MRG Foundation rebranding and website launched

MRG Foundation home pageHere at Blue Mouse Monkey we were continually inspired by our client the MRG Foundation during the thorough rebranding and website redesign process that wrapped up with the website launch last week.

Our work with MRG began in the spring with discovery: surveys, focus groups, personas, and analysis of the foundation’s position among its audiences of social-change activists, grantees, donors, and foundation peers. A visual redesign followed, (although unfortunately the new logo was delayed until next year) generating new fonts and color palette and a modernized look-and feel. Additionally, we collaborated with MRG to create a new tagline and new boilerplate descriptive text. All this on top of our traditional web strategy work encompassing information architecture, user experience design, user interface design, and WordPress development.

A special feature of the site is the Grants Archive, a searchable database of the last five years of MRG grantees, sortable by date, region, amount, issue area, and leadership, and fully integrated with MRG’s internal CiviCRM grants database.

The new brand strategy and website will serve as a solid foundation and help raise visibility for the MRG  Foundation as it moves forward with its plans for growth and even greater impact on social change in Oregon.

Changing the language of climate change

Climate March photo

From http://peoplesclimate.org, Photo by Heather Craig

A fascinating article in New York Magazine suggests that through careful management of language it will be possible to bridge the nearly 40% divide between progressives and conservatives on climate change. Psychologists Are Learning How to Convince Conservatives to Take Climate Change Seriously, by Jesse Singal, begins with a critique of September’s 400,000-strong People’s Climate March: it won’t change American politics, despite the slogan “to change everything, we need everyone” – because it didn’t include everyone. Conservative thinkers were excluded.

Singal’s article notes that, “Although climate scientists update, appropriately, their models after ten years of evidence, climate-science communicators haven’t,” according to Dan Kahan, a professor of law and psychology at Yale who studies how people respond to information challenging their beliefs.

Convincing conservatives that climate change is a threat to civilization might just work, though, if the climate activist community comes to grips with the way conservatives see the world, and change their messaging to fit the conservative framework.

Singal goes on the describe two theories currently being examined by social psychologists: moral foundations theory, and system justification.

Moral Foundations Theory holds that people with different political beliefs arrive at those beliefs because they have different moral values. Liberals tend to be more moved by the idea of innocent people being harmed, for example, while conservatives are more likely to react to notions of disgust.

In their paper The Moral Roots of Environmental Attitudes, social psychologists Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer describe testing liberals and conservatives by asking them to read op-ed-like blocks of text designed to stoke either “care/harm” (innocents suffering) or “purity/sanctity” (disgust) concerns. One excerpt “described the harm and destruction humans are causing to their environment and emphasized how important it is for people to care about and protect the environment,” while the other touched on “how polluted and contaminated the environment has become and how important it is for people to clean and purify the environment.” Post-test attitudes of the “disgust” group showed no statistical difference between liberals and conservatives, and the gap in the belief in global warming was significantly diminished.

Researchers are also exploring the concept of system justification. We humans have a deep need to feel that the broad systems we are a part of are functioning correctly. As Singal says, “It doesn’t feel good to know you attend a broken school or inhabit a deeply corrupt country — or that your planet’s entire ecology may be on the brink of collapse.” People respond to threats to the system either by attempting to neutralize the threat, or finding ways to justify the system’s legitimacy by denying problems within it.

Irina Feygina, a social psychologist at New York University, finds strong evidence that conservatives tend to have greater confidence in the system, and are much more likely to justify it – leading to a strong correlation between system justification and denial of environmental problems.

“What you need to do is put the system first,” says Feygina. “Instead of saying, ‘Let’s deal with climate change, let’s be pro-environmental, let’s protect the oceans,’ you need to say, ‘If we want to preserve our system, if we want to be patriotic, if we want our children to have the life that we have, then we have to take these actions that allow us to maintain those things that we care about.’” Remove references to catastrophe, and climate change becomes a patriotic challenge and an “opportunity to profit, to save money, to compete with China.”

Singal concludes, “If climate activists are serious about doing anything other than preaching to the choir, they’re going to have to understand that messages that feel righteous and work on liberals may not have universal appeal. To a liberal, the system isn’t working and innocent people will suffer as a result — these are blazingly obvious points. But conservatives have blazingly obvious points of their own: The system works and we need to protect it, and it’s important not to let pure things be defiled.”

