‘Communications’ Archive

How curiosity and camaraderie can change our world

When I told a colleague I was heading to frank, the annual gathering of social change communicators and movement builders, she replied, “Please change our world for us.” That may sound like a very tall order — especially at this time in America’s ever-unfolding story — but it’s exactly what all of us at frank hope to do, each in our own way, every day.

I first discovered frank and the Public Interest Communications program at the University of Florida when I received a mysterious email that nudged me to request an invite to the 2015 gathering if I thought I belonged. I did, and I was delighted they agreed. It only took me about an hour at frank 2015 to realize I’d found my tribe. I knew there were other people who do the work I do, but I didn’t know there was a name for this emerging field, let alone an academic curriculum. I certainly didn’t know there was a time and place where we could all come together to inspire and learn from each other.

The frank 2017 gathering feels more necessary than ever. Although frank isn’t a partisan entity, the majority of the work attendees do is liberal-leaning: pushing for equality, fairness and justice for all, among other things. And the precarious position of the United States and the world right now makes the work we do feel particularly urgent; it makes the solidarity of like-minded souls feel like essential solace in troubled times.

I’m honored to be part of the frank 2017 steering committee, which includes some of the very best and brightest minds in social change communications. Heading into the 2016 election, we were already talking about how to make sure the view from both sides is explored in this year’s talks and programming, which all center around the theme of curiosity. But in our planning meeting just days after the election, we all recognized that we face a particularly daunting task in the “post-truth” era. How do we educate people — and mobilize them to act and evolve — when it seems a large segment of the American population no longer cares about the truth? During that meeting, I personally felt a sense of profound gratitude that I work in a field where my efforts can make a tangible difference.

A few weeks ago, frank asked us to submit our burning questions of the moment — what we’re curious about right now. One of my questions asked how we can motivate people to recognize and believe in facts in the post-truth era. Another pondered how we continue our work for social change in the midst of animosity, anger and aggression from both sides, without losing our equilibrium in the process. It’s not just about making the world a better place, but also taking good care of each other while we do it.

These are just some of the many questions I know my time at frank will answer. I’m looking forward to this year’s gathering not only for mission-critical information, but also for the camaraderie of others doing the same work I do. I’ll be reunited with friends and colleagues and will meet new ones, knowing we begin united by a mutual concern for the future of our country and our world.

I’m still pinching myself that the frank community has shoulder-tapped me to be more than an attendee. Two years running, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a speaker coach, helping world-class thinkers prepare remarks you won’t see anywhere but frank. If you’re not going to be at frank, you can catch the livestream or re-casts. Every speaker I’m working with has opened my mind and my heart to new ideas, and I can’t wait to watch them shine and to absorb what their fellow speakers have to say.

This year, I also have the honor of hosting a “scrum” — the frank version of a breakout session. I’ll be leading a group brainstorm about how to use storytelling strategically to educate and engage the public around healthcare topics, with protecting the Affordable Care Act as one pressing issue. It’s work I’ve been doing for years, and I’m excited to share it with my fellow franksters.

The frank motto is “Don’t settle for small change” — a lofty aspiration, particularly right now, when many American leaders would rather see us regress instead of moving forward. But I have faith. I have faith in frank and my fellow franksters. I have faith in the goodness of people, particularly as I see how they’re taking action to protect what already makes America great. I have faith that change is possible, even at a time when we may feel immutably stuck.

I’ll be sharing my insights and experiences at frank on Twitter and Facebook, and will surely have more to say here after the gathering. For now, suffice to say that I can’t wait to reunite with my tribe. I am infinitely curious to discover all the ways we can help each other do more good. And yes, change our world.

[Photo credits: Top image by LAF Lines Photography; photos from frank 2015 and frank 2016 by Amy Lynn Smith.]

Activism in action

After working on a couple of campaigns where I was deep in the trenches — knocking on doors, making phone calls and spending time in the field — much of my activism lately has been focused on educating and engaging people through the words I write. So it’s been a pleasure to jump back into hands-on activism, volunteering with Lady Parts Justice Michigan to help put together V to Shining V Detroit 2015 on September 26. Being part of a community of activists inspires and energizes me, taking the work I do in new and dynamic directions.

AmyHandPicThis marks the second year that Lady Parts Justice has encouraged activists across the country to get involved in this national celebration of women, an event geared toward making sure the public is aware of the most vital issues facing women in their state before the next election in November.

Lady Parts Justice is, first and foremost, about pushing back against the regressive laws that are eroding reproductive access in the U.S. But it’s about so much more.

It’s about making sure women can get every healthcare service they need. It’s about elevating the voices of women — all women — in the ongoing pursuit of full equality. It’s about staying united in the vital mission of protecting women’s rights. It’s about having some fun while we make some noise and make some change for the good of women everywhere.

KelseyHandPic Equally important, it’s about community. It’s about building communities of women and their allies, communities that not only put together one heck of a good event once a year, but who continue collaborating as activists all year long — raising awareness of the laws in our state that are deeply harmful to women.

It’s hard to believe that in 2015, women still don’t have equal pay or unquestioned bodily autonomy. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Sexism and discrimination and gender inequality are everywhere, no matter whether you’re gay or straight, cis or trans, white or black. It’s everywhere and it can be disheartening.

NataleeHandPicBut what Lady Parts Justice and our united efforts remind us of is the fact that we still have a voice. We, as women and men and citizens, still have the power to drive change. There’s no one “right” way to do activism. For some, it’s writing a letter to the editor or sending a donation. For others, it’s about tweeting and posting on social media. For many, it’s about volunteering their time and energy, whether it’s performing at an event or baking cookies to raise some extra funds.

As a writer, one of the ways I think I can best drive change is by creating content that informs people and motivates them to take action. Along with a team of volunteers, I did that as the lead media volunteer for our event this year. But that’s not all. I joined my fellow volunteers at all-team meetings to brainstorm and plan for the event over the last few months.

LaceyHandPicIn Michigan, more than 25 volunteers raised their hands to help in some way to make V to Shining V Detroit 2015 possible. Every time I gathered with my sisters and brothers, I felt inspired and heartened by their energy and determination to make a difference.

I’m so very proud to be part of the Lady Parts Justice Michigan community — an incredible group of women and men who are willing to share their time and talent to stand up for the most important issues facing women in our state and across the country. Even after V to Shining V 2015 is over, this community will continue to support each other and make good things happen.

I can’t wait to see what we do next.

How personal stories win hearts and minds

FreedomToMarryI recently had the pleasure of interviewing Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry, about the work he and many others have been doing to win the right for same-sex couples to marry nationwide.

It has not been a short or easy journey, but the efforts are most decidedly paying off. Support for marriage equality is at an all-time high in the United States, and there is much hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will make same-sex marriage the law of the land this summer.

What has driven a dramatic increase in support? According to Solomon, what has won hearts and minds has been “the real work of organizing couples to share their stories, and parents and children to share their stories with friends, neighbors and lawmakers.”

The stories of why their marriage — or their parents’ marriages or children’s marriages — were so important. Once people find out they know people who are gay couples, they know them and go to school with them and work with them, that’s when people really start to come around. They see it’s in sync with their value system of the Golden Rule and treating people with respect. It’s not people who want to uproot the institution of marriage. It’s committed people who want to get married to each other. At the heart of it, that’s been how it’s happened.

Read my full interview with Solomon over at Eclectablog.

[Image courtesy of Freedom to Marry.]

View Newer Posts » » « « View Older Posts