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Okapi Sightings?

Zoologists have captured the first photos of the Okapi in the wild, saying that the animal once mistaken for a unicorn has managed to survive war and poaching in Congo. The doe-eyed animal is a relative of the giraffe but has zebra-like stripes on its legs and rear.

For the past nine years, I’ve attended the Communications Network conference, and I, too, have been on a mission to take a picture of another rare species: the elusive program officer. (Disclosure: I’m a program officer at The California Wellness Foundation, so I don’t count!)

From San Francisco to Miami to Chicago, I have heard of Bigfoot-like sightings, but no one has ever offered me proof that program officers have set foot at a conference.

Ok, maybe, I’m exaggerating.  There could have been one or two in recent years. But, c’mon, are they not communications practitioners?

Program officers review letter of inquiries (communication). If they like the request, they pick up the phone to find out more information (communication), which leads to a grant recommendation (communication). Once the board ratifies the recommendation, they mail a grant agreement letter (communication). Thereafter, the Foundation announces all of its grantees on its website, newsletter and annual report (communications).

Program officers are in the funding business. That has been true for the past hundred years. But they are also are in the business of communications–whether they realize it or not. Grants made for direct service and public policy all generate lots of communication, and that information constitutes a very valuable but underutilized tool for accomplishing their mission.

Therefore, let’s all make it a point to adopt a program officer when we get home, so that we can make the Network a collaborative one that it so deserves to be.

Julio Marcial


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