10 Stories of Innovative Change-Making

chennellyaris Uncategorized

This season, we’ve captured a broad mosaic of visual stories from leaders and innovators engaging people in big ideas that matter. At ActionCraftCompany, we use inspiring visual drawings, stories, and maps to help leaders expand action and share stories of possibility. We’re learning and re-learning the practice of change-making on the ground with diverse leaders who are also amazing storytellers.

This is what we heard that stands out as great food for thought. What’s your big story?

1. People only truly engage in change when they get to shape the action.

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The Orton Family Foundation coaches community leaders to start community change efforts by uncovering the true DNA of a place and sharing stories about what people love about their places. We captured the workshop for the Arkansas Community Development Society.

LessonEvery voice matters and every person has something unexpected to contribute that improves the effort. Keeping stories central to a planning process adds “life” and meaning to the work.

2. Culture counts and everyday creativity is the special sauce of change when you’re working to turn around old narratives.

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The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and Rural LISC invited the ActionCraft artists to capture the story of resilience in the Mississippi Delta at a Citizens Rural Design Institute. Lesson: Start with empowering people by inviting their creativity and culture. Capturing the soul and the tactical practices in one picture strengthens the power to trigger new collective action.

3. Engaging the community in improving local schools is everyone’s priority challenge, and new thinking is definitely required.

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Community design thinking events unleash ideas and sharpen priorities for school districts faced with competing priorities and tight budgets. The Little Rock School District partnered with ActionCraft to develop from its community a Blueprint for improving learning environments. Principal Roxie Browning invites parents to roundtable sessions to shape the District’s facilities priorities using visual maps and design templates and online surveys we developed. Lesson: It takes open hearts and minds to invite your entire community into the design space and the outcomes can be enhanced trust and wise program decisions. Working loosely with ideas and options through flexible visual “maps” makes the strategic development and planning process open, equitable, and convergent.

4. Navigating the unknown starts with "squinting at the raw shape of ideas" to see the status quo with fresh eyes.

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Leaders need creative confidence, according to IDEO founder Tom Kelley, to see the status quo with fresh eyes which unleashes new design solutions. Kelley was a keynote conference presenter for health insurance and health industry leaders seeking transformational approaches to increasing health outcomes. ActionCraft produced a series of hand-drawn images with high-level strategic narrative to create a digital leaders Sketchbook for health enterprise leaders to craft an action agenda. Lesson: delivering powerfully transformative solutions is possible everywhere in the health care ecosystem but it requires a new blend of creative thinking, technical acumen, collaboration and rapid prototyping. Compelling illustrations and conceptual diagrams make the complexities comprehensible.

5. Lasting health improvement requires "upstream" collaboration because the process of well-being is complex and non-linear.

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Because health is influenced more profoundly by social determinants, neighborhood and behavior than by clinical care, leaders must collaborate widely to locate the most critical interventions. ActionCraft visual storyboards are helping BlueCross BlueShield leaders build a stronger set of grassroots strategies to support the health of those who are the most vulnerable to poor health. Lesson: Powerful pictures help groups positively understand and address deep issues like housing, stress, good food, affordable transportation and child care nurtures the roots of better health over the long term.

6. Women entrepreneurs are driving business and social innovation—let’s improve the investment environment so more women can compete for venture funding.

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The number of female entrepreneurs in the U. S. is growing rapidly, but they are not capturing equitable financing. This story was a big theme at the World Woman Summit 2018. Most venture funding pivots on familiarity and too few women are in the venture capital and angel investment fields. ActionCraft provided graphic storyboards for the event. The large murals were translated into ActionCraft Sketchbooks as action catalysts for all conference participants. Lesson: mentoring and money are critical to elevate to new levels the next generation of innovative entrepreneurs. Let’s draw upon these engaging conferences and transform the mentor community.

7. Sustainability is driving industry and food systems to innovate faster and at greater and greater scale to avoid a “Hot House Earth” future.

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As we move from consumer trends of aspirational food through an era of greater paradox: conspicuous consumption—and production and increasing hunger and food insecurity, there is little time to waste on outmoded assumptions. Figuring out how to effectively feed 9B humans in the next 30 years is an eye-opening leadership challenge. Lesson: Our storyboards and ActionCraft Sketchbooks are showcasing the essential challenges of the next 30 years but the real action starts at home with disrupting old stories about our planet. If earth isn’t sufficiently resilient, everything is at risk.