Singal’s article reminds me of this nation’s most successful anti-littering campaign, Don’t Mess With Texas. It launched in 1986 with a TV spot featuring blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan sitting in front of a huge Texas flag, playing a soulful rendition of “The Eyes of Texas.” The campaign continues to this day, and celebrities such as Willie Nelson, George Foreman, LeAnn Rimes, Erykah Badu, and Owen Wilson have contributed their time and image for the anti-littering ads. The original spot’s voiceover says, “Messing with Texas isn’t just an insult to the Lone Start state, it’s a crime.” Stevie Ray Vaughn ends the spot with the spoken admonition, “Don’t mess with Texas.”

The campaign was so successful that even when factoring 25 years of in increases in population and roads, the Texas DOT spending on litter cleanup has dropped from $2.33 per person to $1.90. In bypassing the typical liberal rhetoric about littering, the campaign successfully appeals to Texans’ strong sense of preservation, pride, and loyalty.

Of course littering is not the same as climate change, but both issues relate to “the environment” and how we feel about the systems we live within. It’s time for environmental organizations and activists to rethink how they frame discussion around this issue that has profound implications for everyone on the planet. Because to change everything, we really do need everyone.

The power of a symbol

altered accessibility signA year ago I wrote a post, Guerrilla Art is Changing Perceptions of Agency for the Disabled, about two New York artists, Brian Glenney and Sara Hendren, who started a culture-jamming project of modifying public ‘disabled accessible’ signs. Their aim was to make the person-in-a-wheelchair symbol more energetic by changing the angle of movement, and adding a sense of agency to the figure. They wanted to counter the message of passivity embedded in the traditional accessibility symbol.

Their work caught the attention of New York city officials, and the new symbol soon became recognized in New York city.

 

updated disabled symbolFast-forward a year, and Governor Cuomo recently signed an updated accessibility icon into New York state law. (See press release.) The new official symbol of accessibility for New York state features a much more active and engaged image, and it very closely follows the original guerrilla art design. After the artists placed the symbol in the public domain, it was turned into official signage by Conrad Lumm and Katrina Otuonye for SmartSign, and is being distributed by MyParkingSign on a mostly donation or discount basis to encourage implementation of this important revision as fast as possible. (See MyParkingSign’s accessibility campaign.)

As Conrad Lumm says, “Ambient messaging about people with disabilities has the potential to stifle job prospects and quality of life, so the Accessible Icon designed by Hendren and Glenney is an important corrective. We look forward to rolling out (and donating) indoor wayfinding signage that includes the Accessible Icon, too. It makes us unspeakably proud that New York state is making this switch, and we hope more states follow.”

What I love about this story is not just that disabled people in New York have a better public symbol, but that the movement towards this change came from the grassroots. Culture-jamming and guerrilla art can be defined as the people talking back to a culture whose messages and images are largely corporate- or institutionally-driven. That two artists took it upon themselves to say, “Here is a better way to symbolize this particular sector of our society,” and that their idea was seen and acted upon by those with the power and resources to move the change into law, and distribute it statewide, is truly inspiring.

Now it’s time for Oregon to update its disabled signage!

 

 

Elders in Action Website Launched

Elders in Action Website Home PageBlue Mouse Monkey is very happy to announce the launch of the new website for Portland non-profit Elders in Action. Elders in Action is an independent non-profit organization that advocates for older adults and provides meaningful volunteer opportunities.

EIA trains personal advocates to provide one-on-one problem solving assistance to elders at no charge. Volunteers assist in the areas of housing, healthcare, crime, and elder abuse.

Elders in Action also runs a citizens advisory group, and coordinates speakers and events. EIA is a powerful voice of older adults in the greater Portland area. The wisdom and talent of its volunteers works to build an age-friendly community. 

We designed the site to be elder-friendly, with intuitive navigation, larger font size, and prominent calls-to-action.

Spirit of the Salmon website launched

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission sub basin plan map

Home page for the Spirit of the Salmon Plan Volume 2: Subbasin Plans, with interactive map of the Columbia River Subbasins

In Blue Mouse Monkey’s second major project for CRITFC, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, we are proud to announce the launch of the brand new Spirit of the Salmon website. The Spirit of the Salmon Plan, also known as Wy-Kan-Ush-Mi Wa-Kish-Wit, was written in 1995 to provide a roadmap for restoring declining salmon populations in the Columbia river basin. This website presents the entire original plan documents alongside 18 years of data and restoration success stories, and helps make visible CRITFC’s position as a thought-leader in ecosystem stewardship.

The website is really three sites in one, each representing a hefty volume in the Spirit of the Salmon Plan. The top navigation strip leads to the home pages of the three sites, and the lower strip serves as navigation within each of the sites. The first site is the 2013 update to the Spirit of the Salmon Plan, the second site is the original plan from 1995, and the third site is a subbasin-by-subbasin analysis.

