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Yankee Ingenuity, but What About New England Frugality?

Post from the 2011 Conference in Boston

by Adam Coyne, Mathematica Policy Research

Few people know that I’m a third-generation Bostonian (moved when I was 11). Even though I’m now a Phillies fan (sorry dad), my childhood was filled with Hoodsies (you New Englanders know what I’m talking about); “jimmies”; and pahking our cah at the Stah Mahket. Growing up here, the concepts of Yankee ingenuity and New England frugality imprinted at an early age. As I’ve been listening to the many panels and plenaries I was struck by the innovative ideas and initiatives many of you are working on. There are some impressive programs and projects driving major social change. The ingenuity is in full swing with this group. 

It was upon reflection that I realized we didn’t hear a whole lot about frugality. This kind of surprised me. I’m not going to go into a diatribe about recessions and deficits and the rising poverty rates (which are real and really awful). Rather, the need for us to focus on providing value. As Eric Brown pointed out, we represent over 6 billion dollars in annual grant making. But the dollars for communications are much, much smaller. With the exception of the stage-crafted 5 dollars (thank you Daniel Silverman), when it comes to communications for social change every dollar counts.

Most of us are stewards of private resources that are earmarked for the publics’ interest. The bulk of our jobs are focused on coming up with the most innovative ways to spread ideas as effectively and efficiently as possible. As dissemination tools become democratized and increasingly cheap, innovative ideas and relevant content are two of the best tools we have at our disposal. In an era of cost-cutting and tighter budgets for foundations, grantees and others, I’d like to hear your stories of impact and results you’ve achieved on a budget. 

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