Positioning a science start-up
The International Arts + Mind Lab (IAM Lab) at the Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute has an ambitious mission to use the arts and brain science to fundamentally change the way we heal, learn and achieve wellness across the globe. In its first year of operation in 2017, the client’s goal was to generate and sustain interest in a neuroaesthetics community and common approach. We met this task with communications that translated complex concepts into inviting ideas, using credible messengers and online, print, audio and event platforms to build an audience.
They say the best way to get really clear on your message is to explain it to a child. We took that to heart as guest editors of Child Art magazine, bringing neuroaesthetics to life through feature stories on groups like Creative Forces, Wide Angle Youth Media and OrchKids.
With a successful launch and interest in the IAM Lab sufficiently piqued, we worked to develop and articulate a position paper and consensus framework for the field. With audiences ranging from neuroscientists to creative arts therapists, architects, designers, philanthropists and educators, we made a compelling but accessible case for a research-to-practice approach to accelerate the use of arts-based interventions in health, well being and learning.
Fresh branding rooted in experience and insight
FourPoint Education Partners (formerly known as Cross & Joftus) is an education consulting firm with an incredibly deep bench. After more than a decade of work in 30+ states, the firm had a real perspective but lacked the content and communications assets to make it known. They had the courage to start from scratch- beginning with a wide-open conversation about their favorite projects, why they work in education, what matters most to them and with whom they’d most like to work. I turned my conversations with partners and associates into a new tagline, web copy and case studies that reflect the genuine passion and expertise of team members and let prospective clients know what they can expect from working with FourPoint. I collaborated with the client’s web developers to distill key themes and messages into aligned imagery and web elements for a truly cohesive end product.
An inspirational send-off
The Wallace Foundation’s National Summer Learning Project has grown the summer learning knowledge base tremendously since 2011 by seeking to understand whether, and if so, how, voluntary summer learning programs combining academics and enrichment help students succeed in school. In my role at NSLA, I regularly attended and presented the national landscape at the biannual meetings of grantees. Still, it was a unique privilege to join The Learning Agenda and the Wallace Foundation to plan the twelfth and final meeting of this initiative. My clients wanted to begin the meeting with a retrospective of the initiative but felt strongly that the “story” had many more chapters. We used the “hero’s journey” metaphor to distill six years of trials, triumphs and lessons learned into one 75-minute session with nine storytellers. Unlike a rote history presentation, the story was full of drama, intrigue and future calls to action while still leaving the Foundation and grantees with a tangible accounting of the initiative in the slide deck.
To close the two-day meeting, we wanted a session that would stoke the fire in grantees to continue their important work at home. I developed and moderated The Power of Local Action, a unique storytelling session that brought together Baltimore activists to tell one story of bold youth program advocacy from four different perspectives. Having a youth leader as well as local elected officials on the panel provided the audience with tangible ideas for their own community organizing, advocacy and outreach. The inspiration from the story spilled over into the closing reflection for the meeting, where school district and city leaders committed to authentically empowering youth in their own local advocacy.
Meeting a critical need
After years of full-time fundraising responsibility as a nonprofit CEO, I wasn’t sure I would want to work in fundraising as a consultant, but clients like the Maryland Book Bank (MBB) make it one of the best parts of my job. MBB gets books into the hands of children, teachers and parents who need them most. After a great first four years in operation, largely sustained by earned revenue from book sales, MBB came to me with a goal of increasing its private philanthropic support to begin to scale its book distribution programs. Through brainstorming and strategy sessions, I helped turn my client’s great vision into concrete strategies, tactics, outcomes and measures that have led to multiple successful new grants for MBB. Finding out that 3,500 Baltimore students would receive their first home library because of a grant I wrote was a highlight of my year.