Leading Thoughts: Recording the Voice of the Coalition

In this post, director of the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program, Steve Connors, shares how the Leading Thoughts video clip series developed as a way to demonstrate the connection between the on-the-ground work of the Coalition's members, each of whom is a Hilton Humanitarian Prize-winning organization, with the visions and insights of their respective leaders.

Leading Thoughts: Recording the Voice of the Coalition
By Steve Connors

In the summer of 2016, the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program released its pilot production, a short film documenting the work of six Hilton Humanitarian Prize Laureates involved in the relief effort following Nepal’s devastating 2015 earthquake. On Shifting Ground weaves together a chorus of voices from these Coalition member organizations to tell a ground-level story of the experiences, challenges and triumphs faced in the aftermath of the disaster.

One of the Storytelling Program’s main goals has been to amplify the voices of the staff working directly with the communities. So to put together this film, we enlisted the help of the staff to create the production crew and conducted one-on-one interviews with members of the staff from all six organizations. The process of making this film revealed that the Coalition organizations did not have much awareness about each other’s story; in many instances, the production itself helped these organizations to learn about each other and identify ways to collaborate.

From this experience, it became clear that the Storytelling Program could serve as a vehicle for these organizations to create connections on several levels. The production had necessitated frequent communications between the participating organizations across all levels of the organizations themselves, involving staff from in-country offices to executives at headquarters. The Coalition learned that not only would sharing stories between organizations inform and inspire them to partner with each other on overlapping issues, but also, this program could provide a way to demonstrate the connections that exist between the daily, on-the-ground work with the visions of the organizations’ remarkable leaders.

My background is in journalism, and its exploration of facts and truths. I carried that methodology through in the creation of the series of executive-level interviews that came to be called "Leading Thoughts," and to create a Story Wall on which to host the content.  Beginning with Jeff Meer, the Executive Director of Handicap International US, I have so far conducted 12 of these interviews.

My approach eschews the standard Q&A technique in favor of a strongly conversational approach that leads away from formal, prepared statements and towards a deeper, more meaningful dialogue.  This also allows us to understand the personality of the leader and what he or she uniquely brings to the organization. When taken as a whole, Leading Thoughts also allows us access to the collective value of the Coalition and its potential. We covered many themes in these interviews, such as the relationship between collaborative programs and fundraising, the personal transformations of these leaders through the experience of their work, the challenges they face and work to overcome, and perhaps most important of all, their respective visions for the future of global health and development.

Throughout the series, we uncover the complexity of issues that are being addressed and the creativity of the search for solutions.  Leading Thoughts is meant to contribute to an internal dialogue from which important collaborative programs can emerge, connecting the local and headquarter staff in a new way and providing an opportunity for audiences beyond the Coalition to learn directly from these top-level leaders. The basis for a collaborative program itself, storytelling is a mechanism for collaboration, with each story an example of the future of collective impact in the development community.

What has continued to impress me about these leaders during our conversations is their overall mastery of their subject, the desire to share the hard-won lessons of experience, and the passion with which they pursue excellence. As we continue to conduct the Leading Thoughts interviews, I look forward to being reminded, yet again, of the vocational energy with which these remarkable people are creating a world in which those they serve can live with dignity.

(Photo: Steve Connors and HPC Fellow Amul Thapa preparing for an interview in Nepal)

Leading Thoughts

About The Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

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