028: Rockefeller Foundation hatches storytelling platform

Service icons_podcastWe talk with Jereme Bivins, Digital Strategist at The Rockefeller Foundation and RJ Bee, SVP of Hattaway Communications.

The platform they created is called HatchForGood.org

Hatch acts like a concierge, connecting you to a suite of tools and a growing community to help you leverage storytelling to drive social impact and improve the lives of the poor and vulnerable around the world.
Stories with purpose don’t just materialize—they’re strategically planned, they’re creatively crafted, and they’re designed to achieve measurable outcomes.

Our conversation covered some of these questions:

  • What is hatch, why did Rockefeller create this?
  • What metrics are you looking at as you grow it?
  • How can nonprofits leverage it?
  • What is the narrative framework and how did you come up with it?
  • What would you do differently if you were building it again?


Hatch for good resource: Turning dashboards into action

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Episode 28


Speaker 1: This is using the whole whale, a podcast that brings you stories of data and technology in the nonprofit world. My name is George Weiner, your host and chief whaler of WholeWhale.com. Thanks for joining us.


Welcome to this week’s podcast for what we are talking about items about things with stuff in them. very clearly sometimes we need help where there is story telling. That’s actually exactly what we are talking about this week with Rockefeller foundation, Jeremy Bevans there, who has led a project as their digital media manager creating HatchforGood, really putting some science and teeth behind  storytelling trainings. And they worked with a great firm called Hattaway. we will be talking with RJB, the SVP, a lot of letters and his work putting together HatchforGood. Welcome to Episode 28 –here we go.


Speaker 1: And I am here with Jeremy Bevans from Rockefeller Foundation and RJ from Hattaway. Guys, Thank you for joining us today. I am super excited. But, just to start, Jeremy, can you introduce yourself and then tell us what’s  going on here.


Speaker 2:  Sure. I am Jeremy Bevans. I am the Digital Media Manager at Rockefeller Foundation. I am here to talk about , HatchforGood, our digital storytelling platform.


Speaker 1:  Great. RJ. You are also with us. What was  your role in all of this


Speaker 3: Thanks for having us. I am RJB, Senior Vice President at Hattaway communications. and we were in the lead guarantee, the research that went into creating HatchforGood and then actually the implementation and  development of it.


Speaker 1: What exactly is HatchforGood  how do you describe it?


Speaker 2:  HatchforGood is a digital suite of tools and resources for storytellers for purpose organizations.  So do gooders, non-profits , social enterprises and other organizations for the poor and the vulnerable. We started this program  at Rockefeller, a little over a year ago. we had a small test for testing, evaluating  or elevating the practice of storytelling to drive social impact. In our organization as well all the organizations around this sector and that is  a huge order, right, storytelling has to be truly imbibed in the organization to work. So we jumped in. And hattaway was really instrumental in doing this with us. But the first thing that  we did is start talking to  a tons of different  people. Program officers, Grantees, own organizations, technologists , journalists, people who had agencies in big tech companies, WA Practitioners. You name it. we were swinging questions at tons of different people about how to identify stories, how to capture them and how to share them.


Speaker 1: Great. and as we start down the road, RJ, I guess this is a bit for you. How did you start with requirement gathering? . What is the process as you are looking at the landscape and where  this project might fit?


Speaker 3: It is good and this is where we exactly started. we started evaluating landscapes. we did a story telling landscape. we looked at the different narrative that the people are using different kind of models to create stories and we also looked at  technological landscape and try to identify which platforms are being used for different kinds of storytelling tactics and activities and kind of went from there. Jeremy mentioned the research we did. out of that we identified five key need areas that people we talked to had identified. so we had sort of a little bit of roadmap and that was, first, organization we need help with storytelling strategy. and that was probably the biggest outcome of the research is that a lot of organizations don’t think about goals, audiences, objectives things like that before they dive in. so that was super important. and the rest were capacity , how do you know if you have enough capacity for storytelling. The third piece was content. so how do you actually create content that’s compelling, consistent and that’s motivating. Then the fourth piece was actually the platforms. and the last was the personal evaluation. so how do you evaluate your efforts. and that gave us a good kind of roadmap  of  where we need to go based on the needs and interviews.


