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Storytelling as a Catalyst for Increased Organizational Collaboration

Organizations produce a story project together about their work to gain a framework for collaborating that leads to more effective programs.

Photo of Vicki Eng
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Organizations working across the humanitarian continuum face increasing pressure from stakeholders to leverage resources for projects and programs more efficiently while continuing to produce measurable outcomes. Meanwhile, competition for resources, as well as the day-to-day demands of mission-driven work, can result in a perceived need for organizations to forgo collaboration and perform their work in a vacuum, isolated from other actors in the space. 

The Hilton Prize Coalition, an independent alliance of 21 best-in-class organizations, developed a model for collaboration to address this challenge that centers on the act of storytelling. This model leverages the connecting power of sharing experiences--as well as shared experience--to break through that isolation and provide an accessible framework that would bring organizations to a place of greater understanding, foster communication, and build trust. The Storytelling Collaborative Model is grounded in the belief that the connections made and lessons revealed through this storytelling framework have the potential to facilitate and activate greater programmatic and organizational collaboration for collective impact within organizations and in the communities they serve.

A pilot project of this Storytelling Collaborative model was launched in Nepal in early 2016, with transformative results for the six organizations that participated and their communities.  The steps, as demonstrated through the pilot project, are outlined here.

The Storytelling Collaborative model was designed to be replicable and scalable; any group of organizations unified by shared concentration or regional focus would be able to implement and benefit from this model. Therefore, support received will help to implement a new iteration of the model through a new collaborative storytelling project. Should this proposal be given the opportunity to move forward, the focus and setting of the proposed project would be determined in the next phase. Through this model, the Hilton Prize Coalition aims to build a storytelling movement that catalyzes collaborations across the world.

Explain your idea

The Storytelling Collaborative Model is grounded in the belief that storytelling can transform the way organizations work as well as the communities they serve. Upon determining the organizations and geographical setting of the project, the model consists of five steps. 1) Choose the Means Whether in the form of video, photos, and/or written reflections, the team will produce an account of the community’s voice through the lens of the field workers and organizations that are working to empower communities. For the pilot project, the Hilton Prize Coalition elected to produce a short documentary film. 2) Convene the Actors Under the guidance of the Coalition’s Director of Storytelling, participating organizations form the film crew and set the production. The pilot Storytelling Program project centered on stories told by staff of six community organizations operating in Nepal before, during and after the April 2015 earthquake. 3) Listen for Lessons Both the act of collecting the stories, as well as the stories told, bring together the crew in a way that resonates, building the foundation for collaboration. Throughout the production of the pilot project, operational alignments between organizations and opportunities for collaboration were revealed. 4) Deliver on Connections The proposed model provides a structure that increases communication between the participating organizations and supports sustained collaboration. Now more than a year after the film was produced, the participating organizations, joined by additional organizations and local partners, have formalized a framework for collaboration anchored by regular convenings, including bi-monthly meetings and special trainings. 5) Create More Value The final product—a collection of writings, a documentary film or other visual record–is a tangible product that can be used as a tool for education and outreach by all participants, acting independently and collectively. The pilot film has been screened at international conferences and other professional convenings to enhance the dialogue around the humanitarian continuum and amplify the voice of vulnerable populations around the world.  Informed by both the successes and the lessons of the pilot project as well as feedback received, the Hilton Prize Coalition intends once again to forge new alignments and partnerships between participating organizations through the next iteration of the Storytelling Program in order to formalize collaboration and improve the organizations' individual and collective ability to strengthen their shared community.

Who Benefits?

The participating organizations, as well as those in the communities they serve, benefit from this model in several ways. First, the act of sharing stories in this structured format offers participants the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and connect others to their work in a different way. Second, the connections established and formalized through the model's framework breaks down organizational silos and increases the likelihood of long-term success for both the individual organizations and their collective efforts. Third and finally, the end product--be it a film, still photographs, audio, etc.--itself serves as tangible resource that not only invigorates the connection between local staff and headquarters, but also provides a visual or digital record that can serve both as a mirror for organizations to reflect on the efficiency and efficacy of their organizational structure and program design as well as an education tool to present externally to donors.

How is your idea unique?

Most organizations see the value of storytelling to educate donors and the public about their programs and outcomes; however, the Storytelling Program turns this approach on its head. By focusing on the experiences of staff, the Coalition aims to show the complexities of delivering services and to present local communities traditionally perceived as "vulnerable," as "valuable." The model itself initiates collaborations between organizations that may not be in the position to seek each other out or to establish strong, sustainable collaborations. This approach also creates a tangible, narrative demonstration of best practice in the selected subject matter from which others in the development and humanitarian sectors can benefit.  The Hilton Prize Coalition is uniquely positioned to succeed due to its ability to build on the expertise and collaborative mindset of its members, 21 best-in-class humanitarian organizations with a collective presence in more than 170 countries.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Tell us more about you

The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of recipients of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to advance their respective missions and achieve greater collective impact for the world’s most vulnerable people. The 21 Laureate organizations – recognized globally as leaders in humanitarian assistance, human rights, development, education and health – have a collective presence in over 170 countries, affecting millions of lives. Led by its Secretariat, Global Impact, and an Executive Committee comprised of the leaders of several Laureate organizations, the Coalition builds upon the key qualities that distinguish the Laureates, including their collaborative mindset, exemplary operational structures, and their global expertise as sector-leading humanitarian organizations. The project will be facilitated by Global Impact, an Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit that serves as Secretariat of the Hilton Prize Coalition. The Coalition operates three signature programs – the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program, and the Storytelling Program – whose projects aim to increase opportunities for Laureates to work in concert and innovate new models of collaboration to share with the global NGO and donor communities. With the addition of each new member through the naming of a new Laureate every year, the Hilton Prize Coalition is building a movement of collaboration that is already strengthening the fabric of the global humanitarian community. By formally building on the collaborative practices that these best-in-class organizations have been developing organically, the Coalition is emerging as a best practice example of complex collaboration in action. The robust efforts initiated by the implementation of the Signature Programs, like the pilot project of the Storytelling Program, are serving as creative templates for replication on a global scale. These in turn will be shared with the global community to effect positive change for peace, the prosperity of vulnerable populations, and the planet as a whole.   

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • No, but we are a formal initiative through an accelerator, hub, or other entity.

Attachments (1)


How the Storytelling Collaborative Model played out through the production of the pilot project, a short documentary film "On Shifting Ground." This piece was created for the film's premiere at Devex 2016.


Join the conversation:

Photo of eldy wullur

Hello Vicki,
How to effectively dissipate post-disaster trauma is by talking about their experiences. This will reduce the burden on the mind a little bit, but after that they will go back to the real world that they still have to bear the burden of lost loved ones, property and so on. It is important for us to follow-up services.

Photo of Vicki Eng

Hello Eldy,
Thank you for your comment! Yes, we agree about the importance of storytelling and follow-up services. Our model starts with the act of storytelling to help identify gaps in services as well as opportunities to improve existing services, and then it provides a framework for the participants to collaborate effectively afterwards.

Photo of eldy wullur

Hello Vicki,
Whenever possible establish holistic services.


Eldy Jenny Wullur

Photo of Vicki Eng

Good advice, thank you :)

Photo of eldy wullur

Your welcome.