Let’s Hear It
ComNet’s Clarence B. Jones Award Winner Susan Vandergriff of A Step Ahead Chattanooga

ComNet’s Clarence B. Jones Award Winner Susan Vandergriff of A Step Ahead Chattanooga

September 22, 2020

Susan Vandergriff walked away from a seventeen-year career as a banker because something was missing in her life. She went back to school, studied social work, and ended up with a part-time office manager job at a new organization called A Step Ahead Chattanooga, whose mission was to provide free reproductive health care to women who weren’t ready to become pregnant.

In just a few years she was running the organization. This week she takes the virtual stage at the Communications Network’s virtual gathering ComNetworkV to accept the Clarence B. Jones Impact Award which is given annually by The Communications Network to a social sector individual, team, or organization whose work best represents the extraordinary impact of our craft.

Susan gave us a sneak preview of her amazing story, which is just another reminder of how lucky we are to be in the field of social change.

ComNetworkV - A Preview of This Year’s Virtual Gathering

ComNetworkV - A Preview of This Year’s Virtual Gathering

September 16, 2020

There are no excuses not to make it to ComNet this year – it’s free and it’s virtual. So you don’t have to leave the house and you can attend in your pajamas.

Eric speaks with the Communications Network’s CEO Sean Gibbons about all the amazing keynotes, breakouts, and the annual Day of Service, which will give participants the opportunity to support a fair count of the US Census.

And if you haven’t signed up yet, it’s not too late – go to comnetworkvirtual.org until September 21. Did we mention that it’s free?

The opening of the American mind - Javier Torres-Campos of the Surdna Foundation talks about culture, equity, and the state of the American theater

The opening of the American mind - Javier Torres-Campos of the Surdna Foundation talks about culture, equity, and the state of the American theater

September 9, 2020

Our cultural institutions shape how we view the world, and Javier Torres-Campos, the Director of the Thriving Cultures Program at the Surdna Foundation, is doing his part to help shape those cultural institutions for the better. Javier doesn’t just fund the arts, either. He is looking at how changes in city planning, design, and even architecture can help build a more equitable society.

Javier and Eric had a freewheeling conversation about the role cultural institutions can play in helping open up the American mind. They also had a fascinating exchange about a document called “We See You White American Theater” that challenges the structure for creating, funding, and administering theater in this country.

If you care about the future of arts in America, or even just the future of the American mind, don’t miss this episode.

Ideas for Days: Career Karma’s CEO and co-Founder Ruben Harris Tells Us How Business and Nonprofits Can Learn From Each Other

Ideas for Days: Career Karma’s CEO and co-Founder Ruben Harris Tells Us How Business and Nonprofits Can Learn From Each Other

August 26, 2020

With so many people out of work and low on hope, we look to the leaders who are blazing new trails to success. Eric had the incredible luck to connect with Ruben Harris, co-founder of Career Karma, a startup that helps people network, learn, and find employment in tech. Ruben might as well be listed under the word “trailblazer” in the dictionary; in the wake of mass unemployment that has left this country reeling, he’s started a campaign called Reskill America, which provides laptops to underestimated folks (a term borrowed with gratitude from a venture capital trailblazer in her own right, Arlan Hamilton). Ruben is nothing but audacious – he hopes to benefit one billion people in the next ten years. He also hosts the Breaking Into Startups podcast, which definitely warrants a listen.

Eric has proclaimed this episode to be his favorite of 2020 so far, and no wonder. Ruben provides much food for thought on how nonprofits can learn from the business world. He also offers some very honest feedback for how foundations can improve their practices. And he reminds us that there’s no time like the present to achieve your dreams.

If this week, month, or year has got you feeling unempowered, this is the interview you must listen to.

Renée DiResta - Disinformation in the Age of COVID

Renée DiResta - Disinformation in the Age of COVID

August 5, 2020

This week, Disinformation King Kirk Brown sits down with Renée DiResta, Technical Research Manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, a multidisciplinary research center that works on understanding how information moves on the internet. Renée has written extensively on the topic of disinformation, much to the chagrin (or delight?) of comment trolls, and has recently done fascinating work on disinformation as it pertains to COVID-19 responses.

Renée and Kirk’s conversation runs the gamut of topics from the power of the internet to the effect of malign narratives, with lots in between. This is a conversation that will especially appeal to those with the disinformation scaries. Renée and her work are vital to changing how we talk about the internet as the information environment of today, and her insight is not to be missed.

Bonus: The Communications Network has just announced that Renée will be one of their speakers this year at ComNet’s first-ever virtual gathering, which will happen from September 22nd to September 25th. Better yet, it’s free! You can find out more here: https://www.comnetworkvirtual.org/.