Speaker 1: Great. and you have kind of answered my next question  in my mind. what was the need  and problem this is solving and it seemed like there was a genuine need out there for the social good and non-profits out there to tell their story but in a logical framework that would make sense. But i am wondering what drove Rockefeller, traditionally obviously a grant making organization into this sort of like, we have to take this on and tackle  a pretty daunting web out over here.


Speaker 2: Absolutely. From our side, we do quite a bit of funding of quite a non profits working for a systemic change. And also we generate a lot of reports and things that are generated from the grantees which are wonderful. But turning those reports  into content that can get into the right audience at the right time through the right medium was very difficult. we were generating all these great stories all these rich content. but they buried. They are buried in our reports. They are buried in our notes. They are buried all over the place. For us the incentive was how do we surface these stories that we can tell the stories essentially what our guarantees are doing on ground the work that really makes a difference to the beneficiaries to the communities to the people they are working with. And that helps  alleviate our grantees so that they can get more support more funding more support more that kind of around the world, help more people.


Speaker 1: Great. We are setting on a mountain of amazing stories , they are like it’s unfair it’s in our backyard . They should be shared, they should be helping the organizations. That’s really great. You are incorporating this into your reporting for your grantees and how is that working


Speaker 2: Absolutely. we have seen that because we are having this issue. And non profits have really fantastic resources for stories that are under tapped that other grant makers were having the same issue.  so having a resource like an individual tool would allow them to also tap into their grantees. so we are working with our grantees and our program staff now on a better framework on how we could identify these things so that they can get up the chain especially the communications team , we can help them at the least. and so part of that is kind of building the internal capacity for working with the grantees  to say we need more than just the data that you are collecting on the ground. When we go into village and talk about the work you are doing there get one quote from somebody that you are helping and that you have changed, you have changed day to day life for them. Get me one photo of one of the photos that you have visited and that kind of stuff. And once they bring that back then we can start weaving the larger narrative about why this purchase is important and the impact has been both with  the data and the story.


Speaker 1: And so you mentioned this narrative framework. How did you come up with this, can you just give the outline of what the  narrative framework is?


Speaker  3: Sure. This is RJ– I can help on that.  Actually, one of our core tools that we use  in our work at  hattaway is this narrative structure narrative framework. we use it in all of our projects. we most often use it to help develop messages for organization or messages about issues. We use because  it’s simple, but it’s really powerful for organizing ideas that you communicate. A lot of us associate so much from the business person from the profit person because everywhere from the power of storytelling, from the power of narratives. And all of that are so popular because we are humans are all wired to understand the world in terms of narratives and in terms of stories. And so when we can help non-profits and foundations  tell their own narratives in a way that connects the people you are working to help the goals that they are seeking to achieve the problems they are trying to overcome, the solutions we provide that can help orient people to the way we are already thinking. And if we can tap into this sort of existing narratives that will make  story telling much easier much more motivating much more consistent.


Speaker 1: You had built in to the actual application and login process, these very specific elements you are touching on them. we need data. We need the story narrative. We need the individual that is being helped. We need the photo that you can sometimes often miss. Are their key elements in this soup of narratives that are things you need that you brought to this?


Speaker 2: I think that’s  a good question. I mean i think the only thing i came come up with- if so is really is connecting  this idea of narrative or the over arching narrative about an organization with the individual stories they are telling. Can I get back to the original point I made about organization often dividing into storytelling without thinking about goals, audiences or sort of that strategic framework and or organizations using social media tool as its own initiative- like that they have a Facebook initiative. And that the tools should be guided by the strategy and not vice versa. So reconnecting that metanarrative to that individual stories and then letting the kind of tools and platforms fall from there is an important sort of connection  to make across these tools.


