What’s the story here? Why storytelling matters when you invest in impact.

Kelsey Holmes
1 November 2022

The highlight for the impact investment sector is definitely the annual Forum organised by The Global Impact Investor Network (GIIN). And this year MAKMENDE’s creative business developer Flore Deroose attended the event – at the World Forum in The Hague — to catch up with our partners (such as Incofin, Symbiotics and others), meet the impact investors community and to learn what is key to driving change by contributing to economic growth

We sat down with her to share some of her key insights in the world of storytelling for accelerating impact investment.

Makmende: Tell us, why was GIIN also a must for Makmende to attend?
Flore:  Over the past years our team worked with fund and asset managers in the impact world to help make their impact numbers feel more tangible. Our aim is to showcase what money can do on the ground. Our clients that have a track record of impact investment, like Symbiotics and Incofin, were present at GIIN. Incofin showcased its cases with video stories shown on a big screen. In giving a face to their work, current and new investors gain a deeper and more tangible understanding of their investment and the impact it has on the ground.

Makmende: Why does storytelling matter in the world of impact investment?
Flore: Impact investment is a growing sector but still niche. There is an understandable fear of greenwashing and half-truths so genuine storytelling is critical here. To add credibility and due diligence to your work and at the same time inspire your stakeholders, it’s essential to provide storytelling that combines real fact-based accounts with compelling and inspiring human stories. Having a presence at GIIN was a great opportunity due to our model and expertise: our stories provide a human face, a real and tangible insight – and are always verified and evidence-based.

Makmende: Why are real stories crucial for impact investors?
Flore: The stories that are based on real accounts and testimonies of ‘real people’ can help investors not just explain ‘what’ and ‘how’ they work but also inspire new investors to jump on board. This fact-based storytelling also builds on credibility and helps the sector to learn from one another as we can only avoid greenwashing and window dressing with more transparency and more authentic storytelling.

Makmende: We’re talking a lot about impact but what exactly does impact mean in the investment space?
Flore: There’s no one clear-cut definition of impact – in the investment ecosystem or elsewhere. Storytelling is a great tool to show the interconnected nature and compounded impact of investment, bringing awareness to the great work happening on the ground, facilitated through investment. It’s also about bringing evidence to risk-averse investors, and accelerating growth with better, more concrete, more credible, first-hand stories.

Makmende: You mention the language gap on impact. Were there any other gaps you noticed at GIIN? What about particularly strong storytelling cases that you think took the work of some investors and organizations seeking funding to the next level?
Flore: In this space, there’s a tendency to lean into a flyover way of talking. We need investors and funds to get more concrete – and more in-depth. It needs to be about connecting the dots between funding and what’s happening on the ground in a way that’s compelling. Storytelling is a great tool to activate here. It can help investors on future projects by translating their vision and mission into something more concrete. It can also help with projections and forecasting in telling the story in a way that attracts more investors.  Here is Incofin’s storytelling, a great example with stories ‘from the ground’. On GIIN’s big stage, the audience could listen to great storytellers such as John Elkington and polar explorer Will Steger. They simultaneously alarm, inspire and activate the sector ‘not to waste any more time’.

Yet, overall, the general comments are that there is a lack of storytelling that ‘shows us solutions’ and ‘storytelling that is concrete and hands-on’ – so yes, there’s definitely room for growth here. If people see that their economic contributions are driving real change, that’s something worth celebrating; it’s a story worth telling

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