FIP 014: The Importance of Story with Avery Bang

In this episode, Avery Bang talks us through the importance of story and staying clear of poverty porn. Avery is the CEO of Bridges to Prosperity, a non-profit working to connect rural communities to essential services, like education, healthcare and markets. She has earned her stipes in storytelling, having done a TED talk, appeared on local TV stations, has an IMAX film featuring Bridges to Prosperity by an academy award winning director and is expected to receive 30 million viewers. If there’s one thing she has an unfair advantage on, it’s about how she uses story to embed what she’s doing into the minds of people around the globe. I was keen to catch up with Avery to deconstruct the process she’s followed to get the global exposure she’s achieved.

Some of the things you’ll learn on this podcast include:

  • We talk about the importance of telling stories in a tasteful, ethical way, and how to stay away from “poverty porn”.
  • If your solution is not a physical product, or resides in your local neighborhood, then getting people to connect with your solution is hard to do, which is why connecting with them through a story is important.
  • Avery’s method is telling stories of humanity – of hope and inspiration – rather than tugging at heart strings about the poor people who can’t cross the river.
  • We talk about the psychology of telling people about a big problem in international development, which tends to shut people down, which causes them to shrug and say there’s nothing they can do about a problem so large.
  • The story as a way to invite people with you, encourage them to celebrate the big wins with you, encourage them to inspire others, so they tell the story and it spreads.
  • Avery talks about how she pulled in creatives, who work in stories everyday, to visit the field with her, and ask them to tell the story from their perspective.
  • We point to Scott Harrison of Charity: water who is a ninja storyteller (my words), who makes charity: water’s work hopeful and encouraging people to think of their support like a badge of honour.
  • We stress the “Why” is so more important than the “How”.
  • We talk about what Avery’s first iteration of her story was when she started out, but she quickly realized it’s not about the bridge. It’s about the kid going to school, or the farmer going to market. The bridge connects stories every day.
  • Thinking about the story before your intervention, and then the story after your intervention, is a good way to think about it.
  • We talk about episode 002 with Scott Roy, and how this topic chimes with what he said, about what problem can your intervention solve for someone. It’s not about how good your product is.
  • To build your storytelling skills, Avery’s suggestion is to do something that makes you uncomfortable, like being part of toast masters, or doing a locally-run TED talk, to force you to work on translating your vision to someone else.
  • We briefly talk about the Oxford MBA, and how taking time out for your organization is a way of accelerating it to the next level.


Connect with Avery

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