Speaker  1:  Great. So we have got two levels of metrics that i am now interested in. One let’s start at the very root level at the nonprofit level organizations  using hatchforgood. How are you providing metrics and  feedback in terms of how well they told their stories? What does that look like?


Speaker 3: Sure we have been thinking about this both in terms of  supply and demand. So the supply side are the things like you know through this side, how many grantees are being reached, how many stories are being generated, the number of people and thought leaders we’re engaging to produce content, things like that. we are just starting the sort of story collection process. And i think that will be actually be interesting experiment in how we help organizations evaluate their own stories. we have that story map in content tool kit to help to provide that provide. But we expect have a lot of ongoing learning with organizations. The demand side is really about trying to think about incentives, partnerships other things that we can do to help make sure that we are creating long term demand for Hatch and for storytelling tools like Hatch.


Speaker 2: As RJ was just saying, as we start to get more feedback. This year especially we have been doing a little bit more in the field, doing  presentations, working more one on one with grantees  that kind of thing. We will be able to get those  stories in and provide feedback in  real time to within the session and within these meetings and  that will guide our next phase of Hatch. what that’s going to look like in terms of content and evaluation and that kind of stuff.


Speaker 1:  Great, that’s the top level what you are looking at , platform level like how many stories are being told obviously engagement metrics for the overall ecosystem. Let’s say that wholewhale jumps in there and i want to tell the story and i will be jumping on that to tell  a story. what sort of metrics  at the micro user level  that i am being exposed to or is that in the pipeline or you looking at anything about that


Speaker 2: So right now what we are doing is constantly looking at on our end. What the new and the retrain users rights are. so we want the sight itself to be a resource so that users can keep coming  back to and contribute to. so we are looking at the user path like you said, how many pages visiting, , where they are meeting from. and we use the information from content strategy perspective, which sections need more specific type of content , which pieces should be considered for newsletters and social media information . Which though leaders   may be you for instance, George . we really should be highlighting and shining spot light on saying we need more content for data and analytics. so we need George to may be contribute a piece that kinds of things. That really keeps the design and user experience top of mind and is also a great feedback push from consumer site consumer perspective. So may be somebody is just on the site and is going through i can make some comments and share things from Hatch in the explorer section. I can also submit feedback and say, I really lovely this article that George wrote, how can i get more resources like this. we will be able to provide that sort of structure on the site itself.  And in final piece of data, we will be looking at our story tool kits themselves, our storytelling tool kits. we really want to see the completion rate they go through. There are five tool kits. we want to see where people are starting where they are dropping off where they are completing and having  lot of success or problems so that we can streamlining that process   making it more intuitive adding better features to it and also having  more relevant content that can help guide that pathway.


Speaker 1: Great. It really seems like you are focused on the macro level for now and building up to a honestly a very impressive  list you have and of course I will be writing something there, you flatter me, that’s the number one way to get me to do anything, brilliant.  But you got these five areas. you talk about strategy, content,  evaluation , Capacity platform and inside that you have got a whole wealth of all of this information. So far having hatched already, what are some of the surprising things that you have seen in your data that you may not have expected


Speaker 3: You know looking through the analytics, I was trying to put over the topics of the contents just the other day actually and i expected to see more a balance among the five tool kits. We have obviously heard a lot of pain points around the same types of things which is why the tool kits are where they are. But strategy and capacity are really top performers for us in terms of nonprofits and social impact organizations coming to us and saying this is where we really need the most help . I am talking to a lot of people as well as in the field where they are saying, we really want to get better at stories and my department is really honed in on this. how do we work with other departments in highlighting these things and building these great stories sharing on how do they work on different platforms that kind of stuff. so really we are looking at strategy and capacity right now have become really the number one pain points on the site for people.


Speaker 1: Those two sort of eco systems. Hopefully i have this right in my mind . you have this massive education and it is growing massive education area and literal we are going to walk you through step by step to help your organization tell its story. where did you see the platform going with regard to next year of growth. where are you investing which side and how are you thinking about that?


