Voices of Victoria – Leading Through Lockdown

Partner: Social Enterprise Network of Victoria (SENVIC)

What makes this special 

In the midst of 2020, and during one of the longest lockdowns in the world, the Social Enterprise Network of Victoria (SENVIC) initiated a program to bring the sector together from across the state under a shared vision and purpose to tell their stories. 

A bird’s eye view

  • WHAT: A bespoke six-week Stories for Impact course for the social enterprise sector in Victoria to learn the skills to craft their own stories and capture their impact, using everyday smartphone technology.
  • WHY: To bring the community together; overcome isolation; build skills; create ‘story artefacts’ to promote their work.
  • WHEN: July through September, 2020, during lockdown.
  • WHO: 14 diverse social enterprises from across Victoria.
  • THE RESULTS: 13 films, and a YouTube watch party and closing discussion; a bank of video content for the sector; opportunities for participants to be featured on Enterprising Stories; some very proud people.

“This course was a great way to learn how to share our stories alongside other social enterprises. It can be really isolating working on our own, and that connection with others was really motivating and inspiring!” – Molly, SYN Media 


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

Social Enterprise Network Victoria or ‘SENVIC’ is a network that aims to connect, support and develop a thriving social enterprise community in the state of Victoria. With counterparts popping up across various states and territories throughout the country, including QSEC and SECNA, SENVIC is the and is dedicated to giving practitioners an independent and collective voice. 

Established in 2018, SENVIC’s mandate is also to facilitate access to learning and development opportunities for its members – which is exactly what the sector was crying out for during what was one of the most well-publicised and challenging lockdowns seen anywhere in the world. 

The challenge

Led by CEO, Nick Verginis, and supported by the Victorian Government, SENVIC needed to:

  • Find a way to make the diversity and innovation of social enterprise sector visible during a time when brick and mortar stores were closed and help activate the enterprises trying to quickly ‘pivot’ online;
  • Nurture and deepen the connection across the social enterprise community to overcome the isolation of lockdown, which cannot be underestimated;
  • Increase the collective video storytelling skills of the sector through a shared learning experience no matter their level of video and editing skills; and
  • Develop a bank of ‘story artefacts’ or films that would help to showcase their work and create a rallying cry for local communities to support these enterprises doing such important work. 
  • Enter: Digital Storytellers’ Stories for Impact team – because what better way to do all of that, and more, than learning the art of impact storytelling?! It truly is the best way we know for building community and achieving visibility. 


Want a sneak peek of one of our favourites, Dumu Cafe?

The opportunity

Any organisation, but especially social enterprises, which have heart and community at the centre of their mission, needs to be able to tell well-crafted stories. These stories have the power to spark imaginations and influence the actions of the audiences they reach, igniting the power and agency of individual consumers as well as unleashing the procurement power of governments and corporations alike. 

Besides driving a healthy economic engine, networks like SENVIC also deliver on social and community impacts. And so, it’s vitally important to utilise all of the tools at our disposal to tell that story to as many people as possible and increase the chances of transformative change. 

The solution

Our experienced and talented Stories for Impact team, led by Natasha and Daniela, created and facilitated a six-week online learning program for SENVIC that included practical and tactical weekly workshops, as well as virtual consultations with each team or organisation that was part of the program. They also set about documenting the process and producing a vision story for SENVIC to be used for promotional and community-building purposes once the program was complete. 

“I loved it. I loved what we produced. I think it should be an essential course for every start up.” – Andrea, Gippsland Social Enterprise Collective

