How to Identify and Write Success Stories to Show Your Developmental Results

Developmental results are measurable changes in knowledge, skills, motivation, behavior, decision making, practices, policies, social action, social, economic and environmental conditions that derive from a cause-and-effect relationship. There are three types of such changes (intended or unintended, positive or negative and direct & indirect) that can be set in motion by a development intervention – outputs, outcomes and impacts.

To show the developmental results we are using different  knowledge tools and techniques in international development and humanitarian sector. Case Studies, Success Stories, Lesson Learnt and Best Practices are prominent amoung them. 

In today's blog i would love to write about Success Stories. So that you will better be able to show your developmental results in your targeted areas in the wider interest of your own organization, targeted communities, partners and donor agencies.  

What is a Success Story? 

A success story shows an organization or individual making a difference in people’s lives. It describes a positive change and shows how that change benefits the people of a given area of intervention. A good success story uses evidence to show the value of our interventions in terms measurable changes in knowledge, skills, motivation, behavior, decision making, practices, policies, social action, social, economic and environmental conditions that derive from a cause-and-effect relationship.

You can write a success story about an entire project, program or part of a program (i.e. activity) that is particularly noteworthy and significant in terms of results and its impacts. It may be about an innovation, emergency response or outstanding effort. Whatever you choose to write about, your story should show your intervention making a difference in targeted areas.

Why write success stories? 

To show accountability for public funds
To verify that we are using resources to make a positive difference in people’s lives
To share successes so individuals in and out of organization can learn from our results
To spread the word about organization as a valuable resource
To show that numbers alone don’t tell the whole story of organization
To reflect and learn from our work
To practice good scholarship
To negate and disseminate knowledge

How is success stories used? 

• To assess team progress in relation to plans (performance reviews ).
• To share information among partners and generate interest among potential partners
• To help internal staff and partners better understand organization’s work and value
• For reporting purposes
• To post on program-area web sites
• As a source of news stories for local media
• To document activities and accomplishments of staff, volunteers and targeted beneficiaries
• As input for nominating individuals for awards and presentations

We can also use Success Stories in a variety of ways, including:

• As part of your tenure review documentation
• In organization’s annual reports and monthly reports to stakeholders
• In communications with local officials / partners
• To share the value of organization with partners and generate interest among potential partners
• To celebrate achievements with colleagues and stakeholders
• To keep up with colleagues’ accomplishments around a wider audiences

• In internal communications

What makes a good success story? 

A good success story: 
• Describes results that are valued by clients 
• Contains compelling, significant facts 
• Catches your attention 
• Tells who benefits 
• Answers: “So what?” 
• Spells out your organization’s role in achieving results 
• Is easy to read and understand 
• Identifies key partners and funders.  

When do you submit success stories? 

• When you have something significant to report and evaluation data to back it up
• When you are proud of a program or initiative
• On an ongoing basis – don’t wait until the end of the year

Key Points for writing Success Stories

It’s one thing to have a good story to tell. It’s another to write it so that people will want to read it. Use the following tips and many resources on the Internet for help in writing your success stories.

a) Clearly describes an important issue or concern - why we should care
 b) Shows that issue or need is appropriate for your organizations response
 c) Includes data demonstrating need

RESPONSE (inputs and Activities) 
a) Spells out your organization’s role/contribution
b) Identifies participants: numbers and demographics of individuals, businesses, and/or communities that were reached
c) Identifies partnerships, if applicable
d) Identifies funding sources, if applicable

RESULTS (outputs, outcomes-impact)
a) Tells who benefited and how
b) Uses numeric and/or narrative data to describe important outcomes
c) Answers “So what?” Makes value clear to reader
 d) Links story to research, if appropriate
 e) States future plans based on results

             For multi-year effort
a) Shows important progress for the reporting period
b) Links work across years

EVIDENCE (evaluation) 
a) Describes data collection method
b) Includes sample (number and how selected)
c) Provides response rate
d) Tells when data were collected

a) Active voice
b) Reads like a story
c) Compelling and significant facts
d) No jargon or abbreviations
e) Concise, complete sentences (f) Names/titles, not “this agent”

Hope these tips were helpful in taking your M&E career to the next level. Please feel free to share any other tips or useful information in the Comments section below.

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