delivered by Barkada Circle. Does Your Mission Have a Compelling Voice? gave participants the opportunity to delve into the challenges they face in creating stories that engage their audience, especially potential donors. The overarching question was: “How do we determine who should be telling the story of our mission?”

The conversation centered around two videos about one organization’s mission. Fresh Lifelines for Youth is a nonprofit dedicated to breaking the cycle of violence, crime and incarceration of teens. One video was created in 2007 and the second in 2012. Both videos were done professionally. They tell the same story with overlapping characters, but they differ in how the story is told.

The first video begins with putting the teens in a negative light. The statements at the start of this blog entry are direct quotes from this video. Does this draw the audience into the narrative? It then introduces the adult staff describing the programs and their successes.fly1_cast

It’s clear that in this video, the organization is the voice and the hero because they are presented as the one with the ability to make change happen for the youth. “We have the answers and our programs work.” On the other hand, the youth are helpless and have lost all hope. What strikes me the most is that staffers are identified with their names and titles, but the video begins and ends with nameless teens. We are not given the opportunity to get to know them.

In its retelling, the story introduces the teens in a positive light so they appear to a wider audience as relatable characters. Then, in their own voice, they share their personal histories. We see them interacting and having real conversations with staff as they progress through the programs. We hear them contemplating their options and the consequences of their choices. We hear their aspirations. Their collective voice reflects the success of the programs.fly2_cast

In this version of the story, I am struck by the deeper insights shared by staff based on what they’ve learned from interacting with the teens. In my view, the adult staffers are clearly represented as the supportive structure that raises up the youth to be perceived by the audience as, in the words of Christa Gannon, Founder & Executive Director, “strong, resilient, and possess a spark of goodness that the rest of the world needs to see.”

Who is the new voice–the one with the power to move the story forward? Who now embodies the true meaning of the mission and its impact?

For more information about Fresh Lifelines for Youth, go to http://flyprogram.org. To find out more about the programs and upcoming events of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce Not-For-Profit Network, please contact Kara Carpenter, Programs Assistant, at (630) 544-3360 or visit the chamber’s website at www.naperville.net.

The purpose of Culture

What stories about your community are being told outside of your physical boundaries? Why is it important for you to be the voice that moves the truth forward?

Your mission is your purpose. It guides how you make decisions, where you spend your resources and what goals to pursue. People will try to connect this with what you allow them to perceive. It becomes the main theme for the story they tell themselves about you.

And then there’s culture. As an organization, what you believe gives meaning to your purpose. What you share with others gives you a strong sense of place. Your story has roots that give you the courage to step outside and reveal your true identity, not to isolate yourself, but rather to invite others to discover who you really are. And to ask them the same question: “Who are you?”

“Let’s shift our collective consciousness and remember that we belong to one another.”
— Matika Wilbur, photographer, project 562

Mission: On The Air

party934I’d like to invite you to be a guest on my radio program and tell the story of your nonprofit’s mission. Barkada Circle broadcasts live every Monday at 10am Central on Party934.com which is a project of the Free Form Radio Initiative, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide diverse and innovative online broadcasting that reflects the interests and concerns of the community.

You can tune in on Monday during my next live broadcast or listen to recordings of recently aired programs on http://party934.com/BarkadaCircle. Here’s the podcast of the interview we did in April with local artist Lindsay Obermeyer who tells her story about using her art form and collaborating with nonprofit organizations in a number of cities in the midwest to create a stronger sense of community for the people in these areas. Send an email to pon@barkadacreative.com and we can schedule your story for a future program.

Podcast: Meet our Panelists

Today’s broadcast highlighted a brief snapshot of each of the nonprofits who will share their stories on our social media panel discussion later this week: Who is the Face (and Voice) of Your Mission?

party934Thursday, May 16
5:30 – 8:00 pm
415 N. Dearborn, Chicago

Listen to my hour podcast with some musical breaks on independent, nontraditional radio Party934.com. Hope it wets your appetite to join the conversation on Thursday. Click to sign up.

See you then!