The Ideaction Blog

Ideaction Corps Thinkathon – Solving Problems with Collective Innovation

Posted by Kelly O'Brien on February 4, 2014

If you’ve ever been in the position of securing consulting or creative services, you know that it often takes a leap of faith. Will they do what they promised? What exactly is the deliverable? Should we really just do this in-house? Is this a good use of limited funds? What happens if they don’t deliver?

I’ve been there. It’s stressful for both the proposal requestor and the proposal submitter. Outlining expectations when you don’t really know each other, well, it can be a little scary.  Since Ideaction Corps is a relatively new entity with a business model that is outside of the box, we’ve been piloting something we’re calling a ‘Thinkathon” to help bridge this river of risk.

Thinkathon is a short two-hour or less session that brings together a curated team of Corps members to problem-solve a specific challenge with a client. The term is drawn from hackathon, an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects in a short period of time. In this case, we use our brains, intuition, and experience to help overcome challenges. We draw from design thinking, the Technology of Participation, and ideas from the Wisdom of Crowds to create a fun, innovative and outcomes focused event.

A challenge can be something as simple as trying to ideate a new, creative way to host an annual fundraising event, message a new product, or reach new audiences for your service or merchandise. It could be something bigger, such as developing global partnerships or launching an advocacy campaign to support advancement of a public policy change. 

Recently we road tested the concept with the Springboard Foundation, facilitating a roundtable of their grantees around the challenge of creating new local partnerships that can help them expand and strengthen their programs. Five of Ideaction’s Corps members (Bolster Mission, Think.Plan.Do., Traci Failla, Graettinger-Cole, and The Advocacy Collaborative) worked with the group of twelve Springboard grantee executive directors adding additional outside knowledge and experience to a room filled with knowledge and experience- for exponential results. The feedback was fantastic; 79% percent of participants said they left with new ideas and actionable next steps. We are definitely on to something.

The Thinkathon process provided a different way to network and share ideas. We were able to mine the collective group’s experiences to surface best practices and create meaningful next steps. When you can do that, people leave feeling like they have participated in something worthwhile. Sejal Shah-Myers, Managing Director, Springboard Foundation

Ideaction convened a team of industry professionals in different focus areas to help shape the direction of the workshop as participants themselves, so we emerged with a 360 degree experience of the topic, and left with a variety of ideas and actionable next steps around aspects of the topic specific to our organization's needs. Michael Simons, Executive Director, Intonation Music Workshop

Ideaction Corps is a collaborative of accomplished agencies and freelancers working together for the common good. Together, we are a full service social change agency. We believe in the power of collaborative innovation, and we think much can be accomplished in a short period of time when people set their minds on reaching a collective vision.

If your organization has a sticky challenge you are trying to solve, or you think you need some outside help but are not quite ready to take the plunge, reach out. Achieving all big goals begins with the first small step.

Kelly O'Brien is the President and Founder of Ideaction Corps, a full service social change agency whose clients include companies and causes doing good. She's passionate about helping people and organizations find the path to work with purpose, big ideas and infecting grace. She can be reached at @kellymobrien or @ideactioncorps on Twitter, or via the Ideaction Corps website.

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Meet the Corps: Jill Pollack, StoryStudio

Posted by Kelly O'Brien on January 25, 2014

Ideaction Corps is a collaborative of accomplished professionals working together for the common good. An inspiring group of people, we thought you might like to meet them. Each week or so we'll profile a Corps member, and chat with them about their perspectives on social and collective impact.

 

Tell us a little bit about StoryStudio.

StoryStudio Chicago is a writing training center for creative writers and business writers alike. We offer more than 150 classes each year for folks working on novels, short stories, memoirs, blog posts—you name it.

Our Words for Work program creates customized training workshops for companies using our successful storytelling techniques.

Could you tell us a little more about how StoryStudio's Words for Work might help a for-purpose business?

There are so many worthy, important businesses and organizations out there that what distinguishes us is our stories—origin stories, client and customer stories, staff stories, and success stories. Words for Work teaches writers and communicators at all levels how to tell those stories in a compelling way and how to create a sense of urgency moving people to action. 

What inspires you most about collective impact in the consulting space?

It’s always exciting to take on projects that are bigger than you. Working collectively enables that. And while I’m all about providing our clients with excellent products and services, what I like most is working with other consultants and creators, learning new tricks.

What causes are you most passionate about?

I’m passionate about everything. That’s my problem! Right now, living in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, I worry a great deal about homelessness. And basic needs like food have always been in the forefront. But I also care a great deal about human rights, equal rights. That means making sure everyone has access to services whether they are gay, straight, from another country, etc 

Why are social impact initiatives important for for-profit companies to embrace? How do you get involved in making our community a little better?

