The Power of Innovation and Storytelling

  • Austin Dannhaus
  • CEO, Free Range

Focus: Activation, Economic Opportunity, Education, Innovation, Storytelling, Sustainability


Free Range was founded on the simple premise that storytelling is a powerful tool for driving change. Since the beginning, our vision has been to further the most important causes of our time by empowering people through stories that point to a better future and call us all to a hero’s journey. For nearly 20 years, the stories we’ve brought to life have helped change the way we think about everything from the products we buy, to the food we eat, to the way we use business to drive social impact.

And while we believe in the ripple effects of the work we have done so far, one thing is true: there is still much work to do.


Over the last few years, we’ve expanded to include a focus on innovation. We’re working alongside leaders and their teams to reimagine their work and redefine their strategy for bringing visionary ideas to life. If we’ve learned anything over this time it’s that courage – the willingness to push beyond fear to do something that feels unsafe – is the defining characteristic of the most innovative people and organizations. Unfortunately, that type of courage is rare. It is a mindset in scarce supply, the envy of those who continue to choose the perceived safety of the status quo.

Our goal as a team and as a trusted advisor to our clients is to continue the hard work of cultivating a practice of unsafe thinking. It means that sometimes we’ll go against the prevailing winds that are carrying an industry. It means we’ll forgo the comfort of the approach we know for the uncharted waters of the approach that everyone says won’t work. It means we’ll choose to tell a different story than the one that is dominating the conversation. And it means we’ll forge strong bonds with unlikely allies with the goal of expanding the way we see the world.

It’s not innovation for innovation’s sake, but a sincere desire to create movements that matter.

At Free Range, we’re focusing our innovation and storytelling efforts to drive outcomes across education, sustainability, and economic opportunity. We believe these three areas will continue to define social innovation for years to come. From rethinking the future of higher education institutions, to expanding the vision for sustainable built environments, to leading the economic transformation of rural economies, we’re linking arms with leading organizations to create novel solutions and activate people to carry them through to completion.

Heading into next year, we’re going to be sharing our vision for each of these focus areas. How can we apply the ideas reshaping K12 and higher education to better equip impact-driven businesses to thrive in uncertain times? How can we create stronger relationships between sustainable business practices and environmental movements? And what does a comprehensive approach to economic opportunity look like, from local communities to global systems?

We have no doubt that these and other challenges will continue to prove difficult to solve. But we also believe – perhaps more than ever – that unsafe thinking and powerful stories are our best hope for discovering the way forward. And we look forward to tackling them with you.

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