SPIN Acadamy strategic communications workshop

Do-gooders achieve great things, but we can always do better (myself included). Sometimes, all we need is some focused training time.

For 13 years, the SPIN Academy has brought together a diverse group of people united by one goal: to improve their ability to use communications strategies and tactics to make a better world.

In August, more than 60 participants learned how to be better advocates for the aging, LGBT community, immigrants, women, students, families . . . essentially, to better advocates for all of us.

The SPIN experience

This was my tenth year as a SPIN Academy trainer, helping participants think through how they could take their SPIN learnings back to their organizations to increase their impact.

But at my first SPIN Academy, I was a participant, with just a few years of professional progressive communications under my belt. Like many people, I had learned how to do my job on the job. I had little time to take a step back to gain perspective and little context for thinking about how to do it better.

My SPIN Academy experience gave me the framework to not only become a better communicator, but also to become a better advocate for strategic communications in my organization. When I returned to the Brennan Center for Justice (my then employer), I was able to improve the discipline and rigor with which we approached our communications. We became more strategic — doing more planning, framing, and audience analysis. And ultimately, that strategy focus made us more effective.

SPIN in the always-on culture

When I was a SPIN Academy participant (in what now feels like the dark ages!), most organizations didn’t expect staff to have laptops or work remotely.

This untethering allowed participants to network, learn, and reflect without the distracting pressures of their day-to-day workloads. Being offline also made it possible for participants to more objectively evaluate past work and to plan for how to take that knowledge into future planning.

This year, many SPIN Academy participants had to spend their breaks checking email and keeping projects moving. This commitment to the cause is admirable, but I hope future participants are encouraged to leave the day-to-day behind in order to more fully immerse in all the opportunities that the Academy provides.

Recharging the batteries

When you’re a professional do-gooder it can feel like so much of the world is organized in opposition to what we are trying to achieve. SPIN has re-energized me.

This new spark comes from the people who candidly shared their struggles and successes. I’m inspired by their dedication to their communities and causes, and their determination to build the skills and competencies they need to do their work well and have a positive impact.

Thunderous applause

Thank you to the many people who made the SPIN Academy 13 possible: our fiscal sponsor, Community Initiatives; our foundation supporters Four Freedoms Fund, Just and Fair Schools Fund, Marin Community Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and Stuart Foundation; and our many talented trainers, coaches, and consultants.

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Amanda Cooper is a LightBox collaborator with a talent for crafting meaningful messages.