This post is adapted from a version which appeared on the Spitfire Strategies website here.
We live in a rapidly changing world where information travels at the speed of light—and to be effective communicators, we must continuously evolve our thinking and break free from convention. That’s exactly what this year’s frank gathering was all about.
Some of the most talented and forward-thinking public interest communicators met for three days to discuss how together, we can better create a healthier, safer and more just world.
Now that may sound like some nebulous or fluffy ideal, but let me tell you—there’s something truly magical that happens when visionaries from across the field come together with the sole purpose to share, learn and grow with one another. You get to see how a spark of an idea or a fleeting notion can transform into something that changes lives forever.
I was privileged to hear from speakers such as Chad Boettcher from Participant Media about how a good story, well told, can change the world. I learned from Chip Giller of Grist about using humor to engage people in the climate change fight. Shankar Vedantam taught me more about overcoming information aversion and Bobby Jones made me a believer that good really is the new cool. I also gained a renewed sense of hope—that the fight doesn’t end with my colleagues and me. There is a new, bright, dedicated, passionate and diverse set of young people eager to create social change. I had the opportunity to hear from several student fellows about what drives them and why this work really matters.
After all the frank talks, the incredible presentations and the conversations over coffee, I walked away feeling inspired and with three major lessons that I will carry forward:
- Satire and snark are our friends. In the age of the Daily Show and Stephen Colbert, we can rally our audiences through humor and make complex issues more palatable.
- Consumers are hungry for products and services that make a difference. It’s up to us to help corporations and the private sector make those connections, and use their profit for progress.
- Being proactive with your story is an absolute must—information moves so quickly that unless you’re in control of your narrative from the start, it’s hard to shape it once your opposition has picked it up.
I’m grateful for having had the chance to soak up this wisdom from some of the brightest social interest minds. It was invigorating to be around so many people that share the same passions, and who are committed to lifelong learning and collaboration.