At frank, not knowing the answer is required

At frank, not knowing the answer is required

Posted on March 07, 2014 by The Patterson Foundation

There was a time when being a communicator for social change was like being a voice crying out in the wilderness.

Not anymore.

In the past decade, more philanthropic foundations -- including The Patterson Foundation -- and social change organizations have elevated the value of strategic communications in the sector. Strong strategic communications means a better understanding of the creativity, imagination, and impact of those who work to do "good."

At frank, an invite-only gathering of  social change communicators from across the country, the intent is to keep an open mind, connect, share ideas -- all in the name of bringing more clarity to the field of social change communications (or as one segment put it -- help us all better explain what we do over Thanksgiving dinner!)

It all starts with not having the answer.

Have you ever been told to not have the answer? It's so difficult because we all have preconceived notions and biases. But that discomfort is exactly the point. It forces us to tap into our ingenuity.

While it's easier said than done, not having the answer is a concept embraced by The Patterson Foundation. As a funder that doesn't quite fit the mold of a "traditional" foundation (No grant cycles? Say what?!) not having the answer is key to its partnerships and collaborative work in philanthropy. It means living in a world of possibilities.

Frank, which is named for the late Frank Karel, an advocate and pioneer in public interest communications, and organized by the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications and its Frank Karel Fellows in Public Interest Communications, challenged the 200 communicators to do just that.

The team from Future (known for their blitz cycle) challenged the group with the following:

1) Be Bold - Are you thinking big enough? Chances are you aren't.

2) Get Out - Go out and connect. Find the things you'll never discover in your conference room.

3) Think Wrong- Start from a new place and let go of your assumptions.

4) Make Stuff - Turn your ideas into something that can be shared. Start rough and iterate and learn as you go.

5) Bet Small - Small bets mean you can fail fast to win big.

6) Move Fast - It's all about prioritizing to accelerate positive change.

All of these apply to not only social change communications but also the style of philanthropy of The Patterson Foundation -- constantly connecting with others, taking calculated risks -- because they have the flexibility to do so, accelerating positive change through financial and human capital resources, working with agility while learning and sharing along the way.

How do you embrace these themes in your work?


  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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