A ‘Story-Driven’ Process: Strategic Communication & Visioning

Partner: SAP Social Sabbatical

What makes this project special 

Having created meaningful and tangible impact across the world for the last 10 years, SAP wanted to shape and share their Social Sabbatical story as they reach this momentous milestone. In a perfect synergy of process and purpose, together we explored SAP’s current Social Sabbatical vision, narrative, impact and reach, and created a container to look ahead into the future of the program. 

What emerged was not only a sharp distillation and clarification of the key narratives and the sustainable, ongoing impact of SAP’s Social Sabbatical, but a renewed excitement and enthusiasm for the program amongst the SAP team, Social Sabbatical Alumni and Partners, as they embark on a strategy to effectively communicate those stories with the world. 

A bird’s eye view

  • WHAT: A ‘story-driven’ process for strategic communication & visioning
  • WHY: Find a memorable way to engage, shape and share a narrative and embed a culture of storytelling in the program for even greater impact
  • WHEN: 2021
  • WHO: SAP Social Sabbatical Alumni, Partners and SAP team members

The background – for those who want to dive a little deeper

SAP’s Social Sabbatical is an industry-leading volunteering initiative that connects the business skills and expertise from SAP employees with social enterprises and non-profits globally. The program achieves triple impact: solving concrete strategic challenges for client organisations; developing leadership skills of participants; and advancing SAP as an employer of choice for purpose-driven people. 

Starting with their flagship program in 2012, the Corporate Social Responsibility team at SAP partnered with PYXERA Global to expand the Social Sabbatical to a portfolio of programs all across the globe. To date, 1200+ employees have partnered with 414 nonprofits and social enterprises in 49 countries to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. It’s our job as storytellers to share that impact and message with the world in the most strategic and succinct way possible.

The challenge

Through this project, SAP wanted to:

  • Refine its narrative for the Social Sabbatical
  • Distil the impact they had created over 10 years of the program
  • Develop a strategic communications plan and vision for the future of the program
  • Reinvigorate stakeholders about the potential and possibilities of their work around the globe
  • Increase sustainability, awareness and improve outcomes for the program by putting stories at the centre

The solution

Over three 2-hour workshops across multiple time zones, our experienced facilitation team designed and led a participatory and inclusive story-led process to promote maximum engagement between stakeholders at both an emotional and lived experience level. This process allowed for deep understanding and insights to emerge, as well as creating a container to distil stakeholders’ visions for the future of the program. 

Also included was graphic facilitation of the process with our talented Story Scribe, Devon, to present a visual depiction of key themes as they unfolded

The process

  • Story Listening: stakeholders gathered and connected around a ‘virtual campfire’, sharing stories and insights from their experiences with the program. Using our unique story-led facilitation process, participants journeyed through the past, present and future of the SAP Social Sabbatical initiative, exploring rich storytelling themes from transformation and culture change to empathy and diversity.
  • Story Synthesis: with the expert support of our graphic-facilitator Devon Bunce, our team harvested and drew out key themes, messages and discussion topics, producing an exciting visual tool to promote further conversation and ideation beyond the confines of the workshop. A short video was also produced, highlighting key themes from the Story Listening experiences, to serve as a record of the journey stakeholders have been on together. 
  • Strategic Planning: based on the insights generated through the workshops, together we were able to craft the building blocks of an Impact Story Strategy using our Story Canvas and Campaign Roadmap. These strategic storytelling frameworks are designed to support storytellers to share and promote their stories, in a planned and impactful way. 

READ: How to create a storytelling culture and why it matters 


What emerged – the key outcomes

  • A cohesive narrative and Strategic Communication Plan for SAP ahead of the Social Sabbatical’s 10 year milestone, brought to life by insights and anecdotes from key stakeholders and partners  
  • Over 20 stakeholders engaged, collaboratively sharing innovative ideas, themes and discussions for further implementation 
  • A renewed sense of purpose, engagement and excitement about the program and what the future holds

Story artefacts – what was ‘created’

‘Story artefacts’ is what you have in your hands as a result of a storytelling process (e.g. videos, blog posts, animations, illustrations). They are critical to unlocking the power of storytelling because they make stories tangible and give people, both internally and externally, the ability to interact with and share those stories. Through our story-driven strategic planning process, we helped create:

  • A Story Canvas featuring target audiences, key messages and calls to action 
  • A strategic communication plans developed for the Social Sabbatical Program 10 year milestone, with insights from key stakeholders and partners  
  • A detailed, accessible and highly shareable Story Illustration;
  • A short video showcasing key themes and outcomes from the workshop;
  • Edited and transcribed recordings of each workshop to capture all insights shared by participants.

Three things we learned

  • Storytelling is strategy in action: what makes storytelling so powerful is that it goes to the core of what needs crystallising and what needs shifting – the narrative. This collectively held idea about the way things ‘are’, the way things need to be (vision), and how you’re going to get there (mission) can all be brought together and shared using story.
  • Storytelling meshes the quantitative and the qualitative: there are deep insights to be gained from linking qualitative market research and anecdotal evidence with more tangible, raw quantitative data. These insights become a rich foundation upon which strategic planning can be based, to guide future outcomes and impact. 
  • Story-driven processes help us celebrate and mark occasions: there is deep richness in the ritual of storytelling itself, in the process of listening, reflecting and distilling a narrative, and that process helps us mark moments in time – both good and the not so good.

Could this work for your organisation or sector?

The more organisations sharing stories about the good work they do in the world, the closer we inch towards business as a force for good. If you have a program or CSR initiative to share with the world, get in touch to see what’s possible

NEXT: Shining a Light on Paediatric Sepsis




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