A while back, I had the good fortune to visit the vast cave complex at Lascaux in southwestern France. But these are no ordinary caves. They are famed throughout the world for their beautiful display of paleolithic cave paintings, created by our ancestors over 17,000 years ago. These paintings tell the stories of what life was life. How these early humans lived. How they survived. And how they died.
Telling stories is an innate part of what it means to be human. And this applies as much to the organisations we work for as it does to us as individuals.
Which is why I’m delighted to have been working over the past few months with the British Universities Finance Directors Group (BUFDG) to explore how our universities tell their stories and how they could tell them even better.
Because with the ongoing austerity agenda, more discerning (and fee-paying) students and the entry into the sector of commercial providers, getting their message across is more important for universities now than it ever has been before.
We based our work on the Integrated Reporting, <IR>, framework that has been developed by the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), a global coalition of regulators, investors, companies, standard setters, the accounting profession and NGOs.
<IR> provides, in its own words, a framework for an organisation ‘to prepare and publish a concise communication about how its strategy, governance, performance and prospects, in the context of its external environment, lead to the creation of value over the short, medium and long-term’. In short, it helps organisations to tell more engaging and more effective stories.
Our report sets out what universities are doing well in terms of reporting, where they could improve further and how they could do so. It also sets out a framework that universities – and other organisations – can use to assess their own reporting, as well as valuable hints and tips for telling better stories and engaging more effectively with their audiences.
The report is available online via the BUFDG website.