Words That Change

Making stories happen

words@wordsthatchange.nl +31 (0) 6 47484012

Welcome > Stories


What we are doing, seeing and finding.

Encouraging technical minds to be emotional

I spent a brilliant time with a group of corporate leaders in the Autumn. Having organised a pitching competition, they wanted a little storytelling help, so I came in to enjoy their company.

Now I must tell you, this was a very analytic division of quite an analytic company.  Being much more at ease in the creative business environment, I work with people who like to ping ideas from obscure places, spin them round a planet, occasionally bringing them back to Earth. This is not always practical, but it days make for a very good time. However, it can make bridging the gap between thinking styles difficult. This is a problem not individual to me, but shared by anyone working creatively in environments that require sharp rational analysers.

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Telling other people’s stories

What to expect at the Media Trust story training for non-profits on 4 December – to which you can sign up here.

It’s rare now to see non-profit organisations talking only about themselves. Instead they are becoming very good at telling the stories of other people: the ones that speak for themselves about the good work we do. In this way, the third sector is blazing a trail for other sectors to follow. It has, after all, a lot of outstanding stories to tell.

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A rare turn of intimacy in Scottish referendum ‘no’ campaign

I’ve been watching the Scottish independence referendum with interest, as you’d expect of an Englishman that lived in Edinburgh for five years. While I do hope the Scots flip the switch on the UK in 9 days and vote ‘Yes’, that is not what is interesting me particularly. As a storyteller, I want to zero in on a particular event that happened today that I thought revealed an interesting truth about storytelling: that the more you have a stake in what you are talking about, the more you are committed, the greater your credibility.

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Generating Positive News

Positive News has recently published Simon’s ideas on storytelling, and how they can be applied to social change.

In it we find:-

  • how knowing and  sharing value can help overcome apparent community boundaries
  • how visions that embody value are laying the ground for deep change
  • how storytellers draw attention by being ready to share something uncomfortably close

Check it out and let us know what you think!

Storytelling with the 60-day Challenge entrepreneurs

Simon and a bunch of new storytellers

Simon with 60-day challenge entrepreneurs at Impact Hub Amsterdam

The Impact Hub has been running its 60-Day challenge for the last 5 years. For the last three, we’ve been invited to deliver a workshop which focuses the entrepreneurs on their story.

The course contains entrepreneurs making great changes in business: to how people are managed in organisations, clothes sourced and produced, care provided to the elderly and how communities organise in cities.

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Your insight is worth more than 1,000 research hours

Presentations can be long and difficult. I’m sure you have been in situations where a presenter has a lot of information to share, is slightly embarrassed about how much and knows the audience is losing interest. Sometimes they whither and trail on in finer and finer detail, taking refuge in models and things-that-have-been-thought-through-by those-cleverer-than-I.

A storyteller holds attention because what they say is true
As both a speaker and listener in such a situation, I would like to think we can do better. We trust ourselves to borrow others’ research, but not to share our own insights because they have not been objectively proven. We feel our perspective is not legitimate because it is not been born out of years of objective research. Better to model and muddle, be safe while confusing eachother.

When someone does speak from their own perspective, dares to inject a sense of value into the discussion, it can be breathtaking. We feel we are being communicated to. Someone has slipped the cloak and started talking to us as human. It is risky because our opinions – the real, important ones – are often things we care about. Sharing them means they could get trashed or broken.

Getting real
A storyteller is someone who is prepared to stand as they are – and as they are not. Storytelling is not accumulated structure of narrative, the ability to make playful digressions, or  skilful use of metaphor. A storyteller holds attention because what they say is true. They are not ‘moving the room from A to B’*. They are speaking to its audience as people. They are honouring a moment shared between beings. A whole wealth of research, models and logic can flood in, but it all serves the real communication (deriv. Latin ‘to share’). In that field,  any storyteller will gain a listening audience. Because a storyteller does not treat the privilege of communication amongst people lightly.


