Step One: Which Innovators And Leaders Are Tackling This Issue?

Real change happens only when individuals and groups from interested sectors work together, each bringing to the table what they do best. Some have cutting-edge information, some have grassroots networks, some have access to policy makers. And some — the storytellers—have the ability to engage people with compelling narratives.


By mapping out the Ecosystem of Change—all the partners who can work together and how they interact—you’ll have greater impact on the issues you care about. Use this graphic as a wish list, inventory, or gap-finder—whatever you need as you begin planning.

Exercise: Who are your allies and how you can work together?

Which individuals and organizations have been on the cutting edge of the problem you’re trying to solve? What are their common objectives?
Which research institutions have public opinion data on the issue or evidence of solutions that are working best?
Which grassroots groups tackle these issues every day?
Who funds these efforts? What stories have been told, or should be, that effectively help bring these ideas to life?
What films, short videos, or other cultural work could help deepen engagement in the issues, even reach Beyond the Choir?
Which groups have an analysis of the problems and solutions that align or enhance your own?


The Ecosystem of Change example above names some sectors (policy, organizing, etc.) that often work together, but feel free to swap and replace; you might include other sectors like faith groups or youth and families. We like to keep it simple; six bubbles works well.




Pictured left: Active Voice Lab staff leads an interactive Ecosystem of Change workshop.


Ecosystems are composed of the sectors already involved in an issue. You can and should tap into them, but you don’t need to create one from scratch. When you find the people within each sector who share your goals and want to collaborate, you can work together to sharpen your shared objectives and determine how your story can have maximum impact, This process takes patience, but using stories strategically can produce extraordinary results.


Vivid stories can tackle issues in ways that policy papers and infographics never can—they touch peoples’ hearts. But too often the stories and social movements don’t quite click. What would happen if these sectors, including creatives, communicated at the beginning of projects, instead of working in silos or simply reacting to each other after the fact? (For more things to talk about in the early stages of planning—especially the dynamics of power, race, class and more—visit Prenups for Partners).


Now that you understand more about your Ecosystem and the objectives of your potential partners, you can start plugging them into our StoryLogic model.



Pictured left: Filmmakers role-play (and let off some steam) how funders, creatives, impact strategists and others might react to a complex situation in Active Voice Lab’s guided exercise, “IMPACT IMPROV.”