Sabeel Rahman of Demos is the Optimist We All Need to Hear From

Sabeel Rahman of Demos is the Optimist We All Need to Hear From

July 22, 2020

Sabeel Rahman is a leading progressive thinker, movement builder, convener, and collaborator whose specialty is linking big ideas to social change strategies.

 

Since 2018, he has been the president of Demos, an organization that was started in 2000 by progressive foundations that wanted to respond to right wing think tanks with a focus on progressive policy development and advocacy. One of its early board members was a State Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama.

 

Under Sabeel’s leadership, Demos has built on its reputation as an essential voice in the movement for a just, inclusive, multiracial democracy. In this edition of Let’s Hear It, Eric and Sabeel have a free-flowing conversation about dismantling institutions and systems that are responsible for ongoing inequality in race, gender, and class. Sabeel talks about how to create new models for how the world will need to work as we attempt to create a new social contract based on justice.

Swimming in a Sea of Disinformation: Author Nina Jankowicz on How to Lose the Information War

Swimming in a Sea of Disinformation: Author Nina Jankowicz on How to Lose the Information War

July 8, 2020

Unless you've been living under an extremely large rock for the past four years, by now you are well aware that the information we receive on a daily basis isn't always what it seems to be.

 

This week, Kirk interviews Nina Jankowicz, whose new book, How to Lose the Information War: Russia, Fake News, and the Future of Conflict is a stark reminder that American democracy is under siege.

 

And if you are doing communications today, you are doing it in a sea of disinformation that has been designed to create chaos and foment distrust in the American system.

 

And yet, it's never been more important to know what we're up against. This episode is a stark reminder of just how vulnerable our messages are to abuse and subversion.

 

Have a nice day!

Thaler Pekar and the Magic of Sharing Stories

Thaler Pekar and the Magic of Sharing Stories

June 24, 2020

In the past month, nonprofits and foundations across the country have made strong statements of commitment to racial justice, in particular to support the Movement for Black Lives. At the center of this work is an understanding that we need to create new narratives about what we want our future to look like and how we move forward.

As we create these narratives, we will need to harness the power of stories. Our guest this week is Thaler Pekar, who specializes in gathering stories of foundations, nonprofits, and companies. Among her many achievements, Thaler traveled around the world to collect 178 oral histories for Atlantic Philanthropies, which are archived at Cornell University.

In addition to her work on oral histories, her firm Thaler Pekar & Partners produces videos, conducts workshops, and coaches executives on how to tell their stories.  

Eric and Thaler spoke back in February, but their conversation could not be more timely. Thaler reminds us of the importance of collecting and sharing stories. As so many of us turn our sights to creating a new narrative of change, this episode serves as a valuable lesson in the curriculum.

Revisiting our Conversation with Ben McBride

Revisiting our Conversation with Ben McBride

June 10, 2020

We hope that you are staying well and healthy and safe.

As we were thinking this week about what show to share with you, we kept returning to this conversation with Ben McBride that aired last year.  

Ben is a pastor and activist who has devoted his career to healing and reconciliation. He lives in Oakland, California where he's the co-director of PICO California.

We’ve been looking to Ben for wisdom and inspiration a lot these days – especially his work at Bring the H.E.A.T., which is an effort to increase the peace in California by transforming the public safety system into one everybody can trust.

In the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, this conversation with Ben feels particularly relevant.

So this week we bring you a replay of Eric’s conversation with Ben. Thanks for listening.

Dominique Derbigny on Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap

Dominique Derbigny on Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap

May 27, 2020

Welcome to another episode of Let’s Hear It. We hope you are staying as physically distanced and emotionally connected as you can! This week, we had the honor of speaking with Dominique Derbigny, the Deputy Director of the Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap initiative and author of an extraordinary piece on the inequity of aid policy in the time of COVID. Dominique has previously worked with Prosperity Now and United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg, and contributes regularly to the publication #BlackHer on issues facing Black women.

Dominique’s report, On the Margins: Economic Security for Women of Color through the Coronavirus and Beyond, was released only a few weeks after the lockdown began. It is a careful examination of the recent coronavirus relief packages and assesses the benefits, shortcomings, and implications for women of color.

This is a terrific conversation with a woman who is helping to shine a light on racial equity and economic inclusion.

Alexis Madrigal of the COVID Tracking Project Outdoes the CDC

Alexis Madrigal of the COVID Tracking Project Outdoes the CDC

May 13, 2020

You know that old saying “see a problem, it’s yours”? Alexis Madrigal and his colleagues at The Atlantic have taken that to extremes.

As the coronavirus story was developing in early March, Alexis, a staff writer at The Atlantic, had trouble getting good data about COVID-19, so he and a few colleagues started the COVID Tracking Project. Little did he know that it would become one of the most reliable sources of data about COVID-19 in the country. In fact, even the White House is citing their data.

Alexis has also partnered with the Antiracist Research & Policy Center to create the COVID Racial Data Tracker, which provides the most comprehensive information on the racial disparities of the pandemic.