8. New technologies like Blockchain can effectively connect sprawling ecosystems and make food secure and fresher—and global companies are betting big on it.

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Walmart grocery and several other food franchises and their entire supply chain partners are addressing food borne outbreaks and freshness with new traceability goals—tracking any food item on a mobile device at the speed of thought by deploying digital blockchain platforms with simple-to-use apps. ActionCraftCompany partnered with IBM and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to host a Blockchain for Arkansas initiative and visualize the stories of food traceability and economic renewal through digital technologies and widespread collaboration. Lesson: fragmented interests can each, through collaborating in intentional “ecosystem” alliances, benefit by combining rigorous, real-time data and simple applications. But building trust and shared visions is as important as the tech platform.

9. Today's business has to enter into streams of technological disruption and continually transform its business model.

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Leaders at global companies have to continually invent a way to dance with disruption. At the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit, technology leaders from Walmart, Tyson Foods, and JB Hunt logistics outlined a short list of growth areas: expanding the responses to mobility, accelerated autonomy and big data on the cloud and “rebooting the customer experience” to remove delays. ActionCraftCompany produced live storyboards on advancing technology and business adaptation including blockchain where we shared the evolution of the Blockchain4Arkansas network. Lesson: JB Hunt VP Craig Harper described his learning process to understand the previously unimaginable business benefits and risks of automated battery-powered vehicles so that he’ll be ready to invest now—so that when the vehicle technologies are fully commercialized in 5 years he’ll be ready to transform his current fuel-powered fleet.

10. The challenge for effectively communicating a new idea is to make it "sticky" so you can activate positive behavior or policy change.

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Mountain biker activist Dr. Bill Smith shared his story about making rural highways in Arkansas safe for bike riders using a social media campaign, “Be Visible.” He suggests that for each message that contains a call to action, you should provide another five that provide useful content for your key audiences. ActionCraftCompany captured Bill’s presentation on large murals at the annual Arkansas Community Development Society conference. Lesson: compelling social change needs storytelling that is both responsive and inspiring. At ActionCraft, we bring creative confidence to this challenge.

What is your big idea and your emerging story?

Transform Your Meetings with Visual Storytelling

chennellyaris Uncategorized

Traditional meetings can easily get stale and ineffective. That’s because most gatherings don’t leverage our ability to process information visually. Did you know that humans process visual information 60 times faster than text? Fortunately, there’s an easy way to transform your next meeting: use the power of visual storytelling to keep people engaged and make your meeting more productive.

What is visual storytelling? It’s a process of graphically recording your meetings for better comprehension and awareness. Usually, a graphic facilitator — think “a business consultant who can draw” — joins your meeting and captures important points, imagery, and messages in a hand-drawn graphic.

At the end of the process, you have a visual representation of the whole meeting. It’s easier to share than a video, takes only moments to review, and provides a connected overview of information that’s hard to get from a long report. Visual storytelling can take the form of a large, wall-sized mural, an illustrated book with takeaways, a website landing page, or time-lapse videos of drawings.

Here at ActionCraft, we’re focused on using tools like visual storytelling to help teams be more effective. Many businesses and teams aren’t taking advantage of this yet, but Northwest Arkansas companies are seeing the benefits of visual storytelling. Here are three gatherings that used visual storytelling and how it helped their mission.

Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting

During the Bentonville Chamber’s annual meeting, ActionCraft created drawings of each presentation, using them in time-lapse videos, instant webpages for annual meeting, and an illustrated takeaway workbook with strategic summaries and followup action prompts.

The Bentonville Chamber made both of those available online, linked to them from the website, and emailed the illustrations out to all the chamber members so they could see and experience Bentonville’s messages and vision. They’re still promoting these images on their website as a way to simply illustrate the new vision of the chamber.

Marla and Gary in Denver, 2005

State of the Chamber presentation, Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce

Northwest Arkansas Maker’s Summit

This 1.5-day conference about the makers movement in Arkansas used visual storytelling to capture and share presentations. They used large murals for end-of-day reflections after each breakout session.