CRITFC’s goal was to make the Spirit of the Salmon Plan documents available online in an approachable, interactive format, to make the information relevant and accessible to the general public. As the quote below demonstrates, salmon are the icon of the Northwest as they shape many of our policies, even for those people who may not actually eat them. We are all Salmon People, or Wy-Kan-Ush-Pum, and it’s important to understand the importance of salmon in our lives.

As CRITFC says,

In Sahaptin, the word for salmon used in sacred ceremonies is “wy-kan-ush.” Also in Sahaptin, the word “pum” means “people.” The tribal cultures in the Columbia River Basin could rightly be called Wy-Kan-Ush-Pum or “Salmon People” for how completely these sacred fish shaped their culture, diets, societies, and religions…Salmon have shaped the culture of the newcomers to this region just as they shaped tribal cultures before them. Salmon are the icon of this place. They are valued as food, as a resource, and as a representation of the wildness and wilderness for which the Pacific Northwest is known. They shape our land use policies and power grid. Whether they realize it or not, every single person in the Northwest is a Wy-Kan-Ush-Pum. We are all Salmon People. Let us all work together to protect and restore salmon—this fish that unites us.

Kathy Eldon on learning to forgive

drawing by Dan Eldon

Kathy Eldon is a powerful changemaker.

Her memoir, In the Heart of Life, is about losing her son, Reuter’s news agency photographer Dan Eldon, who was stoned to death by an angry mob in Mogadishu. It’s also a meditation on the “cosmic pull of forgiveness” that enabled her to finally let go of her anger over her son’s murder.

In an interview with Brandon Jones (Good Magazine, Issue 031, Winter 2013) She recounts the day she learned to forgive:

My daughter Amy and I were on our way to the premier of the Dying to Tell the Story documentary at the United Nations. As we ducked into our taxi, I quickly realized our driver was Somali. Out of all the taxi drivers in New York, mine had to be Somali? So, what the hell do I do? I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to tell him what happened, and I don’t care what he thinks. I’m just going to tell him.’ I told him how my son was trying to do good. I told him about what the Somalis had done to him. I told him how very sad I was. I told him everything. He continued to drive, quiet all the while. When we arrived at the United nations, he turned and said, “I know everything about what happened to your sone. Many of us Somalis were affected. In Mogadishu, people loved your son. They knew your son, and they knew he was just trying to help.” I thought, ‘This is ridiculous. This is amazing. This is impossible.’ But, I still wasn’t totally receptive. Then he looked at me, and he said, “Mrs. Eldon, on behalf of all Somalis, I ask your forgiveness.” I was completely shocked. There was a long pause. In that moment, I realized that the world needs redemption. I said, “I understand what the Somalis did, and I have forgiven them.” And with those words, I felt a great sense of relief come over me.

Kathy Eldon is the founder and chairman of the Creative Visions Foundation, a “hub where creative activists turn ideas into action & a community becomes a force for change…providing tools, resources, mentorship and community to help everyone use the power of media and arts to build social movements and impact the world.”

Gray Family Foundation website launched

Blue Mouse Monkey is super-proud to announce the launch of a new website for the Gray Family Foundation. Founded by Oregon philanthropists John and Betty Gray, the Gray Family Foundation’s mission is to support outdoor and environmental education for children, in order to encourage a strong local land ethic, sustainable communities and stewardship of the natural environment. The effect is to build in young citizens a sense of place and responsibility toward Oregon.

This young organization wanted a website that would raise the bar for foundation websites.

Storytelling is built in to the structure, with sidebar modules that present changing statistics about the foundation’s giving history, student narratives about their outdoor education experiences, and a home page that gives the visitor an “at-a-glance” impression of the Foundation and its impact. Additionally, a structure has been laid for future dynamic functionality, such as an interactive map demonstrating the Foundation’s impact across the state of Oregon, due to be rolled out in 2014.

The new site is built in WordPress, and is easy for Gray Foundation staff to keep updated during their grant cycles. It’s also easy for the Foundation’s board members to log in to a private Board area to review current grant applications, view board meeting schedules and minutes, and get updates from the Foundation’s director. Additionally, the responsive design allows users to access data from mobile devices.

With stunning photographs of Oregon’s landscape by World as Light Photography, the design works hand in hand with the Gray Family’s mission to foster a love of the land.

Stay tuned for Phase 2 of the Gray Family Foundation website project: an interactive map section to be launched in 2014!

Your Economy website re-launched

Blue Mouse Monkey is thrilled to announce the launch of the new YourEconomy.org website. Your Economy is an interactive resource center where you can explore and analyze economic activity in your own region and nationwide. YE houses more economic data than the U.S. census bureau, and it depicts the dynamic journey of jobs, sales, and establishments evolving through time.

