The experience of the Community Development Fund, a small grants program to support local activism and community development initiatives in Belarus managed by Pact showed two trends: 1) despite over 100 projects supported the number of community development ideas have decreased, 2) ideas that did arrive had little potential for bringing about small positive changes, but was repeating the same activities donor fund. In addition, Pact`s recent customer survey, showed lack of awareness about CMDF (ie available investment). In other words, it is not about the money, it is about lack of incoming (matching) ideas.
To address both issues simultaneously Pact decided to turn to storytelling. Instead of marketing the Fund’s “faceless” services, we opted for reaching out with “real stories” of people who brought about positive change to their communities. Just over a month ago we started posting community development stories on the Fund’s website, while also disseminating them widely through our local partners. Our goal is twofold: 1) the stories are designed how to facilitate positive change in communities; 2) showing concrete ideas about real initiatives and small projects that they can simply replicate. Thus, pact hopes that others will “copy and paste” or adapt to those already creating local solutions. A small change has already take place in just a month - after we posted first stories the number of Fund’s website visitors doubled.
Readership growth is yet to materialize into inflow of quality community development ideas. By further efforts to market the stories through our partners’ websites inside Belarus, by improving their design and by regularly feeding real-life cases to our constituency we hope to inspire and guide positive change in Belarusian communities.