The Spark: Do Social Entrepreneurs Need a TOMs-like Story?

Stories sell.

A good story can pull heart strings, raise money, even sell millions of canvas shoes.  Stories have become the ultimate form of currency for the social entrepreneur, even more so than impact numbers, team, or traction in some cases.  This begs a few questions for every social entrepreneur:

“What’s my story?”

“How do I tell my story?”

“Do I need a story?”

Recently I read a story on about the CEO of the Congo Leadership Initiative, a social entrepreneur named Nathaniel Houghton.  As a young white man who recently graduated from Cornell, naturally, the number one question he gets about his work is: Why Congo?

The thing is, Nathaniel doesn’t have a story.  He doesn’t exactly know why he’s serving the Congo over another community or country in need.  He has allowed passion and perspective move him towards serving the DRC.

The interesting thing about Nathaniel’s “story”, or lack there of, is that the people he’s serving doesn’t care about the story.  They don’t care about the contrast between their skin color and Nathaniel’s, they don’t care about his background, they don’t care about the politics of the country he comes from.  What they do care about is the service of the CLI, the work they do for the common good of their community, and the purity of their intent.

The purpose of a strong story is obvious.  Stories are meant to create an emotional connection with an individual so strong that they act, share, and identify with the story.  However, don’t let the lack of a story be a deterrent in you creating something special that can change the world.

The people you impact won’t care about how you got there.  They care about your impact on their present and future.

If you don’t have a story, go serve, and create your story as you go.


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