• How Communications Helped Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

    Photo Credit: Matt Trommer, mtrommer@yahoo.com

    Photo Credit: Matt Trommer, mtrommer@yahoo.com

    It’s easy to forget that for a nine-month window between the 9/11 attacks and the summer of 2002, public anxiety about the Middle East didn’t have anything to do with Iraq. In August of 2002, the Bush administration deftly re-framed the national conversation by emphasizing the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and his possible possession or acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, and the need to invade Iraq to mitigate that threat. Before that time, however, public anxiety coalesced around fears of an unfamiliar enemy, al-Qaeda, and the possibility that shadowy terrorists might somehow slip a nuclear weapon into a major American city. Often left unstated, these fears were deep.

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  • Artists working on a mural

    “Art ignites change.” A conversation with Jane Golden of The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program


    • A social change organization has to communicate clearly, cogently, directly, passionately about the work they are doing so that people will see it, experience it, support it.
    • When it comes to society’s more intractable problems, you cannot look past the role of innovation and creativity to ultimately make a difference when traditional interventions have failed.
    • Communication is how a social change organization tells its story, how it builds an audience, it is the lifeline of an organization

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  • Webinar: Lessons from the Front Lines of the LGBT Movement Oct. 29th at 2pm EST


    Next Wednesday, October 29th at 2pm EST, Doug Hattaway and Alex Cole of Hattaway Communications will join The Communications Network for a WEBINAR on the impact of strategic communications on one of our country’s most successful social change struggles – the fight for marriage equality for LGBT Americans – and how to apply the lessons learned to other social change movements.

    What: Webinar: Lessons from the Front Lines of the LGBT Movement
    When: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 2pm EST
    Register: https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/s/registrations/new?cid=82i8jw2cna9f
    Note: This exclusive online event is open to Communications Network members only


    From The Atlantic: “On May 9, 2012, President Obama sat for an interview in the White House with the ABC News anchor Robin Roberts. Both of them knew what she’d been summoned there to discuss, and Roberts didn’t waste any time. “So, Mr. President,” she said, “are you still opposed to same-sex marriage?”

    Obama was ready for the question. A few days before, Vice President Biden had said on Meet the Press that he was “comfortable” with men marrying men and women marrying women. The surprise statement went against the president’s own ambiguous stance, which was that he was against gay marriage but in the process of “evolving.” At the same time, evidence of the political risk inherent in the issue was abundant. The day before, May 8, voters in North Carolina — a key swing state Obama narrowly won in 2008 — had overwhelmingly voted to ban gay unions, making it the 31st state to take such a step.

    Obama sat back in his leather chair, his legs crossed, his hands in his lap, composed and a bit detached. “Well, you know, I have to tell you, as I’ve said, I’ve been going through an evolution on this issue,” he began, in his usual roundabout way. “I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally.” He pointed to his administration’s repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and its refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. He’d hesitated to embrace gay marriage, he said, out of respect for tradition and a belief that civil unions offered enough protection to same-sex partnerships.

    But now the president had changed his mind. “I’ve just concluded that, for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” he said.

    The reasons for Obama’s about-face, as he explained them, seemed perfectly normal. His thoughts, he said, had gone to his own staffers “who are in incredibly committed, monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together.” He’d thought about the troops, fighting on his behalf, yet still facing the constraint of not being “able to commit themselves in a marriage.” He talked about the values he wanted to pass on to his own children and the emphasis his own faith placed on the Golden Rule.

    As natural as Obama’s statement may have sounded, his words were as carefully chosen as the interview. The testimonial to the gay men and women in his life; the discussion of values and the Golden Rule; the remarkable fact that America’s first black president, discussing an issue many see as a modern civil-rights struggle (with a black interviewer, no less), made no reference to civil rights — these were all talking points straight out of the new playbook of the gay-rights movement.”

  • Relationships Matter: Put Down the iPad and Pick Up the Phone


    tele _2g-512 KEY TAKEAWAYS

    • Relationships are at the heart of communications. They’re essential.
    • The quality of digital communication has been proven to be lower than that of in-person communication.
    • Building relationships through personal interaction is more likely to help you convey your message and achieve a desired outcome.

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  • The Art of Activism: A #ComNet14 Preview



    Have you ever tried explaining your work to somebody, but when you do, their eyes glaze over and they suddenly spot someone they need to say hi to?

    Those of us involved in social change, especially those who have been in the field for many years, can get bogged down in the day-to-day details of work, like the precise wording of a policy document, or the insider politics around a hot-button issue. We focus on figuring out what’s realistically possible given the present circumstances, but lose touch with the “impossible” visions of a better world that originally inspired us. And we wonder why we’re always preaching to the choir.

    How do we tap into these “impossible” dreams? How do we make them visible for others to see and buy into?

    In order to change the world we live in, we need to be able to imagine the world we desire. In order to get others to join us, we need to be able to share our visions and dreams. Sometimes we forget that we didn’t get into this field because we read a research report or white paper. Something happened that made us feel anger, outrage, or a sense of possibility.

    How do we tap into these “impossible” dreams? How do we make them visible for others to see and buy into? Stephen Duncombe and Steve Lambert of the Center for Artistic Activism and I will be talking about just that at our breakout session, Making the Impossible Possible – the Art of Activism, at COMMUNICATION MATTERS, the  Communication Network’s 2014 Conference.

    You’ll hear about new tactics and strategies that activists around the world are using to mobilize people, or make them sit up and take notice. For example, take the work of architect Alfredo Jaar. Jaar designed and built an art gallery in Skoghall, Sweden, and had it opened with great fanfare by the mayor, only to burn it down 24 hours later – all to inspire the residents of this company town to come together and organize to do something for themselves. Or the gay men in Kenya, who, tired of experiencing discrimination and poor treatment at a local health facility, turned up on a weekend to clean the clinic and thus transform the doctors’ and nurses’ view of them.

    PicMonkey Collage

    You’ll also get to do a brainstorming exercise where you will get to reconnect with the impossible, ‘Utopian’ visions that once inspired you, and then start to figure out how to make those dreams come true.

    Brett Davidson is director of the Health Media Initiative, at the Open Society Foundations. Prior to joining the Open Society Foundations, Davidson worked as a radio journalist and producer in South Africa, and as a media consultant assisting nongovernmental organizations to develop advocacy strategies. Follow him on Twitter @brettdav

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