"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella

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Five Tips for Strategic Communication

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Strategic communication can encompass so much. In this brief tip sheet we focus specifically on e-newsletters. However, they can be helpful for any strategic communication.​

 

 

 

1.  Start with a creative brief

A creative brief clarifies what you’re going to develop and why. Even if you think everyone’s already clear about what you’re creating and why, write it down – and refer back to make sure you are staying true to your intent. Decide the sequence of topics in a series so they build on future ones.

Example:  If your organization is writing a monthly e-newsletter, ask everyone involved to comment on a creative brief, plan out the year, and keep that creative brief handy as the letters are crafted and edited. If the intent doesn’t stay crystal clear to you, it won’t to your readers.

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Key Items in a Creative Brief

  • overall aim of the communication
  • intended users
  • desired action(s) for users
  • tone/ look/ feel of the communication.

The brief may also include other items such as key promise to users and obstacles they might face. 

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2.  Anticipate your readers’ time constraints 

People are overloaded with information so keep your communication short and the size of the average computer screen. The subject line should be the most important information you want to convey; something that makes the reader want to open your email. Write main points first, so readers do not have to scroll down to get what you want them to learn. Add links to additional information at the end of your content.

Example:  If you have a longer topic to write about, create a blog post and link to it in your e-newsletter. Videos should also be a link and not included in an e-newsletter.

3.  Give them something

It’s tempting to try to persuade people and sell things to them – especially when we feel passionate about what we are selling! But, people tire of that and may unsubscribe permanently. They are most drawn to communications that give them something they want. What would entice your clients to keep receiving your communications over time? What would be truly useful and/or inspiring for them? Balance that with messages you want to send or things you want to sell.

Example:  If your organization has helpful resources, make them available to people virtually – even if just a snippet of something they’d enjoy, use, or pass on. End your email with a thought-provoking question, quote or action item.

4.  Make it easy

We get so much to read each and every day, no one will complain if you make your communications easy to digest. Follow a few basic Plain Language guidelines, and check for readability. 

Example:  As you draft e-news, follow the guidelines in the box. Ask two people to review it and mark out anything they feel can be simplified further.​

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Five Plain Language Guidelines

  • Write content the way you would say it.
  • Keep sentences short; divide longer sentences.
  • Be concise; go back and remove unnecessary words and phrases.
  • Speak in active voice versus passive voice (ex: the Board will present the strategic plan vs. the strategic plan will be presented by the Board).
  • Share with one other person to read for understanding before sending out

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5.  Time it right

There’s a lot to consider on the topic of timing! On one level, think about when the focus of each communication could best lead the user to take an action. For example, if there is a deadline for an application, send the communication so that it is received in plenty time for them to decide and complete the application – but not so far in advance that they might set it aside. Finally, think about when you can send a communication ahead of other, similar communications.

Example:  If your organization is writing a newsletter to solicit end-of-year funds, best to get it out well before the deluge of solicitations hits them late December. You can send a very short reminder email closer to the date that refers to the previous email.

6.  Test it out

Usability tests can sound quite complicated and costly, but they need not be. Even if you have one person use it, you can gain valuable feedback on its usability. Make little tweaks based on what you discover.

Example:  If you are sending e-news with hotlinks send it to a few people and (if possible) watch what they do with it. Do they click? If so, where do they go? What do they do next? Is that what you intended?

Once you get going with your e-newsletters, you can keep an eye on what percentage of people are opening it, when they open it, and what they click on. You always have opportunities to continually improve the effectiveness of your emails.

Which tip is especially helpful in your work? What new tip can you add?

*****

Valerie Uccellani (valerie@globallearningpartners.com) is a GLP co-owner and Managing Partner of our Consulting network, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP; Rachel Nicolosi (rachel@globallearningpartners.com) is a Partner and Core Consultant with GLP. Feel free to contact either of them to learn more about strategic communication.

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Enliven Your Museum Experience:  Strategies for Engaging and Interacting with Art

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Every work of art can be seen as a complementary part of an undefined, unified whole of past human experience—a trail that leads to our doorstep and continues on with any of us open to exploring and continuing the conversation. Let’s invite the conversation!

Use the following questions and activities to explore artwork. Whether in a museum, in front of an apartment building, in a park, or in your home, artwork invites dialogue. Art has something to say.

Open questions can be provocative, personal, and powerful. Open questions are a tool to engage and interact with art.

Before Your Museum Visit

In preparation for your museum visit, go to the website and preview the collections available. Select three or four works of art that you would like to explore more deeply during your visit. If this is challenging to do in advance, at least decide which collection you would like to explore more intentionally. You can decide which artwork to spend quality time with once you are in that collection.    

