I heard a fair few stories yesterday! They were stories that were told with a very clear purpose and made the day sparkle, especially when they got just a bit personal.

I was taking part in the CRNS annual conference and running a workshop about storytelling – the title of the whole event was Growing your Impact, Telling your Story and the highlight for me was hearing about a range of charities and social enterprises, working for the good of the people and the planet, right here in Scotland.

CRNS, or Community Resource Network Scotland (for long), is the membership body for organisations involved in the whole world of reuse and recycling – furniture reuse is a big theme, alongside bike recycling, wood reclaiming, avoiding food wastage and a whole lot more besides. I was impressed by how so many of the member organisations in the sector are motivated, not only by a desire to use the resources of the planet better, but also by a fundamental desire to improve people’s lives.

I was in active listening mode, because I was on the look-out for the good stories – stories that would illustrate the storytelling theory I was sharing, and also stories that I might be able to use in some way on the CRNS website, which we are currently redeveloping.

My favourite bit of storytelling came from Mark Morgan of Stella’s Voice, a charity and social enterprise based in Peterhead. The organisation gathers other people’s unwanted furniture, toys and stuff of all sorts and the money they raise is used to benefit people living in poverty in Eastern Europe. Mark told us, in just a few words how, back in 1991 when the Berlin wall came down, he was involved in taking a truck of aid out to Europe. He said that when they returned, they knew that life was not going to be the same, because of the impact of what they had seen. The impact on him made an impact on his audience.

Later in the day I got to share some storytelling theory, borrowed (reused, recycled?) from the Story Center in Berkeley California. Mark’s story illustrated it perfectly – we need to own the insight, own the emotion and find the moment in the story.

There were plenty of other great contributions during the day too, about projects that run foodbanks and community fridges, stocked largely with food that supermarkets would otherwise be throwing in to landfill. About a wood recycling project that makes truly beautiful items of furniture out of the wood reclaimed as buildings are dismantled. About a print and signage company that employs war veterans and others with disabilities and is busy looking at ways to be as green as possible in their production processes. And on it goes – stories with impact about people who are committed to changing lives and saving our planet.

A memorable quote from the day summed it all up … “Stats are just stories with the tears taken out.” How neat and well observed! I love this thought because it ties together some thinking around data and storytelling. We need the insight that comes from the data, but we also need the emotion. Lets use the stats to help us identify the insights and then use the stories to help others understand the impact, feel the significance and take action themselves.

Oh, yes, and then on to the funny stories. Fred McAulay was MCing, so in amongst the serious business, with an introduction from Roseanna Cunningham, MSP and much else besides, there were regular little laughter slots. Fred’s stories about his antics when under-employed at home were designed for one purpose and one purpose alone, to make us laugh! It’s a great gift, and one that illustrates well, the importance of the story. It can lift our head, rearrange our thinking and take us in a new direction. Whether it’s laughter or tears, stories help people connect with the insight. They make an impact and learning how to share them can help your organisation grow.

Find out more about using storytelling in your business