4 Highlights from NEO’s Communications Capacity Building Convening

Strengthening the capacity of grantees to do their work more effectively is a priority of NEO Philanthropy.

Building communications capacity is particularly important as immigration, refugee and human trafficking issues dominate the news and political discourse. Four Freedoms FundTM and the Anti-Trafficking Fund, were proud to support the 6th SPIN Academy Lab, held June 27-30 at the Amicalola retreat center in rural Georgia.  Advocates learned skills and acquired new resources to lift up the stories of those most impacted by policies and political rhetoric that threaten their families, communities and lives.


SPIN Academy 2017 Anti Trafficking Grantees
Anti-Trafficking Grantees

What was it like at this year’s event?  Some highlights:

  • Fifty activists were run through communications “boot camp” and drilled down on messaging, spokesperson skills, strategic communications plans, social media, infographics, fundraising communications and more.  A total of about 350 immigration, refugee and other activists in social justice have been trained in the six years that Four Freedoms Fund has funded SPIN Academy Lab.
  • During the Academy, breaking political news intervened into the training room, resulting in real-time rapid response communications practice. The Trump Administration’s “Muslim ban” executive order went into effect; two anti-immigrant bills were voted on in the U.S. House and a memo to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions signed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and co-signed by 11 other state AGs and a Governor, attacking DACA, a highly effective program that protects up to 800,000 young people from deportation (Tennessee’s AG subsequently withdrew from the memo, citing the “human element”). SPIN Academy participants launched immediate social media support for United We Dream’s DACA protection campaign, https://unitedwedream.org/. (Note: on September 5, the Trump Administration ended the DACA program. The announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions plunged scores of Dreamers into uncertainty and sparked numerous protests and media statements from immigration groups including those attending the Academy.)
  • Twelve groups from NEO Philanthropy’s Anti-Trafficking Fund practiced messages and strategies that challenge exploitation of workers and denial of their basic human rights. Twenty-one million people are working in some kind of forced labor in the world, with $8 billion in profits generated by trafficking domestic workers alone. In a powerful case study, the National Domestic Workers Alliance showcased the communications strategy behind its Beyond Survival campaign (https://www.domesticworkers.org/beyond-survival), aimed at eradicating human trafficking of domestic workers.
  • The opportunities and pitfalls of responsible storytelling and intersectional communications between allies and partners – immigrants, LGBT, people of different races, faiths and others — were popular topics, as exemplified by the sessions,  “Intersectional Narratives: How to NOT Throw Others Under the Bus,” presented by Shanelle Matthews, communications director of Black Lives Matter; and “Ethnical Storytelling,” offered by Debayani Kar of Resonance Communications with Marisa Anne Day, Development Director of the Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center.

Watch video on Facebook Live Stream from the 2017 SPIN Academy Live here.

This year’s participants had this to say about the Academy:

“I am thankful for this opportunity! I learned a lot, and am excited to process and carry out some of the ideas that came out of this academy.”

“I really appreciate the supportive approach of mentors. I am looking forward to follow up with my mentor about specific collateral that I would like to create, especially around creating one-pagers for more dense research to various audiences.”

“Thanks for facilitating such an event and for crafting a safe space to be with other communications folks.”

For more information about NEO Philanthropy’s consulting services, including strategic communications capacity building, click here.

Learn more about SPIN Academy here.



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