Speaker 2: you know  actually  hattaway would be in a very good position to talk about this. we have been talking about a lot about this. But then what  2015 looks like, I am going to defer RJ on this one.


Speaker 3: Thanks. I mean it’s really exciting that we are going to continue sort of improve and tweak and add and Jeremy sort of referenced some of the big user feedback we have got. and George you have mentioned the sort of wealth the stuff that’s in there. We appreciate the compliment. I think there is so much there and we are actually thinking of make those somewhat potentially overwhelming tool kits being more bite sized and easier for people to kind of complete with the time they have. And we are also, all the things we have talked so far about in terms of more contributive content, more case studies, more stories from people will continue over the next year or so. And I think the sort of development side making tweaks in including the user experience and also trying to expand this digital storytelling community. so bring in more people to use the tool kit getting their experience and feedback and case studies and hopefully eventually creating this sort of gold mine of stories for others to learn from and think about.  [16:54 – 17:10 – Music]


Speaker 1:  So we are going to jump in the time machine now and we are going to go back   prior to project starting just as it is starting. and I am going throw both of you in the time machine and you are going  to go back and you are going to have short amount of time to tell past both Jeremy and RJ what they should know going into this project.


Speaker 3: That’s a fun exercise. I mean I can start, Jeremy, if you want to jump in. I think one of the biggest lessons we learnt is that there is so many potential  directions to go with this, I think it would be nice to keep us organized around a framework like fairly early on after doing the research. I think I would tell myself to look for patterns to look for commonality , look for points of agreement early on because with hundreds of people’s input, it can be hard to fix all that. so that’s something i think we did pretty well . but i think we could have recognized it earlier may be even design things and a little more intuitively around those patterns  that we are seeing. does that make sense?


Speaker 2: Yeah I think that’s absolutely right. I look at a lot of the feedback from the sites from the tool kits from the content. And we have been getting a tons of fantastic comments from people back from people about what we can do to improve, from small things to really big things. and a lot of the small things you go through and you think, why didn’t we think of this ? why isn’t this something  included  in the first round? so stuff like that. But the reception around the so far has been great and it’s really heartening to see so many people giving the feedback by emailing us directly  saying would love to see these features, this is great, can’t get anything better and stuff like that.


Speaker 1: Time machine can be a fun toy and fortunately you don’t to have this sort of conversations. But imagine where you are a year from now. going back in the time machine , it’s fun, I would like the way Rockefeller has chosen to take this sort of project on themselves and they saw a market opportunity. Jeremy, maybe you can talk a bit about  how early on  you sort of  made the case internally and how you came up.  And you chose not to internally develop a team and instead look for  outside resources. Can you walk us through that decision making that i think it lays the foundation that you are listening and playing with these sort of ideas by yourself what factored into your decision making that led to bringing on obviously  experts from Hattaway to help you.


Speaker 2:  Sure. I mean there was a clear need internally. We talked about stories because again we’re sitting on a mountain of buried stories just like most nonprofits and foundations are. the sell internally, there wasn’t an uphill slog. Right what we do to get there. so we are record breakers and we’re big into partnerships. It wasn’t a too tough job  to say how do we approach this. and it’s obvious that we are going to need partners and grantees to leverage this. so when Hattaway had responded with the key process we had a clear partner in Hattaway. And i think when you look in to the outputs and reports and all the fun  things we have been able to do together, it has been an uphill climb in getting  this off the ground in a good way. There is a lot of work to get something built off the table and get  people to use. Finding a partner in Hattaway was really  critical. and then being able to bring in people from all over the sector and in the for-profit space together, to talk about , what is that we need to do. it’s just a fantastic experience. It’s like final frontiers. It’s really about convincing the right partners to know what you want to  do and to hear all those from outside. Like RJ was saying before, identifying the trends and pain points that we really  should be focusing on.