* I was recently instructed to do this in a speaker’s workshop – I am still baffled.

Messages are becoming stories

It came as a nice surprise to hear news that Google’s new penguin algorithm was a further step to supporting content quality. For a business that always advises content quality over noise creation, it seemed that the strategy of both Google’s and ourselves are quite in line.

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Cultural Responsibility of Language | Conscious Connection Magazine

Elevating our quality of language has the potential to transform businesses and community through expecting greater responsibility from the listener. An article published for Conscious Connection Magazine.

One of the gifts of social media has been its ability to pull out of us an immediate spontaneity. Those who succeed on social media are alive to what they experience and pull a creativity out of themselves that is restricted by strategy or being too carefully thought through.

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How to get 60 people telling a story together

Photo (c) Rianne Hordijk

Everyone likes a story, but what does it take to make one effective?

On Sunday I was asked by social media platforms Peerby and Konnektid to ‘do some storytelling’ at their global sharing picnic. The open brief got me thinking up some mischief – how to get a large bunch of people, thinking and moving together?

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That word sustainability

I have the good fortune to work with a number of clients engaged in social and sustainable business. These progressive types have a constant desire to reimagine and reinvent the edge of what is known and what is possible. There is a consistent will to find the edge of our own ignorance and push that back just a small bit further, and occasionally flip it into the 45th dimension.

If you push the edge, you push the systems and processes that follow. Quality of thought brings quality of practice. All of us live in a better tomorrow.

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In a world of noise, quietness rings loudest


A connection is a precious thing and using words to find them a delicate art.

There is so much text in today’s society that constructing attractive, deeply resonant words, becoming less recognised – even as it becomes more effective. It is effective because taking this long to say anything engenders a great deal of trust in the reader, and this is rewarded with an improved relationship.

We need quiet writers. We need people who listen and who can provoke listening in others. A quality of attention given by the writer, provokes a similar response in the reader. Loudness is dying as a tactic and while it may get high volume, it is quick to pass by customers by. It may get traffic, but it will make less psychological imprint. The people who would like to read and understand, are more likely to take your business further.

Words That Change works with stories and words that use, and therefore to capture, high quality attention. We work with speakers, writers and teams to bring out their stories and create meaning between you. We also deliver many of those words ourselves.

As such we are specialists in team building, ideation, organisational alignment, speaker coaching and copywriting. All of these are linked by a common thread: to prize quietness over noise and bring more meaning into business.

Newsletter for Savoy Hotel Amsterdam


The Savoy Hotel in Amsterdam needs a newsletter that can give their customers a feeling that they are experiencing a different side of the city. This hyper-local approach to a city guide, using the voice of the Front Desk Manager Ronny, gives readers an insight into the city that guide books and mainstream websites are unable to provide.

The newsletter is produced monthly in association with brilliant content marketers Benworx – and this looks as though it will become a repeat co-operation service for businesses and hotels looking to leverage their online potential.

Water for life

This blog post is an entrant into the The Masdar Engage Blogging Contest. To help me win please vote for it on the contest page and tweet, like and share it as much as you can on the contest page itself before midnight 3rd January 2013. This will not only get me to a massive water conference in Abu Dhabi it will also help spread awareness on vital water issues worldwide.

Humanity’s relationship with water that is both simple and complex. 95% of our bodies consist of water and as well as for  hydration of the body we need it for its psychological, therapeutic and cultural effects. We also use it in industry in energy production, manufacturing processes and extracted from the ground, sky and sea. Our water use affects every ecosystem on Earth, and says a great deal about our attitudes to the planet and to life itself. This article is a broad sweep through three areas where we can transform water use and the change attitudes to this life-giving element.

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Everyone’s a storyteller – Workshop 23/2/2012 Amsterdam


Drive your work by what you love, and tell the world about it!