They even shared these murals with participants at an annual technology summit in the same facility as a way to bring the content from the maker’s summit to a wider audience. The murals showcase different dimensions of craft, tech and entrepreneurship.

Marla and Gary in Denver, 2005

Makers & Entrepreneurs presentation at the 2017 Northwest Arkansas Makers Summit

Northwest Arkansas Tech Summit

The annual Northwest Arkansas Tech Summit discusses innovation at the intersection between technology and business. ActionCraft brought visual storytelling to different, inspiring gatherings through large murals crafted live and used during the day to enhance and reinforce the messages of the summit. These murals were placed outside in the hallways after they were completed, letting other attendees explore them while networking in the halls.

Marla and Gary in Denver, 2005

Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit 2017, J. B. Hunt Chief Innovation Officer, Gary Dowdy, presentation on how firms navigate threats and opportunities with connected people across a connected world. Ken’s murals were included in the hallways during the conference.

Transform Your Meetings

ActionCraft is partnering with corporations, nonprofits, chambers of commerce, and other organization in the Northwest Arkansas area. We’re ready to add dimension, instant takeaways, strategic and visual synthesis to any gathering. Get in touch with our graphic facilitators if you want to add inspiration to your next important meeting.

How to Make Your Meetings Fresh and Meaningful

chennellyaris Uncategorized

In a fast-paced world, teams need to focus on a collective vision to be successful. Meetings are the typical way of bringing people together to take meaningful action, but the traditional meeting or conference just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Most meetings overwhelm people with data without giving them the tools to integrate that data into their strategy. Spreadsheets and long reports present information in a way that’s not easily retained, referenced, or shared. On top of all that, meetings fail to engage and energize people.

Graphic facilitation is a powerful way to help your team hear the story of their vision, see the story take shape, and take action to make it a reality. Here are the five ways that graphic facilitation makes your meetings fresh and meaningful.

Marla and Gary in Denver, 2005

University of Alaska, dashboard of strategic future priorities to support new philanthropy campaign

1. It lets people see the message.

Research shows that visual information is processed faster and retained more easily than verbal information, which explains why tools like infographics are so useful for comprehension.

Graphic facilitation takes that to a new level by creating a visual representation of your entire collective vision, including the challenges, milestones, and goals that lie ahead on the journey.

Unlike a report or a presentation, this visual is non-sequential, allowing your team to literally see the big picture of where your organization is going. Whenever people see this visual, they can be reminded of all the puzzle pieces that have to connect.

Instead of just seeing their own day-to-day work, they’ll remember how their work fits into the whole and approach the work with team spirit. They see the same visual and share the same vision with everyone.

Marla and Gary in Denver, 2005

Achieving the Dream 2018 Annual Conference, Keynote by U. S. Poet Laureate Richard Blanco describing his quest for a “home” in this busy world.

2. It summarizes the key takeaways.

Research shows that visual information is processed faster and retained more easily than verbal information, which explains why tools like infographics are so useful for comprehension.

Graphic facilitation takes that to a new level by creating a visual representation of your entire collective vision, including the challenges, milestones, and goals that lie ahead on the journey.

Unlike a report or a presentation, this visual is non-sequential, allowing your team to literally see the big picture of where your organization is going. Whenever people see this visual, they can be reminded of all the puzzle pieces that have to connect.

Instead of just seeing their own day-to-day work, they’ll remember how their work fits into the whole and approach the work with team spirit. They see the same visual and share the same vision with everyone.

Marla and Gary in Denver, 2005

Leadership roundtable participants complete storytelling reflection using Hubbell graphic recording of the core concepts.

3. It gets people's attention.

Research shows that visual information is processed faster and retained more easily than verbal information, which explains why tools like infographics are so useful for comprehension.

Graphic facilitation takes that to a new level by creating a visual representation of your entire collective vision, including the challenges, milestones, and goals that lie ahead on the journey.

Unlike a report or a presentation, this visual is non-sequential, allowing your team to literally see the big picture of where your organization is going. Whenever people see this visual, they can be reminded of all the puzzle pieces that have to connect.

