Meet a PCNer

Meet a PCNer: Gopal Dayaneni

 Posted by on September 16, 2012  No Responses »
Sep 162012
1) What communication work have you done?

From my perspective, Strategic Communication, Grassroots Organizing and People Powered Direct Action are the three pillars of successful movement building. Of course they all go together. For decades our progressive movements have neglected the importance of narrative, story and framing, but the tide has turned and we’ve gotten much better at how we leverage not just the truth, but our stories and experiences towards social transformation. I’ve been honored to have worked through incredible organizations in all aspects of communications in connection to organizing, movement building, campaigns, direct action and popular education. Groups such as the Design Action Collective, which provides graphic communications for social justice and whose design and messaging has helped win many victories. Through smartMeme Strategy and Training Project, which has trained hundreds of organizers in narrative strategy and helped design creative interventions. Through the Ruckus Society that has equipped countless communities with direct action skills and, of course, with the Progressive Communicators Network, which provides a critical space for cross pollination, sharing and skills building among those committed to communications.

2) How did you get started doing communication work? Where has it led you to today?

Hmm. I don’t know. I’ve always been a talker, framer, type. I think I really started doing media work through my Direct Action work, beginning in the early 90s with the first Gulf War.

3) What role does collaboration/cross-pollination play in your work?

Our movements must constantly innovate as both the culture and conditions change. With rapid changes in media and technology; as well as in popular culture, we must find and create intentional spaces where we can come together to share skills, insights, innovations and resources. PCN is one of those spaces. So many important collaborations have emerged through the relationship building that PCN offers. I’ve worked with folks to bridge the communications gap between folks working against the prison industrial complex from diverse perspectives, for example, through PCN. Because of the strength of relationships, we were able to work together despite political difference.

4) Why did you first join PCN? How long have you been part of PCN? What work/organizations have you supported during that time?

In 2004 I helped organize a conference called Designs on Democracy that brought together people working in graphic design and strategic communications for social justice. The conference, with 450 people, was wildly successful. After that conference, I was invited to PCN and found that it served a really important purpose that was missing at our conference, which was the depth you can have in a smaller, intentional space.

Of course, the network has grown tremendously, but the growth has been based on relationships and affinities, so everyone still maintains a closeness of relationship. In the early days of communications work, we inherited the “proprietary” attitudes of the PR world. We would hold onto our media lists or not share our curriculum. PCN really broke that down. I remember during the 2004 Election Protection work, I put out a request for media lists to PCN and I received dozens of incredible lists of reporters in every state. That kind of sharing comes from trust.

5) How has PCN supported you and the broader communications world/movement?

I think one of the important roles that PCN has played in the movement is helping to highlight the importance of strategic communications, but ALWAYS in the context of organizing first. We don’t win through communications, we win through organizing. Communications helps improve our organizing. Communications without organizing is like putting icing on a brick and calling it a cake. Doesn’t matter how tasty or fancy it looks, you just won’t feed you. That is part of the DNA of PCN – and that is why it has been so valuable to organizers.

Meet a PCNer: Ludovic Blain

 Posted by on September 6, 2012  No Responses »
Sep 062012
1) What communication work have you done?

I’ve help run campaigns promoting environmental justice by defeating incinerators in communities of color, stopping big tobacco’s laser focus on the black community, helping youth document the NY Times’ racist frames about youth and crime, and spotlighting the racist politics of 2008 presidential campaign through Much of my advocacy work has relied on good communications strategy to leverage the power we had into what it took to win.

2) How did you get started doing communication work? Where has it led you to today?

I started doing communications work while leading environmental justice organizing and advocacy campaigns at NYPIRG. When I realized how entrenched racist frames were across so many issues–tobacco use, lead poisoning, mass transit, education and many others–I strategized to undermine those frames to achieve our power-building and policy goals. That led me to open up the East Coast office of We INTERRUPT This Message, an anti-racist communication strategy group. I now advise key individual donors on their partisan and non-partisan giving, building power in communities of color to govern progressively.

3) What role does collaboration/cross-pollination play in your work?

I’ve found it incredibly rewarding to hove worked in a variety of geographic, issue and strategy sectors. Very often what was old hat in one area was an innovation in another. And when various folks are truly at the table, often someone’s strengths will cover other collaborator’s weaknesses.

4) Why did you first join PCN? How long have you been part of PCN? What work/orgs have you supported during that time?

When I first got the call from Linda about this idea, the progressive non-profit communications strategy sector was small, un-recognized and highly divided. Her initiative, which became PCN, was clearly much needed at that time. Although I was barred from attending the first PCN by my employer (because he thought other attendees would steal our materials), I participated in the next 5 or so, and have attended several gathering since. PCN has been a key part of the growing communications infrastructure for the last decade.