A workshop for entrepreneurs and professionals given by Words That Change
23 February, 10.30-17.30
Event page
Sign up: simon@wordsthatchange.nl
Booking deadline: 31 January 2013
Place limit: 16
Cost: 240 euros (Hub members 180 euros)

Storytelling is the practice of becoming aware of what you live and love, made relevant to your target audience.

The Everyone’s a storyteller workshop will power up the conversations you have every day with what really drives you and by what your audience finds meaningful. This is not only a basis for communications, but can organise all your business activity. You won’t just tell your story, but live it!

Amongst other things you will learn to:

  • Engage your audience in every conversation you have with them, online or offline
  • Identify the key ingredients of your business or professional story
  • Create a bullet-proof pitch
  • Spread your story by getting others to tell it
  • Discover the psychological basis of story to give it more power
  • Be confident when speaking in public

This ground-breaking workshop is like none you have done before, and is for both those new and practised in the art of entrepreneurial storytelling. It is facilitated by storyteller and entrepreneur Simon Hodges, who first presented the format at the Hub Amsterdam, and has since added to it  his insights and experience gained through travels, workshops and contact with businesses around Europe.

For more on his approach to storytelling see this video.

Remember to book before 31 January 2013 by emailing  simon@wordsthatchange.nl
Only 16 places available.

Words Connect

Words are connections between us. Connection is the reason words are created and why it is important to get them right. As a writer, I need an empathy for what you do, and what you find important in life. I need the same for your client, further stakeholders and environments they operate in. This process of empathy and discovery is what drives vibrant communications, and is what I call storytelling.

My business Words That Change works to discover your story and express it in powerful, elegant language. We want to deliver the heart of what you do and help you explore and investigate that heart. Clarity of language in a complex environment is like a shining torch when everyone else is running around in the dark. If you would like to be well-equipped, and well-lit, we would love to work with you.

Words That Move

Words That Speak

Words That Change

Let’s talk! Come to www.wordsthatchange.nl and call Simon Hodges on +31647484012.

Storytelling for Business in Helsinki

The storytelling workshop is arriving at the Hub Helsinki on 20 September to unleash a whirlwind of charasmatic storytellers on the social business community.

Everyone has a storyteller lurking inside them and when this is put to business use it can dramatically improve the presentation and communication of your business. You may know what your business does – but what makes its activities meaningful?

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A little life in storytelling

Words That Change is moving fast, as only it should given the name. I wanted to take stock briefly and organise, for myself at least, what has happened so far.  So here is a little story about storytelling for business, business storytelling and stories that tell businesses.
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Bards of Glastonbury

Criteria from the Bards of Glastonbury on what they judge in a good bard (for our purposes, storyteller):

  • Inspiration / Originality
  • Presence
  • Spontaneity / Working with the audience
  • Emotive appeal
  • Artistry / Craft / Literary merit
  • Wisdom and / or Foolishness
  • Relevance to the theme
  • Knowledge of Bardic Lore and Celtic Mythology

How can these be applied to your story?

The respective decline and emergence of two world views


1.i. The world is very big.

1.ii. I am very small.

1.iii. I am going to build a castle to trample you.

~ o ~

2.i. The world is very big.

2.ii. I am very small.

2.iii. How can I help?

Consciousnessnessness – an invitation to deepen

First published at the Hub Amsterdam’s Hubdate.

‘Conscious business’ refers to businesses thinking things through afresh. It often entails people working together better, considering their environmental impact and investigating more deeply into the purpose of the project. This investigation often means that the ‘Whys’ of conscious business move away from ‘because it will make me money’ to ‘because I love it’, ‘because it helps’ and ‘it makes me and other people happy.’

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Windesheim Honours College

Thanks Simon for an amazing storytelling workshop at Windesheim Honours College in Zwolle. A highly inspiring workshop, tailor-made for our BA students’ process of developing Entertainment Education intervention strategies for real clients.

Highly inspiring. Highly appreciated. Warmly recommended.

