Stephen J. Gould once called humans "the primates who tell stories." Stories are part of how we transfer culture, they are a device through which we shape our identity and relationship to the world - in the development community, they are a way to get people to act. Stories help connect people emotionally to a cause far better than any mere statistic could, no matter how compelling.
Tell me that there are millions of micro-entrepreneurs without access to credit, and I might not bat an eye - tell me a good story about even one person who was able to lift themselves out of poverty through microfinance, and you've made a personal connection.You've inspired me to care about your cause by making an abstract statistic real and visceral, now I can put a face to every person that is helped by microfinance. This is the type of connection that helped make microfinance a movement, as a lot of its popularity can be attributed to the stories that get told over and over in the media about microcredit beneficiaries and about the movement's own hero-figure, Muhammed Yunus.
Likewise, in spite of mountains of evidence and a consensus among most of the world's leading climate scientists, the fight against global warming didn't really become fully mainstream until Al Gore condensed much of the data into a 97 minute story about how the entire human race was slowly destroying its only home.
In light of the power stories have to connect people with causes and build movements, the film competition announced this morning by SEVEN is a smart move. From now until September 15th, the Fund is soliciting films from professionals and amateurs alike that "showcase the story of an entrepreneur - to show the story of what odds this person has overcome, what impact they have had on the world, and how they've managed to achieve their goals." $35,000 in awards will be distributed among three winners, which will be announced October 7th.
Embedding stories of sustainable/social entrepreneurship into the global conscience could be the key to making what have been up until now vague categories of people using markets to do good into a concrete cause. Kudos to SEVEN for taking the initiative to create this competition - we'll look forward to seeing the results.