Nonprofits: Changing the story to change the climate

Nonprofits: Changing the story to change the climate

 

Charities and nonprofits play a vital role in effecting change, driven by the desire to make a difference rather than to make a profit! And, by changing narratives to win hearts and minds, charities can influence public discourse and therefore in turn influence policy. In this blog we will consider the role charities and nonprofits play in bringing about change for good and how the stories they share about environmental issues—what they say and how they say it—matters.

 

While there are many of us that follow the science and totally get the fact that the climate is warming up and that what we do as humans – stripping the world of its resources, filling its rivers and oceans with plastic and pumping greenhouse gases into the air –  is accelerating this disproportionately, but then there are the climate change deniers who really don’t think we have any impact on the earth at all.

 

For those of us that can see it happening in front of us and have looked at the data it’s difficult not to roll our eyes and think to ourselves ‘what is wrong with these people’ but it is important to realise that data does not speak for itself. Instead, it’s crucial to dress up the evidence in narrative—to frame it—so that people truly hear what we are trying to say. Creating progressive social change requires us to have both the data and the narrative.

 

Stories are a direct route to our emotions

Stories shape our understanding of the world, our place in it, and our ability to change it.  Stories make, prop up, and bring down systems.  A story has many different qualities that make it useful for the work of bringing about change for good. It’s a direct route to our emotions, and therefore important in our decision-making. It creates meaning. It unites communities. It enables the possible to feel probable in ways our rational minds can’t comprehend. When it comes to changing individuals and communities values, mindsets, rules and goals, a narrative is the very foundation of that change.

 

As the author Anais Nin once said: ‘We see the world as we are, not as it is’. As people who want to bring about progressive social change, we need to understand how people think about the world and tell our stories in ways that will tap into the most productive ways of thinking that people hold in mind.

 

How can nonprofits and charities effectively talk about the environment?

Firstly, charities and nonprofits need to do their research to uncover any deeply held beliefs on the issue and explore which beliefs are helping or hindering change; and then through undertaking qualitative and quantitative research they can identify narratives that could shift thinking and bring more helpful mindsets to the forefront. 

Once those narratives have been identified they can be used to help illuminate the past, present, and future, thus lighting up the paths of change for good. 

 

(Photo: Greenpeace)

The narratives can:

  • Highlight the fault lines in beliefs and make cases for change based on emotions and feelings.
  • Illuminate the work of the mavericks, pioneers, and intrapreneurs who are already trying to make change happen and build a unifying narrative around their work.
  • Shine a light on alternate visions of the future that change the way people act in the present.

 

A new narrative which stresses that your surroundings help to shape you has power. It has the power to pull the recessive, more productive set of beliefs to the fore and create support for policy change. One of the most important aspects of this new story is to lead with the benefits of tackling climate change and healing the damage we have done to our surroundings. When we lead our communications by talking about what this issue is fundamentally about—in this case, healing and improving the environment—people are more willing to listen to what charities and nonprofits have to say.

 

Floom Creative

We specialise in creating narratives for brands, nonprofits and charities that have their values rooted in environmental and ethical consciousness. By communicating your vision through visual sustainable storytelling, we can help your brand to flourish.  

 

Let’s talk! We’d love to help you with your sustainable storytelling. Contact us now.

 

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