Instead of just seeing their own day-to-day work, they’ll remember how their work fits into the whole and approach the work with team spirit. They see the same visual and share the same vision with everyone.

Marla and Gary in Denver, 2005

Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit 2017, J. B. Hunt Chief Innovation Officer, Gary Dowdy, presentation on how firms navigate threats and opportunities with connected people across a connected world. Ken’s murals were included in the hallways during the conference.

4. It creates content that you can share easily.

Research shows that visual information is processed faster and retained more easily than verbal information, which explains why tools like infographics are so useful for comprehension.

Graphic facilitation takes that to a new level by creating a visual representation of your entire collective vision, including the challenges, milestones, and goals that lie ahead on the journey.

Unlike a report or a presentation, this visual is non-sequential, allowing your team to literally see the big picture of where your organization is going. Whenever people see this visual, they can be reminded of all the puzzle pieces that have to connect.

Instead of just seeing their own day-to-day work, they’ll remember how their work fits into the whole and approach the work with team spirit. They see the same visual and share the same vision with everyone.

Marla and Gary in Denver, 2005

Visual of integrated set of goals and strategies to improve community health in St. Paul, MN

5. It provides a memorable touchstone for attendees.

Research shows that visual information is processed faster and retained more easily than verbal information, which explains why tools like infographics are so useful for comprehension.

Graphic facilitation takes that to a new level by creating a visual representation of your entire collective vision, including the challenges, milestones, and goals that lie ahead on the journey.

Unlike a report or a presentation, this visual is non-sequential, allowing your team to literally see the big picture of where your organization is going. Whenever people see this visual, they can be reminded of all the puzzle pieces that have to connect.

Instead of just seeing their own day-to-day work, they’ll remember how their work fits into the whole and approach the work with team spirit. They see the same visual and share the same vision with everyone.

It's time to take action.

When you change how people collaborate and help them stay focused on a clear roadmap to success, your team or association can take meaningful action. With graphic facilitation, you have a powerful tool to make meetings fresh and meaningful again. We’d love to help you do that.

Were you the kid who wanted to make the world a better place?

Marla Johnson Uncategorized

I certainly was.

I was a teenager living in Germantown, Tennessee, a suburb of Memphis. It was 1976 or 1977. I was sitting in the small breakfast nook next to the kitchen. My brother, Gary, was home. He must have been in the Marines at that time. To this day, my brother Gary is the most curious person I know, constantly exploring why and how. He is self taught in the art of inquiry and infused in me a deep appreciation for the scientific method. He knew I was clueless about my future after high school, so he did his thing that evening.

Marla and Gary in Denver, 2005

Marla and Gary in Denver, 2005

“Marla, what do you think you want to study and do when you’re done with high school?” 

Teenaged Marla only lived in The Now. I was a good student who loved school and was active in lots of organizations at school and in my church. I loved to read, ride my bike, sing, play basketball and the piano. I had not given my future any serious consideration. I did not know you could study for the ACT, and I didn’t apply to college until I had graduated from high school. 

“I don’t know. All I know is that I want whatever I do to make the world a better place,” I said.

“How do you think you will do that?” he asked.

“Well, at the Academic Awards Banquet, this man spoke, and he was really inspiring to me. He’s a lawyer. So, I think I want to be a lawyer,” I said.

“Marla, go get the yellow pages.”

Remember, this is the 1970s, when cities the size of Memphis had a White Pages of residences and a Yellow Pages of businesses. 

“Look up ‘attorney’.” I remember this because it was the first time I realized lawyers were officially called attorneys. 

“Do you really think we need another attorney to make the world a better place?”

There was about an inch and a half of pages of attorneys in Memphis. Gary said, “Do you really think we need another attorney to make the world a better place?”

I didn’t know how to answer that, so he went further.

“Don’t you think you would make the world a better place if you could build a bridge for a community or engineer a clean water system?”

My brother went on to become a very successful electrical engineer, by the way. 

This was the first time I recall that I articulated my intention to make the the world a better place. I have never stopped asking the question of how my work can contribute to making the world better.

Connecting with Ken Hubbell has accelerated my learning. This blog continues the exploration. 

If you want to make a positive difference, please join in this conversation. Let’s collaborate to accelerate our impact on this world we love.