Solution Stories

Analyzing Oral Histories & Influencing Strategic Planning

The Grass Foundation was about to undertake a strategic planning process, and realized they wanted to be more reflective before ploughing forward. Thaler Pekar & Partners was asked to gather oral histories of current and former board members, beneficiaries of the foundation, and colleagues.

Through these recorded oral histories, we connected the past, present, and future of the Foundation. We analyzed the interviews for emergent patterns, both complementary and contradictory; motivations and values; tensions; assumptions and aspirations; and other narrative aspects. We also teased out the Foundation’s own solution stories for further development and application.

Our analysis and reporting fed into and is influencing the strategic planning process. The Foundation has videos and transcripts to add their archives. And, bolstered with the confidence that comes from a shared sense of history and purpose, board members are adopting new and creative ways of moving forward.

Connecting a Company’s Past, Present & Future

Chile’s largest cable and telecommunications company, VTR, is confronting a complex and rapidly changing landscape: the introduction of new, technically advanced products and services, increased competition, and a regulatory environment in constant flux. Poised to venture into the provision of mobile services, VTR engaged 35 of their senior leaders in an exploration of the company’s narrative, and how the leaders could support – and spread – the “big story” of VTR through smaller stories and anecdotes. Through the elicitation, creation, and analysis of stories about the company’s past, present, and future, the leaders reconnected with the organization’s core values, gained a better understanding of the present situation, and are now better communicating the VTR vision.

Using Story to Explore Complex Situations and Movement Building

The Arcus Foundation sought to explore the experiences of their grantees who mobilized against an anti-homosexuality bill introduced in the Ugandan parliament. Thaler Pekar & Partners facilitated a layered storysharing session, in which twenty participants were prompted to recall, examine, and make sense of their experiences. Despite the multiplicity of individual stories, the exercise of developing a collective narrative helped to surface certain recurrent themes, challenges, characters, and positive and negative practices. The result was an inventory of the grantees’ collective knowledge and resources, mapped against a timeline of events during the crisis.

This program was part of a larger effort to assist grantees in understanding their overall strategies, goals, and assessments. The Arcus Foundation is “thrilled with the outcomes” and the program’s contribution to understanding movement building and the assessment of progress, especially in rapidly changing, complex situations.

Facilitating & Strengthening Organizational Alignment

Population Connection has a dynamic staff that regularly engages with donors and other partners–all while seldom getting the chance to engage with each other as a community. At their retreat on Maryland’s Easter Shore, Thaler Pekar & Partners directed Population Connection’s leadership and staff in sharing stories to celebrate past successes; to spotlight past and present struggles; to examine recurrent and emergent themes; and to narratively imagine their work’s near-future impact. The team said that the playful, experiential approach respected the diverse styles and personalities of those in the room and served to “coax out a beautiful array of emotions.” The facilitated stories, improvisations, and discussion extracted meaningful lessons from a vivid new archive of shared experiences. It gave staff a rare opportunity to learn about each other’s best practices, sources of inspiration, and resilience. The day-and-half-long program was itself a new shared memory, surfacing and ultimately reinforcing organizational alignment.

Inviting Audiences to Be a Part of Your Solution

Connecticut Health Foundation’s Leadership Fellows are constantly searching for powerful ways to amplify the impact of their work toward equitable health access. They engage with a wide range of stakeholders–government officials, lobbyists, community providers and practitioners, local religious groups, and recipients of services and coverage. Thaler Pekar & Partners delivered an intensive program on solutions-based messaging to the Fellows. This proven method of communication requires a profound shift away from the typical focus on problems. We provided the group with specific tools for avoiding the “problem trap” so as to energize and inspire audiences as co-deliverers of meaningful solutions. Participants were further supported with coaching in how to best vocally and physically deliver such messages, and with webinars focused on sustaining a solutions-based approach to communication.

Rallying & Strengthening a Communications Team

Kimberly Maki, Vice President, Corporate Communications, knew the success of Bright House Network’s new high profile marketing campaign depended upon her communication team. They, especially, needed to fully engage both customers and colleagues in hearing, understanding, remembering, and reinforcing the narrative of the “Hello, Friend!” campaign.

