NOWBC: Showing Impact with Narrative

NOWBC, a co-op formed in 2008, runs an online farmers’ market and delivery depot ‘clubs’ with a focus on seasonal, local, organic foods sourced directly from small farms and processors as well as local independent wholesalers. The dedicated volunteers and staff at NOWBC believe in the importance of knowing your local farmer and preserving sustainable farming knowledge and farmland. With a mission to build a sustainable local food system by connecting local farms and processors with consumers and building community around sustainable food choices, NOWBC is all about growing and sharing good food.

In their December 2011 e-newsletter, NOWBC shared a story that came to them via Discovery Organics, a supplier held in high regard by NOWBC. In this story, Discover Organics describes to NOWBC customers the community impact of their fair trade purchases. This story is simple, yet effective, and serves as a great example of using narrative for showing impact.

When asked about NOWBC’s approach to storytelling as a means of communicating impact, Executive Director Kirsty Dick’s response vividly reflects the core values of the organization:

“Building community is very important to us and I think that is where the storytelling aspect comes in for us at NOWBC.  We send out our newsletter to a few hundred people every week and each week we try to tell a story.  We try to help our customers and members get to know the products and the people who make them.  If customers get to know the people who produce their food ,then it changes the way they think about it.  A carrot becomes more than just a carrot.  We all begin to understand what had to happen to get that carrot into our hands and we come to understand it in a really meaningful way.  Telling a story is a way to really get through to people – facts and figures just don’t seem as important as the real people behind those facts and figures.”

Why would an organization choose narrative for showing impact? While NOWBC does understand the importance of presenting and analyzing facts and figures – something that they certainly focus on in preparation for annual general meetings and at the Board level – it appears that they have found a balance between quantitative and qualitative in their approach to demonstrating impact. Kirsty Dick’s thoughts sum it up nicely:

“I think that we, although I don’t think it has been a conscious choice, always default to a storytelling aspect because of who we are.  I think it is about connecting with each other and with our producers around a common goal.”

Take a look at this excerpt from the NOWBC e-newsletter, and you will see how a story can go a long way when it comes to demonstrating the impact that your work has had in the community near and far:

How our farmers spent your fair trade dollars

“For the last 2 years, you have paid a little extra for bananas, apples, pears, kiwi, passion fruit, blueberries, mangos, avocados and grapefruit.  Your purchases of Fair Trade produce have guaranteed literally thousands of farm families a secure and reasonable income – and for many of them it’s the first time in their lives.  You have also, through your purchases over the past 2 years, provided for social projects all throughout the Americas, funded by Fair Trade Social Premiums, included in the price you pay.

You’ve built a Summer School in Salitral, brought potable water to a remote village in central Mexico, and an elementary school in Peru. You paid for elders to learn to write Spanish in Piura, and specialized teachers to work with mentally challenged children in Tambo Grande in Peru and Michoacan in Mexico.  You have helped support a first-of-its-kind micro-finance system for 1200 farm families and workers, in one of the poorest areas of South America in Sullana, Peru, operated jointly by a banana and a mango cooperative.  You have funded new remote medical centers in both Peru and Argentina. You have paid to rebuild or replace homes for farm workers in earthquake stricken Concepcion, Chile, and 100 more through a special earthquake fund you supported 20 months ago.

So from the bottom of our hearts, a huge thank you, for your support, and believing in what we are so passionate about.  All the best for 2012!”

(excerpt from “How our farmers spent your fair trade dollars”, Discovery Organics, featured in New at NOWBC e-newsletter, December 16, 2011)

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