• Webinar: Open Data for the Social Sector (Replay)



    • Open Data is empowering.
    • Sharing data publicly helps organizations make better-informed decisions and build on top of existing information.
    • Open Data fosters cooperation and opportunity and can prompt others to offer new approaches to problems you’re trying to solve.

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  • “Failure [is] the gap between where we are and where we want to go.” A Conversation with Sarah Lewis – #ComNet14 Preview


    Sarah Lewis is the author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery. She will be a keynote speaker at The Network’s Communication Matters conference in Philadelphia on October 9th. Lewis is a faculty member of the Yale University School of Art, has served on President Barack Obama’s Arts Policy Committee, and been selected for Oprah’s Power List. The Communications Network spoke to her about the difference between success and mastery, how a near-win can be a good thing in the long run, and why grit matters more than talent and IQ. A lightly edited transcript follows. 

    The Communications Network: Your book is an interesting mixture of topics: creativity, mastery, and failure. What inspired you?

    Sarah Lewis: The book is about the unusual, improbable foundations that undergird our most iconic achievements, whether that’s an achievement in entrepreneurial realms or invention or creativity.

    I approached this book as a curator. I used to work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Tate Modern. I’m also a cultural historian.

    Over time, I would start to see these kind of back-turn paintings in artist studios, things that they didn’t want to show me, but I knew were integral for the work that they did want to show me, that would then go on to have a platform at MoMA, etcetera. I started to wonder if that idea of this back-turn painting being critical for masterful work wasn’t applicable beyond a creative realm of endeavor, whether I thought that it was true for entrepreneurial feats as well.

    Over time, I would just look at a set of different examples. The book looks at an atlas of about 150, but, when I began to write, I knew, at the time, that Martin Luther King got Cs in oratory class, for example, went on to become our most prestigious orator in the century.

    I knew that Fred Astaire’s screen test said in 1930s, “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little,” and he went on to revolutionize his genre.

    These stories populate the book, but, really, they were just known to me because I’ve been just organically interested in this notion that some of our most inventive achievements have come from places that we don’t expect.

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  • “If you want to go outside, you’ve got to talk outside.” A Conversation with Tony Proscio

    Junk the jargon

    Tony Proscio is a planning, evaluation, and communications consultant to foundations and major nonprofit organizations. A long-time contributor to The Communications Network, he is the main author of the Jargon Finder, a collection of foundation and nonprofit jargon excerpted from his three essays Others Words, Bad Words for Good, and When Words Fail. Tony joined The Communications Network to discuss the dangers of jargon and how to avoid them. A lightly edited transcript follows.

    The Communications Network: Let’s talk about jargon and how you define it. What does jargon mean and how does it differ from other words?

    Tony Proscio: The technical definition of jargon, the strictest, is language that is so technical that a person outside the field, the layperson so to speak, wouldn’t understand it, but that’s not the way most people that I work with think about jargon and it’s not generally the way I use the word either. For me, the definition of jargon is language that stops the reader instead of encouraging the reader to keep going, reader or listener. It’s language that either is grating or hard to figure out or seemingly wrong in some way that makes the reader or the listener stop and, instead of paying attention to your point, pay attention to your language.

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  • “Brand management is a mindset…” A conversation with Nathalie Kylander, author of The Brand Idea

    1658749 Nathalie Laidler-Kylander is a Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government where she teaches courses on leadership and the strategic management of non-profits. She is the co-author of The Brand Idea, which offers a new strategic framework for non-profit branding. A lightly edited transcript of her conversation follows. You can listen to the interview here

    The Communications Network: You and your colleague Julia Shepard Stenzel have a new book out, it’s called The Brand Idea. Tell us about it…

    Natalie Kylander: The book is really based on an article we published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review about two years ago now, looking at the role of brand in the non-profit sector. This was a research project that was undertaken at the Harvard Kennedy School in conjunction with some funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. The original intent of the research that started back in about 2010-2011 was really to examine the role of brand in the non-profit sector and to explore what differences might exist in terms of managing non-profit brands as it relates to full profit brands. Most of the brand and brand management models that we have really stem from the for-profit sector. One of our objectives was to understand whether those models were still relevant and useful and if not, to stop thinking about proposing alternative brand management frameworks.

    The Communications Network: In the non-profit, in the foundation world, people think about branding, they think first about fund raising. From there, it’s a quick jump to the logo and putting it on pens and coffee cups and t-shirts. What did you find in your research about how people do think about brands in the non-profit world and how is that thinking changing?

    Natalie Kylander: A lot of people do think about brand as a fund raising tool with the main audience really being donors or partners if you’re more of a donor organization yourself. Predominantly, looking at brands as a tool to increase funding or potentially access to funds. That poses a little bit of a problem because the brand was really communicated and controlled by the communications or the PR or the marketing department in an organization and not necessarily connected as strongly to the mission as it might be. What we’re seeing through this research and what we’re seeing talking to about a hundred people across 70 organizations is that there’s a fundamental shift that’s occurring in terms of how a brand is perceived. The shift that we’re seeing in the field with non-profits is perception or an understanding of brand, much more as a strategic asset that embodies both the mission and the values of the organization. What we’re seeing through this research and what we’re seeing talking to about a hundred people across 70 organizations is that there’s a fundamental shift that’s occurring in terms of how a brand is perceived. The shift that we’re seeing in the field with non-profits is perception or an understanding of brand, much more as a strategic asset that embodies both the mission and the values of the organization. The goal becomes less to fund raise and to PR to promote the organization and much more focus on mission impact, how to use brand to implement the mission. That’s the fundamental shift we’re seeing and obviously, that has a lot of implications for brand management.

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  • Nyhan TN

    You Can Fight Falsehoods

    More and more these days, debates and discussions about important social issues get hijacked or derailed by misinformation that people too readily accept as truth. For example, who can forget the “death panel” myth propagated by opponents of the Affordable Care Act?  Or in the absence of any evidence linking autism to vaccines, why do some parents refuse to immunize their children?

    In our latest SmartCast, we talk with Brendan Nyhan, Assistant Professor of Government at Dartmouth University, who has been studying the phenomenon of false beliefs since 2000, as well as the challenges in debunking misinformation and myths once they begin to take hold.

    The big question we put to Nyhan: can anything be done to combat the spread of erroneous information?

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