read it in your browser


How stories, strategy, people and tech are creating change.

Welcome to 2019. Happy New Year to all. I hope each of you has a successful year full of adventure, big ideas and progress towards your personal and professional goals.

Welcome new subscribers. Please drop a line anytime - hit reply or email Would love to hear about what you’re working on or questions about content, storytelling and engagement. If you like Bright Ideas, please forward to a friend or share the Bright Ideas link. Now, onward into the new year...

My intention for 2019: In addition to helping the nonprofit community speed up membership innovation, let's create a framework for helping people find, create and share their own stories in ways that build community, grow power, and strengthen their ties to organizations as well as one another.

Never before have we had so much content, so many stories, so much news to consume. The volume isn’t just overwhelming members, readers and supporters. It’s transforming how organizations, businesses and even individuals create and fund content.

The issues facing content creators, marketers and digital strategists are many. A few: No longer is getting a story in the newspaper sufficient. An organizational blog post that gets 100 views and three retweets isn’t getting you anywhere. A video on YouTube is likely lost to the world unless you’ve committed to a full-blown YouTube marketing strategy.

Here’s the thing: Content is created to serve organizational goals. Stories we create and ask people to share may be about people impacted by the policy or product we’re working to promote (or oppose). But it’s still our story. In our voice. With our context woven through it. Aimed at achieving our purpose.

Advocates, organizations, companies, journalists and storytellers all approach content with intention and filters. We have a goal in mind. That goal shapes the questions we ask and the pieces of the story we pick up and shine a light on.

So, are we creating content, stories that actually give voice to people? Or are we just rewriting our own beliefs in the words of others? Are we reporting on the world as it is or the world as we see it?

When I talk about content strategy and storytelling, I want to be very intentional about the who, what and why. Some recent articles and conversations help here:

Ashley Alvarado is the Director of Community Engagement at KPCC, a public radio station based in Pasadena, California. They’ve been taking on a range of innovative content programs aimed at better / more deeply covering and finding community-driven news. They bought and revived community news site LAist, for instance, not what you might expect from a radio station.

Alvarado joined a Media Impact Funders webinar last month to share an update on KPCC’s Unheard LA project. Think of it as TedX talks with real local people sharing personal experiences.

The project’s name is intentional - Unheard instead of untold. As Alvarado points out, more stories go unheard than untold because people with stories don’t have access to media and storytelling opportunities. Unheard LA is about stripping away control over who gets to hear stories by investing in meeting people where they are, applying user-centered design to journalism and storytelling, and really shifting engagement from being organization-centered to people-powered.

Alvarado has a great example in the webinar of how user centered design (or, really, just listening to people who don’t usually get talked to by the media and nonprofits) is transformative right now. She talks about the coming 2020 census, how important it is to LA residents, and how many advocacy groups are working in the community to organize and raise awareness about the census.

But, in talking with people, it’s become clear that people have heard of the census but have no idea about how it affects them, why they should care, or what to do.

In other words, despite all the work happening on the ground, there’s a gap between the stories being created by advocates and how people consume, translate and use stories.

In a story for NiemanLab, Known but not discussed: Low-income people aren’t getting quality news and information. What can the industry do about it?, Christine Schmidt talks with Jay Hamilton, head of Stanford’s journalism school, and Fiona Morgan, an information ecosystems consultant and former director of Free Press’s community organizing News Voices program, about their research into the information needs of low-income communities.

The context of the conversation is journalism. Are news and media companies meeting the needs of low-income communities amidst rapid changes in newspaper availability and digital platforms?

But there are big lessons (and opportunity) here for community nonprofits, advocacy groups and anyone doing community organizing. Schmidt, Hamilton and Morgan talk about behavioral economics, helping people access information that impacts their lives, and how people make decisions. These factors, much more than high level policy outcomes, impact how people access and use messaging.

Any framework for community storytelling that builds power needs to emphasize user experience and design. Many of the organizations already working in community organizing have relationships in the community, access to data (or at least awareness of what data is out there), and insights into what information people use to make decisions on a daily basis.