I think social impact initiatives are just important for everyone, at all stages of our lives, personal and professional. If we want to live in a dynamic city, then we have to participate in it’s feed and caring. In Judaism there’s a phrase, Tikun Olam, or “heal the world.” I know I can’t heal the whole world, but I can try and make a different in my small part of it.

Do you have any advice for businesses that are implementing social impact initiatives for companies and individuals?

It’s hard to give advice in this area as every business and every community is different. I’d say get out and talk to people, see what your company’s unique mission is, what its gifts are, and then run some small pilot projects.

It’s important for all of your stakeholders and staff to be engaged in this process. At StoryStudio, to celebrate our 10th anniversary, we did a year of StoryStudio Gives Back. Each month we either collected donations for an organization or got out and volunteered around the neighborhood. We had staff and students and friends join us and it was great fun. Plus, we got to see several organizations in action and decide whom we wanted to continue a relationship with.

How has the intersection of business/profit, with social responsibility and purpose changed the way you work with clients?

It hasn’t. In all of my businesses customer service has been the most important imperative.

How do you see the consulting industry changing in the next 5-10 years?

Good consulting will always remain the same: listening and truly understanding what the client needs and delivering it. Full stop.

What will always change is technology. But the relationships we have with clients must be the foundation of any successful project and no matter how much we say we can’t live without email, when it comes to clients, I can’t live without chatting on the phone and getting to know someone.

What did I not ask you that you really want people to know? Life advice? Business tip? Words of wisdom?

Think big. 

Kelly O'Brien is the President and Founder of Ideaction Corps, a full service social change agency whose clients include companies and causes doing good. She's passionate about helping people and organizations find the path to work with purpose, big ideas and infecting grace. She can be reached at @kellymobrien or @ideactioncorps on Twitter, or via the Ideaction Corps website.

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Meet the Corps: Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media

Posted by Kelly O'Brien on January 3, 2014

Ideaction Corps is a collaborative of accomplished professionals working together for the common good. An inspiring group of people, we thought you might like to meet them. Each week we'll profile a member of the Corps, and chat with them about their perspectives on social and collective impact.

Tell us a little bit about your company and what services it provides.

Orbit Media is a web design company. We actually don’t offer any other services. We tend to work best with companies that have high expectations for results. These are often ecommerce sites, content marketing platforms and lead generation websites.

Why are social impact initiatives important for for-profit companies to embrace? How do you and your company get involved in making our community a little better?

One of the ways we give back is through our annual in-kind donation program, Chicago Cause. Together with other creative firms, we donate services to Chicago non-profits with marketing needs. This is the fourth year we’ve done this and each year, the number of groups involved and the value of the donations increases.

It’s a fantastic way to give back, involve the team, collaborate with other companies and be strategic about the donations. The goal is to align the donation with the company that has the greatest need and the ability to take advantage of that service. 

Why do you think it is important for companies to find ways to make their community better?  Do you have any advice for businesses that are implementing social impact initiatives for companies and individuals? (another way to say this, what advice would you give to companies or individuals who are working to make money AND make a difference?

Fundamentally, we all need to keep asking the question “Why?” Why are we working within this industry or community? Why are we working with this client? Why is this work important?

We have to understand and connect with the purpose of our work or it isn’t meaningful. I don’t mean just charitable work. Any work can be purposeful. But it’s not likely to have an impact if it’s not connected to the “why.”

What is it that you (as an individual and/or company) does best?  How can you help companies who want to make a difference? 

We are really focused on building platforms that build connections. Generally, this means developing websites that create leads and sales, but there are many more ways that we do this.

We are dedicated to education and through our blog, our book and our events, we’re always teaching anyone who is interested (not just leads and clients) how to build connections. We’re also very active networkers. Every day, we make introductions between people and businesses, friends and clients, prospects and partners.

How do you see the web design industry changing in the next 5-10 years?

In the last few years, we’ve seen a few mega trends. Mobile and social have been the big ones. In the next few years, I expect marketing automation and content marketing will become more popular and important. The value of great writers will increase in the next few years.

What causes are you most passionate about?

The environment. I’m very concerned about our atmosphere and oceans. This is the most important cause to me.

What did I not ask you that you really want people to know? Life advice? Business tip? Words of wisdom?

Empathy, forethought and collaboration. These are the keys to solving the big problems ahead. Thank you, Ideaction!

Andy Crestodina is a co-founder of Orbit Media, an award winning, B Corp certified web design company here in Chicago. Over the past 13 years, Andy has provided web strategy and marketing advice to more than 1000 businesses. Andy teaches marketing. He’s written hundreds of articles on topics like email marketing, search optimization, social media, Analytics and content strategy. He is also the author of Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing.

Kelly O'Brien is the President and Founder of Ideaction Corps, a full service social change agency whose clients include companies and causes doing good. She's passionate about helping people and organizations find the path to work with purpose, big ideas and infecting grace. She can be reached at @kellymobrien or @ideactioncorps on Twitter, or via the Ideaction Corps website.

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