Storytelling that Inspires Action

Rebecca Lim presenting

At the ESOMAR Asia Pacific 2019 event in Macao, Finn Raben discussed the ESOMAR Foundation’s Making a Difference competition and introduced the winner of last year’s competition to share her case study.

As background, the ESOMAR Foundation partners with NGOs to help them with research. This year, at the ESOMAR Annual Congress in Edinburgh, the Foundation will be running a day-long seminar on research for not-for-profits. ESOMAR members have donated to help fund the Foundation. Additionally, the Foundation inaugurated the Making a Difference competition last year to showcase how research can help nonprofits and NGOs. In fact, the winner came from Asia.

The winner was Rebecca Lim, the head of the Singapore International Foundation (an analog to the Peace Corps in the U.S. or the British Council). She discussed the formation of the Our Better World campaign seven years ago and the research that improved it.

The organization had seen:

  • A lack of positive news in the media
  • A passive online audience, uncertain of how to help
  • Nonprofits needing help but lacking awareness.

This presented three opportunities:

  • An opportunity for telling inspiring stories
  • An opportunity to provide audiences with ways to help
  • An opportunity to help nonprofits raise awareness.

As a result, the mission of Our Better World was framed: to leverage digital media to bring people together to do good. “We inspire action through storytelling,” said Rebecca, leveraging “a regional network of filmmakers and photographers to share stories with an online audience.” When OBW (Our Better World) looked for research to help it achieve its mission, “We couldn’t find someone like us telling stories across Asia to produce impact. We knew that to maximize impact, research was key. We couldn’t find research in Asia into digital storytelling, finding only research for the US and Europe. We approached Kantar for primary research in Asia.”

The motivation for the research was:

  • To understand the national psyche behind giving in each targeted country
  • To uncover motivations for why online audiences want to connect culturally.

Justine Lukas of Kantar Singapore described the research. “What we did was go face-to-face in focus groups to capture emotionally-charged experiences. We wanted to understand the language they used and how they interacted around a table with people they didn’t know.” She later noted, “This is not a conversation people are used to having, and it took a while to get the conversations going, to get the emotion flowing.” Kantar also used “digital blogging to engage in depth with a good mix of the OBW community.”

This qualitative research revealed that “giving is a personal, deeply emotional and social experience, an antidote to this unsympathetic world.” The inward process towards giving was of self-actualization, while the outward process involved finding a sense of belonging.

The reasons behind giving varied by country:

  • India – Facing a long history of political, social, and class inequality, Indians give to cause “social change, with an intent to confront a flawed system.”
  • Indonesia / Philippines – Citizens of two countries wracked by natural disasters, Indonesians and Filipinos desire “social cohesion” with an “intent to improve communities and lives of others by addressing gaps in a flawed system.”
  • Malaysia – Facing increased political tension, religious and social divide, and rising corruption, Malaysians have a strong sense of pride in their own ethics. They give from a sense of social preservation, with the “intention to uphold ethics in the midst of social decline.”
  • Singapore – Progressive and “future-forward thinking”, Singaporeans give “to improve the lives of those who have been left out: the elderly, disabled, low-income, and orphans.”

“These insights provided a clear view of market sensitivities and helped us construct the best angles of meaningful stories by market,” said Rebecca. Before these insights, a previous story called for volunteers for a hospice in Singapore, but the story angle focused on what the volunteers did, not the impact of their volunteering. The story resulted in only 24 additional volunteers for the hospice. After applying these insights for Angel Hearts, the story resulted in an increase from 10 volunteer sign-ups a month to 341 sign-ups. “Insights helped us inspire that action from the story.”

Here is that story:

Our Better World is achieving its mission: as a result of its efforts, 96% of its community are more aware of people doing good across Asia, 75% are inspired and want to contribute to social causes, and 60% shared OBW stories and took some action.

(Photo credit: ESOMAR Foundation.)

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