Tagline: Until the Work Is Done
SPIN Academy: “Who Feels Moved?”
September 13, 2016 at 4:42 pm

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By: Tami Martin, Program Associate

Last month, the Four Freedoms Fund generously sponsored an Equality California representative at the SPIN Academy, an annual training conference that increases the communications capacity of non-profits that are dedicated to social change. As a member of Equality California’s program team, I draft communications for our immigration, leadership, and school programs. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity to become a better ambassador for all of our programs that support the health and well-being of our diverse LGBT communities.

The SPIN Academy teaches advocates how to leverage communication in pursuit of a goal. On an isolated ranch in Petaluma, California, forty advocates from around the country explored how to weave together words, headlines, hashtags, and more to tell a bigger story. Removed from the noise of everyday life, the 2016 SPIN Academy cohort worked for four days with hawks overhead and deer at the door. Ten mentors shared their communications expertise through intensive presentations, exercises, and role playing activities. We all walked away with a stronger toolkit of best practices for engaging with our communities.

SPIN Academy Ranch
We must communicate strategically in this age of overstimulation and limited capacity. Our instructors gave us practical tools to track metrics, create infographics, and structure messages both large and small in strategic pursuit of an over-arching goal.

We learned about theories of change, or illustrations of how and why change will occur in a particular context. I developed a measurable, attainable, and time-bound theory of change for our immigration program that results in increased participation in DACA and improved awareness of the needs of undocumented LGBT Californians.

Mentors shared hands-on tactics for, among other things, writing better e-blasts that inspire action. We learned that even the shortest tweet can have structure and that branding must begin with behavior. We explored the many ways in which we are spokespeople for our causes and experienced the gradual and strategic arc that rapid response crisis management should take. In these ways, we reinforced existing skills and pushed the boundaries of what we can offer our organizations and communities.

Our agenda covered big picture ideas such as:

  • the importance of developing a theory of change,
  • the many audiences we must remember to address,
  • the process of developing a brand,
  • the value of positive messaging,
  • the ways in which we can engage in social listening to determine what will connect with our audiences,
  • and the way in which wording can affect both the solutions people return and the ways in which people recall the original problem.

Our SPIN Academy mentors didn’t demand participation. Instead, they inspired participation by tapping into the emotional momentum of activities and asking, “Who feels moved?” In this way, our mentors kept us centered on our goals. We gained advocacy tools without losing sight of why we work for advocacy organizations in the first place – the communities and values that we love.

Words are tools. The effective use of words is an art. Art is an agent of change. What moves you?

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