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frank brings the utopia into view

Imagine this: You just arrived at a conference and are preparing yourself for a few  days of PowerPoint presentations, panel discussions and lengthy talks on something related to your work. But instead of that scenario, you’re met with a chance to learn, possibly become inspired and connect with other people in your field in a dynamic, creative environment. Many of the mainstage events open with a jamming, live marching band, or a soloist singing Nina Simone’s soulful tunes. You quickly realize, this is not your average conference. It’s something bigger and different, that brings people together, but with an infusion of cultural elements at its core. This is the experience felt at the frank gathering hosted by the University of Florida and it is lit.  A drumline performs on the mainstage of frank 2023.

This year, movement builders and change makers attending the frank gathering were implored to imagine a Utopian society — one where all the blood, sweat and tears of justice movements have dismantled every oppressive system and the inequities that plague our society. We would leave our children a world in which they can thrive and bloom. Once we all sat in silence for a while with this imaginary world in our minds, our task was then to understand how to get there while embracing the theme of the conference: “The Long View.”

The long view is a short way of saying change won’t happen fast. We will need to shape and mold it and then take our time to get there. The long view can be  tough to accept when we exist in a society where the word “free” doesn’t apply to all and our rights are increasingly under attack. But change can’t — and won’t — happen overnight. Taking the long view means to set a course for a better future. It means developing the grit and determination to put in the work and build the connections to partner to help move the work forward, knowing results will not be immediate. Mia Birdsong, founding Executive Director of Next River and frank’s first mainstage speaker, set the stage for our visionary thinking when she said “imagine a liberated future." She went on to describe a freedom that is collective, and described it as a "practice, a thing we do, not realize."

As public interest communicators, we understand the long view all too well. We work side-by-side with our dedicated client partners to tackle these tough issues every day, knowing that our work requires building a humanized narrative that pulls in cultural and lived experiences to touch the hearts and minds of the right people. Our work relies on written words, such as press releases, social media posts and blogs (like this one) that repeats over and over again the key messages and themes that we need our audiences to think, feel and do to propel the work forward and get the right people at the right time to pay attention and create change. But we are keenly aware that our work alone won’t affect change. Change happens beyond the exchange of information. It requires meaningful and inspiring connections.

If we are to describe and paint this better future in the long view in order to bring our communities along for the movement, it won’t be through a slide presentation and standard communications. A recent study noted that when we dream, we often think of the future. Our job is to not only inspire this future, but build the long view and tie it to our dreams. And very few of our dreams have messaging and talking points. Instead, they are rich in marching bands, Nina Simone songs, bright mesmerizing colors and emotions from our daily lives.  As our dreams have these elements, so should our stories, communications and conferences where they’re asking us to work toward a long view.

The air at frank filled with notes of cultural goodness – good music, good food, good art, good vibes – offered the space for connections and collaboration to happen, that quite frankly (no pun intended) brought the long view into perfect scope and helped many of us build partnerships and collaborations that will undoubtedly get us one step closer to the utopia we all dream of and know is possible.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 8, 2023 at 09:59 am and is filed under Coalition, connection and network building. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.