These are the organizations that, with storytelling skills and resources, can transform how communities access information, use information to build power, and

Let’s think about how we scale up storytelling that puts communities at the forefront. The role of nonprofits, media organizations and funders is to train, support, guide and, perhaps most importantly, create the channels that spread learning faster.

Get this from a friend? Want to subscribe? Head over here.

Is anything on the internet real?

Question of the day: If a Russian troll using a Brazilian man’s photograph to masquerade as an American Trump supporter watches a video on Facebook, is that view “real”?  That’s the existential dilemma posed by Max Read’s New York magazine article about just how much of the internet is fake.

Friends in real life are real

Great story and great example of people building community by being flexible, open to new experience and listening: Finding Female Friends Over 50 Can Be Hard. These Women Figured It Out.

Real people's stories create real change

Clodagh Schofield works at Uplift in Ireland. She wrote for MobLab about how campaigners there working to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Irish constitution helped people have conversations and share personal stories about their abortion experience. I was fortunate to edit the story and help Clodagh distill lessons activists can use to advance personal storytelling using training, incentives, and a focus on values instead of politics.

Storytelling to grow power, not take it away

Can’t leave out this expansive rundown of great campaigning stories from my friends at MobLab: The most thought-provoking campaigning reads of 2018. The list includes some articles on storytelling and the power of hopeful, positive and empowering (though don’t say empower) stories in a dark time. In other words, don’t hone in on loss, scarcity and conflict. Don’t make it easier for people to move apart. Use storytelling to role model collaboration, empathy and innovation.

People want content that helps them get things done

Five ideas for content strategy in 2019 from Omar Akhtar of the Altimeter Group is a good look at recent surveys of comms and corporate leaders. Highlights: Getting diverse teams to work together on content is the biggest struggle facing leaders (tell me about it). Product focused content beats thought leadership (the point being that big ideas are nice but people really want help solving problems). Nobody thinks much of reach as a content metric (see internet is all fake above), interaction metrics are better and, interestingly, efficiency is very important. Again, content that helps people solve problems with your products (or engage with your programs) is a good place to focus. Stop writing about how important policy action is and help people build the skills to take action on it.

Crowdsourcing organizing resources

Richard D. Bartlett is writing a book about decentralized organizing. He recently asked his network for examples of organizations and campaigns that have shared handbooks/guides to how they operate. He shared this great compilation of decentralized organizing resources.  Love the crowdsourcing of this.


Do good work

A few great roles at the intersection of digital, content, creative and campaigning. Have one to share? Click reply and let me know. Have an idea of your next perfect role but not finding it? Send me a note.
  • Director of Practice Engagement and Evolution at Equitable Evaluation Initiative. Flexible U.S. location. Of note: Ideal candidates will have a strong understanding and appreciation for evaluative practice, measurement, and learning, and how they drive decision-making….they will have significant experience in facilitating convenings and trainings across issues and sectors.
  • Program Director at the Armed Services Arts Partnership. Based in Washington, DC. This job will be a blast for the right person. ASAP is helping reintegrate veterans and their families with a variety of creative arts: humour, storytelling, acting and more.
  • U.S. National Field Team Manager at Flexible location.
  • Legislative Director at League of Conservation Voters. Washington, DC.
  • Digital Campaign Director at Faithful America. Flexible U.S. location.
  • Matt Lockshin has updated his digital jobs for progressives list. Great contribution to the community here.
Here's a google spreadsheet full of job lists, email groups and online job boards where you'll find roles like these posted. It's editable (for now) so feel free to comment or add a resource.


Question? Idea to share? Let's talk. Reply or email

Don't hesitate to forward this to others or pass along the subscribe page link. 

Now playing

This song by Cautious Clay has been popping up on the radio the past few months and growing on me. You won't regret it.
Copyright 2019 Bright+3, Blah blah blah all rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp