I finally meet Nick Kristof

May 3, 2009 at 8:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Just wrapped up the Women’s Funding Network conference in Atlanta. One theme I heard throughout  was the need for foundations to use strategic communications to tell their stories, influence policy, raise more money etc.   Nick Kristof, the conference keynote, summed it up when he said, “the average toothpaste has better messaging than humanitarian organization.”  Here, here!

So, I have been waiting for my chance to meet Kristof for years. In his remarks he talked about the most effective interventions for keeping  girls in school – things like de-worming medication or sanitary napkins as opposed to building more schools.  Well, he said the magic words for SHE, and I had a chance to go up to him afterward and make the pitch:  SHE is launching women-led businesses in Africa that keep girls in school by selling low-cost locally made sanitary napkins!   He wanted to know how much it costs to keep a girl in school by providing a sanitary napkins – he is all about the best return on investment.

Fine.  But then my new favorite woman Yassine Fall from UNIFEM took the mic and told him the reason why girls don’t go to school was that structural adjustment from the IMF has stopped governments from investing in public goods like education and eliminating school fees.   Policy is the problem, not as Kristof suggested, men spending less of the family income on alcohol and entertainment and more on education and health. She said his analysis was demonizing African men as irresponsible fathers who only drink beer.  The confrontation was an exciting moment in the fancy hotel ballroom.

Well, its too late for Kristof to add Yassine’s perspective in his upcoming book called “Half the Sky” all about women’s rights.  He both opened and closed his speech saying: “I truly believe the struggle of the 21st century is a struggle for greater gender equity in the world.” Good messaging — take note women’s funds!

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How does media coverage help social entrepreneurs?

February 8, 2009 at 3:05 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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For my thesis I am designing a media strategy for Sustainable Health Enterprises, launched by social entrepreneur and Echoing Green fellow Elizabeth Scharpf. SHE is launching a low-cost, locally produced maxi pad to keep girls in school when they are menstruating, an age-old problem in many poor countries.  I am having a great time looking into the question : what does press coverage do for social entrepreneurs?  To answer this I am standing in the overlap of public relations, philanthropy, and social entrepreneurship — what an interesting little triangle.

To to find out exactly what happens after major media exposure, I had  an interesting chat today with Jennifer Corriero, executive director and founder of TakingITglobal, my favorite youth-led technology organization.  Like many non profits, TIG never directly sought media exposure.  But in the early days of TIG, press coverage, like this article from FastCompany about her and Mike, launched the organization skyward.

She confirmed some theories that I will explore further in my research:

  • After the articles came out the response was always immediate.  The main benefit was that high caliber people reached out to TIG and offered partnership and support that helped for years to come.
  • Media coverage adds legitmacy, especially for start-ups; articles can be passed to potential funders and new contacts.
  • Keep in touch with journalists, find the ones that have a genuine interest in your project and keep them updated.
  • Awards matter, they drive press coverage.
  • Media can be a great way to strengthen relationships with funders by mentioning them in the story.

You can be a part of this thesis process: tell me your stories, how have you leveraged the media to achieve your goals?  If you know someone I should talk to, send me a shout.

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