The process

  • APPLICATIONS: To begin, SENVIC put the call out to their community of members, seeking applications for the course and making sure that each organisation had the capacity to commit to the program in its entirety and to assess the existing level of storytelling capabilities amongst the team. 14 social enterprises were chosen as a result of the competitive process, and jumped right into the first session with Dani.
  • THE STORY CANVAS: Not only was each participant creating a video for their own enterprise, but we also wanted to create a short film telling the vision story of the sector itself. How do we do that? The Story Canvas is a methodology that we have developed in-house, based on the popular Business Model Canvas. It provides a lens for telling stories that resonate with audiences and build into successful campaigns. (It’s free → check out The Story Canvas!) 
  • 6-WEEK STORYTELLING PROGRAM: Over the course of six weeks, participants spent time learning how to find, edit, make and share their story through a series of webinars, DIY video tutorials and through our SFI Online Course, completing challenges along the way and honing their key messages.
  • WATCH PARTY: the program was wrapped by a heart-warming YouTube Watch Party followed by a Zoom networking and debrief session.
  • TAKING CENTRE STAGE: Three participants went on to present their final film at Enterprising Stories – a weekly live broadcast to share the stories of the national, and soon-to-be global, social enterprise sector in the lead up to SEWF 2020.

“I loved the fact that the course was so interactive and practical. What has really blown me away is the fact that you can tell your organisation’s story and promote your organisation with the help from Digital Storytellers so cost effectively – by using your own mobile.” – Sue Boyce, Ability Works

What emerged – the key outcomes

The transformation and connection that emerged as a result of this six-week program was beyond what we could have ever imagined. The chance to bring together a geographically isolated and socially distanced community of social enterprises from across the state to articulate strong stories of hope made this one of the most pride-filling projects we’ve had the chance to be part of at Digital Storytellers.  And we’re thrilled with the way that participants went about using their new ‘story artefacts’ through newsletters and social media. 

In addition to a growing sense of connection and community other notable outcomes were:

  • Up-skilling and increased confidence that helps to future proof these businesses, no matter what the future holds
  • Content galore that can be used for years to come!

“Everything was very digestible and the pace felt appropriate. It was nice to have a project with my colleagues too. I really enjoyed the opportunity to get creative and learn about film editing, as well as meeting other people working in similar industries.” – Katie, Ability Works 

Story artefacts – what was ‘created’

‘Story artefacts’ is what we call 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 hopeful storytelling because they make a story tangible and give people, both internally and externally, the ability to interact with and share those stories. What ‘artefacts’ were created as a result of the SENVIC program:

  • 13 x 2-3 minute films for social enterprises participants
  • 1 x Digital Storytellers-produced and edited vision story for SENVIC- Leading Through Lockdown
  • 1 x show reel for the YouTube Watch Party 
  • 1 x Zoom networking/debrief session to capture key learnings
  • 3 x additional interview pieces with creators that featured as part of a weekly Enterprising Stories broadcast

Three things we learned

  • 1. Good leaders step up to the plate – when Melbourne’s Stage 4 lockdown was announced there was a decision to be made around whether the program continued. Credit to SENVIC’s leadership, as well as the leadership of the program participants – who understood that the work of gathering and telling hopeful stories was *exactly* what was needed to give purpose and connection to these trying times.
  • Virtual storytelling programs work (and provide great outcomes) – through the power of Zoom, we were able to bring social enterprises from across Victoria together and create a whole host of ‘story artefacts’ including 13 films.
  • Digital content and engagement is important for social enterprises – the rise of digital technology puts the incredible power of storytelling literally in your hands. This program showed participants that they can use smartphones and everyday technology to share their stories with the world, rally their communities, and raise funds or sales. Even if it’s beyond your capacity to invest in a bespoke program right now, our Stories for Impact Course is also available as a DIY online program to complete independently, in your own time, and there are scholarships on offer.

Could this work for your organisation or network?

According to our friends at Social Change Central, there are more than 20,000 social enterprises now operating, and that’s just in Australia. That means that right in front of us, there is a big, audacious story that needs to be told because of its potential to transform the world we live in: the story of the Aussie social enterprise movement. 

If you are part of an alliance or network of social enterprises, or perhaps are a social enterprise yourself and looking to upskill in the art of video storytelling – we’d love to hear from you! Get in touch to see what’s possible

NEXT: Read about why we need to be telling the story of the social enterprise movement




marketing, Social Enterprise, social enterprise networks, storytelling for impact, workshops