In the midst of all this, Alexis generously found time to speak with Eric about the extraordinary efforts of his team, the duties of journalists in times of crisis, and the shockingly disparate effects of the virus on different communities in the U.S.

Ann Christiano Builds a Field Where There Never Was a Field

Ann Christiano Builds a Field Where There Never Was a Field

April 29, 2020

Ann Christiano, the Frank Karel Chair in Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida at Gainesville, did not set out to be an academic. Before she came to the University of Florida, Ann spent more than a decade as a senior communications officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. But she has now truly made her mark in academia. She has helped build a discipline in public interest communications, leading new research, writing in a wide variety of publications, and now launching the Center for Public Interest Communications at UF.

In this episode (a flashback to days gone by, when people could actually meet in person), Eric and Ann meet during the frank gathering (an annual communications event inspired by Frank Karel) and have an exit interview of sorts, discussing Ann’s incredible ten years of work as the Frank Karel Chair and her plans for the future of public interest communications. In this candid and emotional exchange, you can hear Ann’s delightful and hopeful approach to the future of education and research in the public interest communications world.

“Make Your Content Like a Twinkie” - Talking Presentation Design with One of the Greats – Nolan Haims

“Make Your Content Like a Twinkie” - Talking Presentation Design with One of the Greats – Nolan Haims

April 15, 2020

For those folks who are fortunate enough to be able to work in these challenging times, much of their time is spent staring at a screen in “meetings.” Many of these “meetings” involve what we can charitably call “presentations.” The chilling fact is that far too many folks are forced to endure presentations that look as if they were designed by sadistic engineers in a bunker in Seattle. The poor souls subjected to these onslaughts of bullet points, charts, and statistics almost invariably come away from those experiences neither smarter nor more inspired, just older and a bit sadder.

If most presentations we suffer resemble Soviet-style brutalist architecture, this week’s guest, Nolan Haims, is like whoever designed Notre Dame, or maybe the Sydney Opera House. His designs are elegant, clever, and most important, they help the audience learn. Nolan has been a master of presentation design for over two decades. He’s the founder of Nolan Haims Creative, and he’s the former Vice President and Director of Presentation for the global PR giant Edelman. He is also co-host of The Presentation Podcast.

Nolan talks to Eric about how anyone can create presentations that appeal to the hearts and minds of their audience, uttering the phrase that may go down in Let’s Hear It History – “make your content like a Twinkie.” Have a listen to find out the secret to that epic concept. (And listen for a special little surprise at the very, very end.)

Saru Jayaraman and One Fair Wage: Making the Restaurant Industry Work for Workers

Saru Jayaraman and One Fair Wage: Making the Restaurant Industry Work for Workers

April 1, 2020

Eric sat down with Saru Jayaraman five weeks and a lifetime ago. Few of us fully appreciated the implications of the COVID crisis at the time, but the conversation centers on the very issues the crisis has raised around service workers and equity.

Saru is an attorney and activist who is changing the way our country treats workers who are forced to rely on tips to make a living.

Saru’s CV is about twelve pages long. She is president of One Fair Wage, which fights for one fair minimum wage for all workers in the U.S. (and which, by the way, has put together an Emergency Coronavirus Tipped and Service Workers Support Fund that you can look into here). She co-founded the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, she directs the Food Labor Research Center at UC Berkeley, where she is also an adjunct professor of public policy, and she has written several books, including: Forked: A New Standard for American Dining; Behind the Kitchen Door; Bite Back: People Taking on Corporate Food and Winning (to be released this month); and The New Urban Immigrant Work Force, which comes out in 2021.

Saru is an extraordinary storyteller, a passionate speaker, and a fierce advocate for fairness in the food service industry. In this episode, you will be treated to a conversation that runs the gamut from how the vestiges of slavery are still supported by the restaurant industry to how food service corporations are dictating our democracy. She will absolutely knock your socks off. This isn’t an episode to skip.

Leadership in a Crisis - A ComNet Webinar wtih Joanne Krell of Defy Communications

Leadership in a Crisis - A ComNet Webinar wtih Joanne Krell of Defy Communications

March 27, 2020

Joanne Krell is the kind of communications expert you want in your corner when it matters most. She has led communications at the WK Kellogg Foundation AND General Motors, and when she talks, we listen.

Joanne, who is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Defy Communications in Ann Arbor, Michigan, led a webinar hosted by the Communications Network that should be its own college course on how you lead in a crisis. It's packed with really useful information on how to connect with your colleagues, your constituents, and how to focus on what really matters when it matters most.

Seasoned Voices During Difficult Times - A COVID-19 Special Edition

Seasoned Voices During Difficult Times - A COVID-19 Special Edition

March 20, 2020

We hope that all of our Let’s Hear It listeners are staying safe and socially connected while heeding prudent calls from public health experts to practice physical distancing.