Speaker 1: May be a bit more about specifically about, how can nonprofits really leverage Hatchforgood and what is the ideal use case in your mind. can you walk us through like through a user scenario…


Speaker 3:  I mean I think the ideal scenario, again  this is like getting back to the point we made earlier there is so much expectation, we probably have to temper our own expectations. ideally, an organization would come to us  with defined sort of idea how they can improve as a storytelling organization as we say whether it’s the collection or the creation or the sharing of stories. and use some of  these tool kits help clarify their needs and help give them a solid direction. and have them walk away from that an hour or so spent on the site with some concrete sort of direction and guidance  informed not only by the sort of questions and answers and resources within those toolkits , but also through the contributed content, the tips, the  case studies. Those are really designed to help the organizations when they are stuck on something or to provide more food for thought when they are thinking about a specific aspect of their storytelling. So in my view someone comes there they get a value out of the tool kit, but they also may be read another non-profits experience on  how they use and help them connect with the donors and walk away with a really good plan and also some food for thought creatively.


Speaker 2: And i think also from our perspective, especially in the short term in hearing from grantees which we have heard from two already which is pretty fantastic. They discovered Hatched and they used it to produce these fantastic videos and they have now submitted to us as part of the report  back or they are working with a program officer collecting better stories in the field, when before they were just looking at data. So in the short term it’s those anecdotes from our own grantees and how that change their approach to work in the field. [23:09 – 23:29 – music ]


Speaker 1: Is there a favorite story that you have on the platform. so far I know every story   should be your favorite. but we love all of our children equally.


Speaker 2: Right we do. I think One of the  more exciting pieces of content probably I am a  marketer at heart, it’s the Garth 40-60 rule. Piece of content talking about  how organizations should be spending 40% of their time on really  preparing content and 60% of the time thinking about  they should be sharing about.  so identifying the right people they should be talking to and identifying the right platform which it should be going out on. That kind of stuff.


Speaker 1: Great. RJ, if you had fallen in love with anyone of the items  floating on the site, you are welcome to share.


Speaker  3:  The one that Jeremy pointed out is great. one of those that we keep going back to is actually something that was contributed by Jay Genesky  digital director, Rockefeller about the science of storytelling. A lot of things we do is informed by social scientists, linguistics, social psychology and things like that. But this article kind of summarizes a few of the big theories for science how our brain works and how brain processes information and storage and  how that can really  create more effective more powerful stories. I think that’s really worth checking out and think about


Speaker 1: Right, as we wrap up here can you give me a quick summary about how a non-profit foundation  might  find you and how they can get in touch


Speaker 2: Okay sure. The best way to find us is to go to Hatchforgood.org. and there are easy ways around the site to shoot us any feedback or contact us. and again soliciting feedback, we are still in Beta. So we welcome everybody to get in touch with us that way.


Speaker  1: Great. RJ, How might people can get in touch with Hattaway.


Speaker 3: Thanks for asking. We are Hattaway.com and you can see a lot of our similar other work and clients and teams and stuff like that there.


Speaker  1: Awesome. thanks to both of you for jumping on. This has been very informative. I encourage everyone to go and chase down Hatchforgood. Thanks guys.


Speaker 2: Thank you


Speaker 3: Thanks George [ 25:48- 25:57 Music ]


Speaker  1: You have your homework. Go to Hatchforgood.org and they have tons of fantastically curated content.  I am proud to say that we have our first  article on Hatchforgood. and we are talking about how to turn data into action. We have some fun with that one Check out their platform. I think there is a lot to learn about your own story telling. I really admire what the Rockefeller foundation  has done here. They have identified a need in the community and really sort to create a fantastic tool. Leveraged their expertise in the field to create a great product. Hope you got something out of it this week. As always you will find resources guess where, wholewhale.com/podcast. All the links are there. You can have all the links you want there. Thanks as always for joining us. Take care.


This has been using the whole whale. For more resources on today’s show please visit wholewhale.com/podcast . you can consider following us on twitter @wholewhale and thanks for joining us.