July 29th: A long and fruitful journey – by Peyton Rowe

Thursday, July 29th proved to be just as challenging as every previous Thursday in the Impact program but under the leadership of Deborah, it ended with much celebration. The morning was spent in our Team Project class session where each group got one-on-one time with a professional who was connected with and/or very knowledgable in the field related to our client. Marc Alt was the guest critic for Team Healthy Bodega and what a boon for us. Marc has got his hands in all things about design and social progress and particularly related to food choices and sources. You can see he not only produces cool work and ideas but talks about cool work and ideas. We got to bounce ideas off of him about Healthy Bodegas. It was a great morning. We left the meeting feeling pumped and with a few inspirations about where to go next. Good thing since we have a client presentation next week.

I spent the lunch break on a walk and headed to Union Square – not a market day but I hear on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays, there is a killer fresh market – and just looked around. There was a kid’s event occurring at the south end of the park which led me to the famous book nook – ok it’s more than a nook – called Strand.

For those of you who have been to Portland, OR to Powell’s Bookstore, it’s like that but MUCH older. At any rate, a fun bookstore to browse and sort of a must in New York. I wandered a bit and then headed back to SVA for the afternoon session of Funding with Michael Blakeney.

Michael is such a firecracker and has the same energy as I do which I love and at the same time, he has SO much to teach about development, fundraising and all the things in between. Andréa Pellegrino was sitting in today – she will take over the last two sessions – and it was great to see how well they worked together to share so much information with us. He started the class with another video: Dancing

If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth watching the whole thing. He asked us why it mattered for funding. We all stumbled upon the right answer that not only did this guy use something incredibly simple to connect with people but more importantly, he used that building of relationships to build relationships with larger entities. After posting a video of himself dancing “his” dance during a trip in Asia, he got moderate attention as some videos do on YouTube. The folks at Stride gum contacted him about taking another trip to dance but this time, they’d pay. By simply being willing to and interested in connecting on a human and energetic level with people he’d never met, this guy Matt found support for his project. He didn’t start out to change anything or get a company to fund a trip but by staying true to himself and realizing the connections he made were the real valuable here, his influence grew. From his site: “in 2007 Matt went back to Stride with another idea. He realized his bad dancing wasn’t actually all that interesting, and that other people were much better at being bad at it. He showed them his inbox, which, as a result of his semi-famousness, was overflowing with emails from all over the planet. He told them he wanted to travel around the world one more time and invite the people who’d written him to come out and dance too.”

The rest of the session was filled with lots of discussion about cultivation, creating a relationship with intention. I could embrace this, being a gregarious type, and I remember understanding this concept long after an internship my Dad got for me one summer. I was embarrassed that my Dad had an in with the local public television station and got me a job working in the Art Department. (Believe me, it wasn’t the last summer job he got for me. Thanks, Dad.) I thought, “Great. I’m just the Chairman’s daughter. No one will take me seriously.” Of course, I learned so much that summer and from that point on – ok, it took a few years – I realized that all Dad did was open the door and make me a known entity. It’s like figuring out what kind of new tv you want to buy or car or whatever item. First, you ask the trusted people in your life what they own or think. It’s the same thing with professional relationships. People ask the people they trust about possible co-workers, collaborators or partners. Why should it be any different with funding? Build a relationship.

This led to discussions of microfinance – lordy be! – which really means ways of gaining focused cash, particularly using online resources like kickstarter or kiva or all asking for particular donations for particular causes. Very focused rather than “May I have $1 million to stop hunger.” Everything led to remembering to have a diverse portfolio of funding. It shows that multiple sources support you and give you a bit of stability when the economy is shaky. Whew. Am I thinking and talking about economics? Wow.

Finally, Michael implanted the importance of data and measurement for your project or organization. This is, for most designer-type people, the most boring part. We think “Oh lord, percentages and numbers. Please no. Can I just set it all in Helvetica?” But, I always forget that qualitative – the stories, the interviews – are as valuable as quantitative.

The best part of the session was when Michael gave us 5 minutes to write why our Big Idea matters. I loved this! It proved exactly why I love CreateAthon, the Big Idea I came here to toss around. The urgency, pressure and limit forces you to go straight to the core. Every person’s writing was pure, heartfelt and powerful. This simple exercise reminded me that if I just remember the core of CreateAthon, it’s mission and why I love it, I will be just fine. Here is what I wrote:

CreateAthon matters because it changes lives. Through the immersive and intense 24-hour creative blitz, designers, writers, photographers, and all type of creative people are pushed above and beyond their own expectations to produce award-winning work. And, best of all, the work is for local nonprofit organizations, given to them to make their jobs of serving the community even better.

After that great session, we had our first Impact party! We all (minus a few folks who couldn’t make it) headed to the Brooklyn Bridge to walk it.

People, when in New York, get a sunny evening and do this. It is amazing to see this mammoth bridge up close and personal, to see the views from it and, best of all, to see the thousands of people using it! I was stunned into silence (imagine) and simply walked behind the group to take in the sights on my own. I’m not sure why it was so overwhelming to me except that maybe it was a simple and fun journey that I had never in my life thought about or even knew you could do. And yet, so fulfilling. Huh.

We all headed to Deborah’s loft she was housesitting and true to everything I imagined, the hallways were scary and the inside was just right.

My pictures don’t do it justice and Deborah had not only prepared yummy eats but thought to order Grimaldi’s Pizza halfway across the bridge.  Holy pizza people! Make sure to get this pizza. WOW. We sat around, chatted about everything except school and imbibed on various libations.

We ordered WAY too many pizzas but gave a good shot and eating them up. At sunset, we headed the 5 flights to the roof to watch the big ball go down. I’m telling you, yet another experience I thought I’d never have. And I got to do it with a bunch of super cool people who think design can change the world. Yes!

The final journey of the evening was to the Brooklyn Bridge Park where they were showing “Rear Window” on a giant outdoor screen for free. We weren’t so interested in the movie – although a handful of folks had never seen it – so we walked very casually over there, carrying our 4 extra pizzas! Sinéad was inspired to “Change the world, one slice at a time!” and, believe it or not, was able to give away slices of pizza! We all joined in and eventually, all extras were given away.

We felt very charged that we changed the world, or at least a few folks in Brooklyn Bridge Park. As the movie lawn was PACKED, we decided to relax and chat for a while. It was so pleasant, full of happy people and a nice, cool evening. After lots of laughs, including a roll down the hill by both Sinéad and myself, we headed our separate ways. Two of us took the F train back to Ludlow, others walked the bridge again and the Brooklyn clan headed to their various homes. For sure, we all slept soundly after such a full and enjoyable journey.

p.s. for any of you photographers out there, yes, I know I have dust spots on my filter. off to the camera store tomorrow.