This week, I had the pleasure of joining our CEO Bruce Weindruch in Detroit at the ComNet16: Driving Change conference. The History Factory led a pre-conference workshop for the Communications Network’s annual event. Senior communication leaders from nonprofits and foundations around the country gathered to learn how to create change through the smart and deliberate use of strategic communications. In our workshop, Start with the Future and Work Back: A Time-Tested Approach for Capitalizing on your Organization’s History, we discussed how organizations can use heritage management to extract the maximum value from their history.
In order to drive change, you must determine what is important for your organization today that will enable it to get to tomorrow. Once you know where you want to go, the value of harnessing your history becomes immeasurable. That is the whole premise of Start with the Future and Work Back.™ Our discussion focused on the importance of working back into each organization’s inventory of experience, picking out proof points of excellence and innovation and then pulling forward those most relevant threads.
However, your history can’t just be proof points on a timeline. We discussed how to take an organization’s heritage to the next level, by weaving historical threads together into compelling stories and identifying iconic images to illustrate them. Once you have an authentic and captivating story bank compiled, you can transform those stories into a number of different formats depending on the communication channel you are using and the audience you are trying to reach. If you don’t capitalize on your history and use those stories to your advantage, someone else will.
We were able to practice a part of the heritage management process as a group using the history of a pioneering foundation. In small groups, workshop participants looked at the mission of the foundation and the timeline on its website. We then tasked each group with picking out the 10 most important historical proof points to highlight from that timeline. It was interesting to compare and contrast which 10 points each group chose, and to discuss the reasoning behind their answers. And, it was fascinating to listen to each group figure out different ways of tying history together with a mission.
The nonprofits and foundations represented by the leaders at our workshop will no doubt continue to drive change around the world by capturing and harnessing their unique heritage. Special thanks to Sean Gibbons, executive director of The Communications Network, for inviting us to speak, and The Communications Network for putting together such a wonderful event.