Consider bringing a journal or notebook with you to record your thoughts and ideas, and to draw or doddle. If you are new to this tool for engagement, try it out with a few works of art and see how it feels. You may be surprised!

Photocopy or transcribe the below questions to take with you. Although you may not want to work through all the questions, having them at hand can be helpful. 

Lastly, give yourself plenty of time—each artwork offers a world to reflect on, appreciate and learning from.

First Impressions  

When answering these questions, look only at the title of the artwork and the name of the artist. 

  •  What is the first thing you notice about this artwork?
  •   What words or ideas come to mind?
  •   How does this artwork make you feel? Why might this be?
  •   What is going on in this artwork?
  •   What else do you notice?

Going Deeper

  • What do you know about this artwork or the objects in it? What is familiar/unfamiliar?
  • What more can you say about the different characters/elements of the artwork?
  • What more can you say about where and when this is happening? Consider factors such as era, season, time of day, or moment of action.
  • Where was the artist standing in order to create this artwork? Why may this be?
  • What colours, textures, types of lines and shapes are used to communicate? Why may this be?

About the Artist

As we consider the artist’s perspective, read the information on the wall about the artist and the particular piece you are looking at.

  • What do you think interested the artist in this subject?
  • What may be different had the artist created this artwork today? In your city?
  • What would you like to ask the artist if she/he was here?
  • What may the artist say about this artwork?
  • What style or techniques did the artist use? Why may this be?

It’s Time to Draw

Take a closer look at the lines, colors, textures, patterns and shapes that you see in the artwork. Select a portion of the artwork that interests you and draw/re-create it in a 6” x 6” square. Use your impression and interpretation of the artwork. Be creative!

  • What do you notice about your drawing?
  • How would the feeling of the artwork change from the original, if you drew the entire piece in this way?

Stimulate Your Senses

  • How could you animate this artwork to show movement?
  • What music does this artwork evoke for you?
  • Place yourself in the artwork. What do you see, hear, feel, do, smell, or taste? Who are you in relation to the overall theme or topic in the artwork?
  • What may have happened before or after what is depicted in the artwork? What suggests this to you?

Sum It Up

  • What is the principal theme in this artwork, for you? What would you change or add to the artwork to have it be more related to this principal theme? 
  • What important message(s) does this artwork offer for you today?

 

So, which museum are you going to visit next? Which 2-3 questions do you know you want to take with you to deepen the dialogue and learning?

*****

Mary Jane Oliveri loves visiting museums and art. Presently, MJ lives and works for several non-profit associations in Paris, France.

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Shared Power: Differences in Dialogue with Children and Adults

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“Dialogue Education sounds great, but what does it look like with children?”​

I heard this question many times as a graduate student, but never thought I would have to answer it myself. I had no idea I would soon be working as an Afterschool Teacher with a diverse group of eighteen 4th and 5th grade students. This job forced me to reevaluate the lessons I learned as a student and practitioner of Dialogue Education and a learning-centered approach. Every day, amidst the chaos of my classroom, I thought to myself:  “Dialogue Education sounds great, but what does it look like with children—especially these kids?”

By daily asking this question, I began to live my way into an answer; an answer that has fundamentally changed my understanding of dialogue, and my understanding of power.

When I first encountered Dialogue Education, I thought it was all about letting go of power. The teacher, forsaking professorial domination in pursuit of real dialogue, becomes a co-learner and creates space for learners to discover their own power. Then the teacher “gets out of the way,” relinquishing power to learners until the process is complete in an event called “the death of the professor.” In my mind, Dialogue Education invited me to let go of power as a teacher for the sake of learners and their learning, as an act of love.

Then, at my new job, I received the opposite advice: I was instructed to hold on to control as much as I could. “These kids are tough,” more experienced teachers told me. “They will push you around if you let them, so they need to know you are in control.” As much as I cringed at this advice, these teachers knew what they were talking about. The more power I let go of, the more my students took advantage of it. When I didn’t hold on to control, students would cause problems for each other and someone would get hurt. When I held on to as much control as I could, I protected students from each other, and from themselves. This, too, was an act of love.

And yet I was not content to dictate classroom dynamics, even if it led to increased order and productivity. I still believed in dialogue as well as a learning-centered approach to teaching. So I did not forsake Dialogue Education, but wrestled to re-contextualize the principles and practices for a rowdy crowd of elementary students. In doing so, I realized how Dialogue Education is not mainly about letting go of power, nor is it about holding on to control: it is about using power well so that it can be shared, which may mean letting go of power or holding on to control, depending on the situation.

