Courtney Spence on How to Use Story to Articulate Your Company Vision

In Chapter 2 of 19 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit executive Courtney Spence answers "How Are You Becoming Better At Articulating Your Vision?"  Spence uses story to explain her purpose.  She realizes her organization was spending too much time telling partner stories and needed to focus internally and tell its own story.  Courtney Spence returns to CYF for her Year 3 interview.  As Founder and Executive Director, Spence leads non-profit Students of the World to empower college students to use film, photography, and journalism to tell stories of global issues and the organizations working to address them.  Spence graduated with a BA in History from Duke University.


Erik Michielsen: How are you becoming better at articulating your vision?

Courtney Spence: Well, I guess the last 6 months of 2011 were very internal months for us. What we recognized was we really had to work on our own story. We have been so busy telling the stories of others that we haven’t told our own. And when you have to tell your own story, you really have to dig deep, and what is your purpose?  And what is your mission? And what is your vision? What are you here really to do? What’s your big hairy audacious goal? You know, what can you be better at than anybody in the world? And what is your economic engine?

I mean it’s all the great lessons of Jim Collins, but what has been really nice is I’ve had a really great solid team to really sit down with over the course of the last few months and really figure out what is our vision? What is our mission? What is our purpose? And lots of debates over words and verbs and nouns and concepts, and it’s been a really intense process in some ways, especially for me because this is like my child, so I’d like to think we’re on our way to middle school so it’s the 12th year of Students of the World, so I’m very protective of it, but I’ve also recognized that I’ve been so entrenched in it that I have definitely needed other people to help me figure out what is it that we’re gonna really go do? What is our vision?

So for me, again, there’s been this change of similar to the TED talk experience of how do I talk about Students of the World, not in what we do but in what we believe? And there is so much more power and so much more opportunity to engage people when you talk about what you believe and what you stand for, as opposed to we do this really cool program, you should consider participating. And that switch has been a difficult one for me but super empowering and super encouraging, so.