frank

What we don’t say enough

November 26, 2015   |   Ann Elizabeth Christiano

This week, our social media feeds are filled with expressions of gratitude.

As we come closer to frank2016, I’m reminded of how much we have to be grateful for. In building frank, we are part of a community that allows us each to do our work better, to see greatness in those around us and emulate it, and to recognize that someone else’s excellence takes nothing from us and is, in fact, an opportunity for greater enrichment. In this community, we simultaneously strive to do our own work well and to share the best of what we have and know because our competition is not each other, but injustice, hatred, a damaged climate and inequality.

This snippet from a 1990 New York Times interview with Martha Graham captures this idea precisely:

“You have to accept the fact – and be grateful for the fact – that you are part of something great. You have to move forward believing that you are part of something that has merit, and you have to work hard to be of merit yourself.”

Ms. Graham was talking about the dance world, but her words apply just as well to what we’re creating together. If you have been to frank, helped to plan frank or regularly visit this site, you already understand the thing that makes it extraordinary. It is that each and every person who contributes gives the best of themselves.  You bring your strongest connection. Your hardest work. Your boldest ideas. Your sharpest insight. What we’re building together is great because of what you contribute.

The urgency of the problems that face the world at this moment demand nothing less than this shared effort. We don’t have enough money or time to get it wrong.

In that same interview, Ms. Graham said, “Through all the struggles, I was grateful always that I was in the right struggle, and I think that is what saved me.”

Public interest communications — using science-based communications to drive lasting change on issues that transcend the interest of any single organization — is not new. But recognizing it as a discipline, sharing the best of what you’ve learned from the front line and finding the science that helps us take on these struggles is.

Here at frank, we’re grateful for everyone who’s joined in on creating something great and building our community of public interest communicators: Annie Neimand, our managing editor and research director, who is working with the team to launch our podcast in January. Lauren Griffin, who is our frankology editor and lead writer. The amazing people at Subject Matter, who stepped up when we found ourselves suddenly without a web designer and whose work you’ll see next week. It’s glorious. Ellen Nodine, who is and has always been the engine in our machine. Bruce Trachtenberg, who continues to edit just about everything that appears on our site. Erin Hart and Kristen Grimm, who are building the best frank program ever. Jacki De Bonis, who makes all the things work better and does so with selfless grace. The 128 students who have already signed up to make frank2016 as magical as ever. Joe Marx and Fred Mann at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who provide critical advice and funding. Sidney Howard and Dustin Tuliao, who make everything beautiful and interesting. David Morse at Atlantic Philanthropies, whose counsel and network contribute immeasurably. Jasper Fessmann, who has dedicated himself to creating the scholarship that will define this field and who never, ever seems to have a bad day.  Linda Hon, who has taken on creating a new scholarly conference that will advance this field, and who has her eye on creating an academic journal for public interest communications. Rich Neimand, who answers every call for help within moments. The dozens of people who have spoken at frank.  Vince Stehle and Jessica Clark, who have provided critical connections. Extraordinary colleagues like Matt Sheehan and Randy Bennett, and a dean and department chair in Diane McFarlin and Juan Carlos Molleda who offer boundless support. Andy Burness, who continues to look for opportunities to help and keeps the voice and perspective of our deeply missed Frank Karel in every conversation. The students who have studied public interest communications and started careers in this field. And of course, Frank and Betsy Karel who started everything.

There are a hundred more people who belong on this list, which of course is the biggest risk of putting anything like this together. We are only at the beginning of what frank and public interest communications will be. As much as we have to be grateful for, we have even more to do.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Ann Elizabeth Christiano
Ann Christiano is a former senior communications officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Professor Christiano teaches several public relations courses from a social change perspective. As the Frank Karel Chair, Christiano is in charge of all things frank.