This has changed the way I employ the principles and practices of Dialogue Education as taught by Global Learning Partners. Take the principle of “Safety,” for example. Sometimes, safety requires “getting out of the way” to allow softer voices to be heard. Other times, safety requires “getting in the way” to prevent louder voices from dominating. Or take the principle of  “Respect.” Sometimes, respect means allowing learners to make their own decisions. Other times, respect requires taking away this privilege when they are actively disrespecting one another with harmful words and actions. In my own class, I learned that cultivating safety and respect does not only require a soft heart; it also requires thick skin.

So, what does Dialogue Education look like with children?

It still looks like applying the principles and practices, only with younger learners who often require power to be used differently for dialogue to emerge. Ultimately, this points to the necessity of a learning needs and resources assessment, and the importance of the “WHO” in every learning situation. Before we can say what Dialogue Education looks like with children, we must ask, “Which children?”

With the children in my class, I first had to close the space so that learners could safely and respectfully engage without yelling and flying objects getting in the way. Only then could dialogue emerge. In other words, I had to use my power in such a way that this specific group of learners could use theirs. On the occasions when I succeeded, the result was an environment of giving and receiving what one another had to offer—a power that was shared, even enjoyed.

As teachers, we need to ask ourselves what will maximize learning in each situation. My goal now is not always letting go of my power, nor is it holding on to control—it is to use my power well, for and with the specific learners in the room. The principles and practices of Dialogue Education call us to use our power well and intentionally so that others can use theirs, until the power of every learner can be shared in love.

What other learning-centered principles and practices have you found to be effective with children?

How may this be different or the same when working with youth?

*****

Drew Boa works at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA. He is in the process of publishing a curriculum for youth about sexual health and wellness, which he began designing while taking "Advanced Learning Design" with Global Learning Partners. He loves Dialogue Education and is a daily practitioner!

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An Action Package for Managers, Part II

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In Part One of this blog series we shared a story about how Global Learning Partners (GLP) and pro mujer collaboratively built the skills of managers in the context of their day-to-day work. If you didn’t get a chance to watch the video about that process, enjoy it here.

In this post we briefly show how the structure and implementation of the learning program for managers reflect critical principles of adult learning.

To start, take a close look at the snapshot, above. The green paths are three, six-week periods of self-directed on-the-job learning. The red circles are four in-person gatherings, called “refueling stations.” Each of the carefully facilitated in-person gatherings:

  • is built on a concrete set of learning objectives that name what the managers will have done by the end of the time together;
  • balances action with reflection, allowing time for managers to exchange past experiences around a particular aspect of their work, and plan for how they will approach that aspect moving forward; and,
  • focuses on relevant content, prioritized through both self-assessment and outside perspective.

During the weeks of self-directed learning, managers used personal workbooks with a consistent structure to try out new skills on the job as exemplified in the box below. On the recommendation of managers during the rapid pilot phase, each workbook begins with a proposed timeline for pacing themselves through the self-directed learning.

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Key Skills

Step One: Reflect

e.g. Reflect on which leadership qualities you exhibit most consistently.

Step Two: Discover

e.g. Read this one page resource about feedback and select one strategy you’ll use this month.

Step Three: Try It Out

e.g. Select three staff from whom you would value feedback on your work. Adapt this draft invitation for their feedback and review these tips for how to accept their feedback well.

Step Four: Plan

e.g. Use this action sheet to capture one thing you will continue and one thing you might do differently as a result of the feedback you received.

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We congratulate pro mujer staff in Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua and Bolivia for the collaborative design and implementation of a practical action package built entirely on the true meaning of “learning by doing.” This has been exciting work!

What ideas for “learning by doing” does this two-part blog inspire in you?

*****

Valerie Uccellani (valerie@globallearningpartners.com) is a GLP co-owner and Managing Partner of our Consulting network, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP; Christine Little (christine@globallearningpartners.com) is a Partner and Core Consultant with GLP. Feel free to contact either of them to learn more about this work.

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An Action Package for Managers, Part I

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Do you sometimes find that training doesn’t stick? Watch a four-minute case study with a creative approach to taking new skills out of the workshop and into the workplace.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbeMNxFubvA&feature=youtu.be

Keep an eye out for Part Two of this blog for a closer look at this work.

What ideas for your organization does this blog inspire in you?​

*****

Valerie Uccellani (valerie@globallearningpartners.com) is a GLP co-owner and Managing Partner of our Consulting network, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP; Christine Little (christine@globallearningpartners.com) is a Partner and Core Consultant with GLP. Feel free to contact either of them to learn more about this work.

 

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