5) How has PCN supported you & the broader comms world/movement?

As I said, PCN came into being at a team when the sector’s leaders would barely get into a room with each other. Through the relationships that PCN has fostered, the sector has moved far beyond that animosity into one where collaboration, partnership and transparency has been normed. PCN has fostered me while I tried to achieve those goals, and far beyond them. I’ve seen the results of the relationships built and sustained at PCN in the real world.

Meet a PCNer: Chris Rabb

 Posted by on August 30, 2012  1 Response »
Aug 302012
1) What communications work do you do?

The communication work I have done over the years has been quite diverse.

From 2003 – 2009 I was a political blogger, having founded Afro-Netizen in 1999 in my native Chicago. I am also a facilitator who trains individuals and teams on issues of communication & collaboration via teaching principles of improvisation. I also am a public speaker on issues of identity, media & politics. I was also an active member of The Media Consortium where my communications efforts took on a more strategic & advocacy sensibility.

I have advised Free Press, ColorOfChange & other groups on communications issues as well as served as a board member on the media-focused racial justice organization, Applied Research Center. I have also written, narrated, and hosted a nationally televised show produced by ARC and been featured on TV, radio & print on a host of different social justice-related topics.

2) How did you get started doing communication work? When you were a kid did you think you were going to be doing this type of work?

As a writer, performer & student leader in high school & college, my communications background included writing columns, essays, stand-up comedy, public speaking as early as 1986. This circuitous path led to me having written a book on social entrepreneurship in 2010 that is widely available and led to adjunct appointments at two universities & spawned several interactive workshops.

3) What is it that you most enjoy about doing communications in movement work?

I believe in the principle of “collective autonomy”, as I am self-employed & highly entrepreneurial, yet enjoy & require engaging an array of other colleagues with whom I work in different capacities. I understand the necessity of functional diversity, so I often seek out folks who have strengths in areas that are underdeveloped for me.

4) What is your greatest challenge?

I joined PCN at the behest of Tracy van Slyke way back when. And my first PCN national gathering was in Santa Fe. The application process alone was so thorough and impressive that I knew I wanted to be part of this amazing group for the long haul!

I have sought to be a quiet resource to my colleagues at and in between gatherings, most especially by leveraging my networks for the benefit of my fellow members.

5) What role does collaboration play in your work?

The expertise, intellectual capital & spirit of the members has allowed me such great info, perspectives & access to various networks over the years.

Meet A PCNer: Allison Conyers

 Posted by on August 27, 2012  No Responses »
Aug 272012
1) What communications work do you do?

I have done media relations and communications training for a number of national organizations such as the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, and ACORN. The work led me to organizational development and I recently became the Director of Education and Training at Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.

2) How did you get started doing communication work? When you were a kid did you think you were going to be doing this type of work?

When I was a kid, I wrote for my school newspaper and volunteered for local non-profits. I wanted to share the stories of the people that I was working with and I quickly found out that the best way for me to do that was not through being a beat reporter. So, I decided to go into public relations. I majored in journalism with a concentration in public relations at Howard University.

3) What is it that you most enjoy about doing communications in movement work?

What I most enjoyed was working with community representatives who wanted to share their personal stories. I love hearing personal narratives that highlight an individual’s journey to becoming an advocate.  It was an honor to be charged with ensuring that these stories reached the rest of the world.

4) What is your greatest challenge?

Sometimes it is hard to come up with quantitative measures that show success due to specific communications efforts.  I think this is because creating change needs to be done by a collective. Communications is essential but it is just one of the roles that need to be filled in order to make change.

5) What role does collaboration play in your work?

Collaboration is key. Working with other communicators made me much more effective.   I was able to learn from their experiences and refine my own work.

6) Why did you first join PCN? How long have you been part of PCN? What work/orgs have you supported during that time?

I’ve been part of PCN since 2004. David Swanson, a long-time communicator, encouraged me to join. I was a founding member of the Katrina Information Network and I served as board chair. I  also helped plan a few PCN Gatherings.

During this time I have worked on issues like economic and reproductive justice and criminal justice reform.

7) How has PCN continued to support you & the broader comms world/movement?

PCN has supported me by connecting me to an amazing network of giving, dedicated professionals who taught me how to do this work. Being a member of PCN has been life-changing because it showed me  that when you have a safe space, full of trust you can create a productive community.

Stealthily, PCN has been changing the world by fertilizing ideas and sharing communications strategies. People who are part of PCN have come up with  many, many innovative ways to make the world better through all sorts of avenues.