Over the course of two days, Thaler Pekar & Partners helped more than 30 senior executives and communication staff members explore the importance of narrative and story to their work and to the success and sustainability of the campaign. The team felt respected and assured enough to take apart what they do daily, discovering and delighting in new ways to apply narrative and story in multiple communication channels. Each team member was also professionally filmed sharing a story against a green screen, for use in both the internal and external campaign.

Bright House Networks is measuring the increase in narrative skills of the communication team, evaluating each member on both the quality and quantity of stories they find and share.

Sharing a New Organizational Narrative with High-Level Donors

Prior to embarking on major donor solicitation, the New York Advisory Board of Enterprise Community Partners sought to ensure that its members were equipped with effective, persuasive messages and an understanding of how to best personally deliver those messages. After thorough research and narrative analysis, Thaler Pekar & Partners identified three high-level donor archetypes and recommended messages and methods for communicating with each. Thaler Pekar & Partners also recommended that Enterprise shift the story it was sharing to one that is more personally meaningful and resonant with donors. The Board has embraced this new approach to communication with high-level donors and implementation is proving successful.

Increasing Status and Financial Support

Thaler assisted the President of Interfaith Alliance, Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, in preparing his speech for the organization’s annual gala. Rather than his presenting a litany of accomplishments, she asked him a series of questions that elicited stories about his work with donors, policymakers, and staff throughout the year. We selected several of those stories for inclusion in the speech. Donations given at the event, or as a result of the event, were up 37% from the previous year (and George Clooney was the guest of honor that year)!

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Upcoming Events & Appearances

April 11, 2019
Storytelling and Social Change, Institute for Research on Women, Rutgers the State University of NJ

February 21, 2019
Public Engagement for Academics: The Use and Abuse of Story, Institute for Research on Women, Rutgers the State University of NJ

December 14, 2018
Beyond Understanding: Listening for Emergence, NYC

November 15, 2018
NationSwell Summit on Solutions, NYC

October 30, 2018
Listen Better, Hear More, free Waggl webinar

October 24 & 25, 2018
Behavioral Summit, NYC

October 18-21, 2018
National Harm Reduction Conference panelist, New Orleans

October 10-12, 2018
Communications Network, San Francisco

September 25-27, 2018
Participatory Narrative Program, San Diego

September 12 & 13, 2018
Building Narrative Power for Racial & Health Equity convening, NYC

June 21 & 22, 2018
Inspirefest keynote, Dublin

June 11, 2018
Biodiversity Funders Group, Kona, HI

June 7, 2018
Your Solution Story Matters, closing keynote, North Dakota Association of Nonprofit Organizations

April 12, 2018
Persuasive Speaking & Storytelling, Institute for Research on Women, Rutgers the State University of NJ

March 22-25, 2018
Palliative Care Advanced Narrative Medicine Workshop, Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, NYC

March 20, 2018
Finding, Developing & Sharing Your Success Story, Foundation for Jewish Camp, Baltimore

March 16, 2018
How to Write an OpEd, Institute for Advanced Study

February 15, 2018
How to Write an OpEd, Institute for Research on Women, Rutgers the State University of NJ

February 6-9, 2018
FRANK conference, FL

January 18, 2018
Montefiore Medical Center ObGYN Advocacy Track

January 11 & 12, 2018
Grass Foundation, Los Angeles

November 1, 2017
Staff Retreat: Communication & Story Exploration, NYC Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Tobacco Control

October 27, 2017
Storytelling is Only Half the Story, public program, NYC

September 27-29, 2017
Communications Network Conference

September 26, 2017
"The Corporate Communication Function and Social Responsibility", Emerson College, Boston

September 18 & 19, 2017
Oral History Collection, Ireland

September 13, 2017
Storytelling is Only Half the Story: The Value of Narrative Enquiry, Dublin, Ireland

Week of April 24, 2017
Oral History Collection, Bermuda

April 12, 2017
Narrative Leadership Program,
global cosmetics company