With the rush of news related to COVID-19, we checked in with two experts who have tremendous experience communicating during epidemics - Dr. Barbara Reynolds and Thomson Prentice. Both have impressive public health communications credentials, Dr. Reynolds with the Centers for Disease Control, Mr. Prentice with the World Health Organization, and have written extensively on crisis, risk, epidemic, and public health communications.

We were reminded during our discussions that each of us has a role in communicating the specific way we can help support a return to healthier, safer times for us all as soon as possible. A hearty thank you to both of these guests for joining us on little notice and providing such helpful perspectives.

Sending best wishes to all our listeners as we adapt to our current circumstances. Thank you for joining us on Let’s Hear It.

Shanelle Matthews - The Radical Communicator of Our Time

Shanelle Matthews - The Radical Communicator of Our Time

March 17, 2020

If you are ready for just a minor departure from COVID-related communications, we offer an interview with Shanelle Matthews, the founder of the Radical Communicators Network. In the aftermath of the 2016 election, Shanelle founded the Radical Communicators Network, an organization that connects progressive communicators with research, meetings, and even an old-school listserv. She is also in the process of writing the kind of radical guide to social change communications that we all wish we’d all had when we got started in the field.  

Shanelle is a multi-hyphenate strategic communications pro whose extensive credits also include work at the Sierra Club, ACLU, and the Black Lives Matter Global Network. Shanelle is also an adjunct professor at the New School in New York, where her commitment to her students speaks volumes about the kind of leadership we need in this field.

In this episode, Shanelle and Eric sit down to talk messaging, maintaining integrity, and discuss what it takes to radically communicate. Don't miss this.

Super Tuesday Special - Bernie Sanders’ Pollster Ben Tulchin

Super Tuesday Special - Bernie Sanders’ Pollster Ben Tulchin

March 3, 2020

No matter what you think of Bernie Sanders, there’s no question that he has become a powerful force in American politics. Near the center of that juggernaut is Ben Tulchin, the President of Tulchin Research, and our guest on this week’s episode of Let’s Hear It. Ben felt the Bern early in 2016, helping to turn the Vermont Socialist by way of Brooklyn – who was given to 90-minute stemwinding speeches about Norway and oligarchs – into a progressive populist who somehow managed to win the hearts of college students (and others) across the country and nearly snatch the Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton.

As the country attempts to make sense out of yesterday’s Super Tuesday results, it is clear that Sanders (and Tulchin) are still very much in the mix. But Ben Tulchin has a lot more than Bernie Sanders on his resume. A veteran pollster who has worked with foundations, nonprofits, and political campaigns for twenty-five years, Ben sits down with Kirk Brown to talk about how foundations and nonprofits can use polling and other research to advance their work.

Annenberg Foundation’s Cinny Kennard and the Civic Duty of Philanthropy

Annenberg Foundation’s Cinny Kennard and the Civic Duty of Philanthropy

February 19, 2020

Eric interviews a truly great interviewer: Cinny Kennard, Executive Director of the Annenberg Foundation in Los Angeles.

Cinny has had a long and fascinating career in the world of radio and television journalism. Her work includes coverage of the Anita Hill - Clarence Thomas sexual harassment controversy, the 1992 U.S. presidential election, the Persian Gulf War, and hundreds upon hundreds of interviews with the Royal Family, notable politicians, and world leaders, among many others. Her work has taken her from CBS to NPR to Annenberg, with some other exciting stops along the way. 

Now the executive director of the Annenberg Foundation, Cinny talks with Eric about the legacy of the Annenberg family in Los Angeles, how to make journalism a respectable profession, and a foundation’s duty to the communities it serves. Her opinions on philanthropy may be unconventional, but her commitment to finding better, kinder, and more lasting solutions to challenges in our modern world is palpable. She is truly a force to be reckoned with. 

Professor john a. powell will change your life

Professor john a. powell will change your life

February 4, 2020

There are people who come along who don’t just change the way you think or how you do your job, but who just change you – they change the chemical makeup of your body. Professor john a. powell is one of those people.

john a. powell is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of civil rights and civil liberties and a wide range of issues including race, structural racism, ethnicity, housing, poverty, and democracy. He is the Director of the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley (formerly Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society), which supports research to generate specific prescriptions for changes in policy and practice that address disparities related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and socioeconomics in California and nationwide. In addition to being a Professor of Law and Professor of African American Studies and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, john holds the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion.

If you don’t know john’s work (and Eric and john speak about why he doesn’t capitalize the letters in his name) you are in for a rare treat. Even if you do know about john, we think you will get a glimpse of him that is new and incredibly fun. (And you will also hear the story about how john and Eric got separated in a Havana disco.) In any case, we think that this episode of Let’s Hear It will have a profound effect on anyone who tunes in. Thanks for listening!

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