~Kersti Wissenbach, Lecturer, Windesheim  Honours College, Zwolle

Words by Heart

As a little experiment on Valentine’s Day, Words That Change offered bespoke poetry to anyone who needed just the right flourish at the last minute. Poems written were to impress loved ones, for people themselves or written for the whole world. Below I’ve shared a couple that are suitable for public viewing. Each was written in under 15 minutes, which may be more obvious in one than the other.

You may not need your writer to be a poet but it’s good to know they have that dexterity.

Thanks for everyone who requested a poem, and those below who were willing to have theirs shared.

The World Gift

From: Joyce Bergsma, Nutritional Therapist at Eat Love Food
To: The World
Brief: “I want a poem that anyone can share with anyone to show they love them”

For you, My love

For you
My love
I did not know the meaning of
The many ways you come to me
But you remind
In silent sideways glances
Long or short romances
Cups of tea
I’m always yours
You are me


The Fruit

From: Irati Artola, Host at Hub Rotterdam
To: Nynke Feenstra, “The other main leg”
Brief: “she’s so smart, generous and funny, though she doesn’ t know it”

A plum

A plum
Is purple
And lush when ripe

It is just the type

Of fruit

For Nynke

No kind of sinker
She’s a swimmer

Joyful in a clandestine way
Before you know it
She’s made your day.

Nynke, if Rotterdam wasn’t
half as crazy
and stunning place
It would be worth being here
For you and your luscious taste

Why do we play? Because we have to.


Serious gaming was the theme of last Thursday’s Borrel of the Pyramid – a regular event at the Hub and an amusing play on the name for businesses that cater to “the bottom 4 billion”.

In a fun and educational evening, SuJol presented the challenges of providing clean water in Bangladesh, and asking an audience of around 60 to participate in its problem solving. Currently the ground water contains toxic levels of arsenic that increase rates of cancer. For this Sujol is working with several stakeholders to provide filtered water at an affordable price, an idea that will also create entrepreneurs on the ground.

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Impact Stories

A little of the Words That Change story appears in this video, made by the Hub Amsterdam, of members who have made a real business impact.

EMBED – http://vimeo.com/34458570

The power of storytelling to do business

First published for the Hub Amsterdam’s Hubdate
Storytelling has the power to tell us about who we are, show us what we value and communicate complexity in simple and elegant ways. The opportunity for businesses to use storytelling to communicate their own services better, and to be more in tune with their clients is huge.
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Walk Out Walk On

Deborah Frieze has done a lot of work on community action and distilled the elements of what makes communities tick and, when combined, how such actions can create change worldwide.

Words That Change works with businesses but takes its lessons from a wide a source as possible. How communities function and get the most out of people is of direct use in knowing how organisations can better function. And we make this knowledge available in our workshops.

Here’s a copy of the full article, written for the Hub Amsterdam’s newsletter:

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New economics: Fund managers linking pay to social good

A blog post written for PYMWYMIC

By Simon Hodges

In the midst of global economic uncertainty and consumer backlash against financial sector bonuses, a small East African SME Fund is paving the way for a new construct for linking performance to reward: measure return not only by business growth & profit, but also by verifiable social good.

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mailing list


“Simon has a very rare listening skill.  On the one hand, he can listen empathetically and unconditionally.  On the other hand, he refrains from validating your own explanations and excuses.  Without saying a word, and by simply listening in different ways, he can help guide you through your own thicket of doubts, fears, aspirations, justifications, hopes, and […]


I spent a brilliant time with a group of corporate leaders in the Autumn. Having organised a pitching competition, they wanted a little storytelling help, so I came in to enjoy their company. Now I must tell you, this was a very analytic division of quite an analytic company.  Being much more at ease in the creative […]

What to expect at the Media Trust story training for non-profits on 4 December – to which you can sign up here. It’s rare now to see non-profit organisations talking only about themselves. Instead they are becoming very good at telling the stories of other people: the ones that speak for themselves about the good […]