We were particularly happy to work with Your Economy to improve the website, as we had been engaged in the first redesign in early 2012. Since then the needs of the project changed, and to take advantage of evolving web technologies, we decided to redo the whole site from the ground up. The result is a highly interactive, javascript-rich solution that enables you to dive deep into complex economic data in a matter of seconds. The YE website is designed to be user-friendly to a wide range of audiences, including the White House, state governors, economists, industry analysts, economic development experts, and the media.

Short term greed is killing us all

An excellent article by Henry Blodget  (CEO and Editor, Business Insider) examines the implications of a tweet by a Twitter user who lashed out against his suggestion that McDonald’s should increase the wages of its restaurant workers and pay for this by making a bit less money. (Blodget was arguing that McDonald’s employees should not be treated as “costs,” but instead as valuable members of a successful team who shouldn’t have to work that hard and still live in poverty.)

The tweeter responded:

offensive tweet(The tweet is quite articulate for Animal from the Muppets.) But as Blodget points out, this is not a unique opinion, and many senior managers think this way.

And it never ceases to shock me. I’m a business owner, but I’m also a human being, in fact a human being first. Strip away my business ownership and I’d still be a human being. And the people who work with me, for me, and for whom I do work are all human beings. Each one of them carrying a birthright that means they deserve to be treated with fairness, respect, honesty, and as people with hopes and dreams of their own.

I have never understood hope some people lose site of this. It’s just so obvious. It’s a given. In fact, it feels strange even to write it out, like I’m writing something obvious and unarguable like, “The sky is blue except on cloudy days when it is gray”.

To my mind, a person would have to be psycho to think of other human beings are merely “costs”. That’s not far from thinking of other human beings as less-than-human. As expendable. And we know where that kind of thinking can lead.

And guess what? ALL employees of a company are “costs”, including the higher management. Including the CEO. If you wanted to look at the structure of workplaces this way, you could argue that ALL employees are trading their labor for money. Even the CEO is laboring as a CEO. And her salary is a cost on the company’s books. She’s laboring with her head rather than her hands, but she’s still spending dedicated time in service of the company.

My company, Blue Mouse Monkey, Inc., is a corporation. My project manager’s wages are a cost to the company. My salary is a cost to the company. My subcontractor’s fees are costs to the company. If I hire a temp, that’s a cost to the company. We’re all costs. And we’re all much, much more. We all depend on each other. Without my employee and my subs, I wouldn’t be able to serve my clients. Without me (as the founder of the company), my employee and subs wouldn’t have the money my company provides in exchange for their labor.

We’re all valuable members of a successful team, and like any workers, we shouldn’t have to work as hard as we do and still live in poverty. (Which we don’t).

Now I’m not arguing that the work of a McDonald’s employee is equal on the marketplace to the work of a website developer. I understand that the level of skill and education and life experience necessary to be a good McDonald’s employee compared with that needed to be a a good developer (or copywriter or UX designer, etc. etc) is very different.

But no one should have to work that hard, give over than many hours of their life, and still live in poverty. They should make a living wage. Everyone should make a living wage. The alternative is a dying wage.

As Blodget points out,

“The real problem is that American corporations, which are richer and more profitable than they have ever been in history (see chart below), have become so obsessed with “maximizing short-term profits” that they are no longer investing in their future, their people, and the country.

and

“American corporations can afford to pay their employees better, hire more employees, and invest more in their future and the country’s future.

But American corporations aren’t doing that.

Instead, American corporations are choosing to divert as much of their value as possible to their owners and senior managers.

Doing this is not a law of capitalism.

It’s a choice.

And it is a choice, unfortunately, that is destroying America’s middle class, robbing American consumers (a.k.a., “employees”) of spending power, and, ironically, hurting the growth of the same corporations that are making this choice.”

 

Considering it doesn’t have to be this way, it’s a real shame that’s the way it’s turning out for so many many people. The best I can do, personally, is be a fair and honest employer.

.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

A side note: the tweeter’s use of “full stop” instead of “period” strongly suggests he is not from the United States. An interesting detail, considering Blodget was talking about American corporations and American workers. But many American corporations are also multinationals, and economic neoconservative attitudes are international in scope and spread, so it’s perhaps not all that surprising to see the non-Americaninsm in such a virulently capitalist response. (But it casts doubt on the veracity of the tweeter’s photo — I always thought Animal was American.)

Boxy but good

Remember Dudley Moore, the ad man who goes crazy in the 1990 movie, Crazy People? He switches to using honesty, and comes up with campaigns like, “Volvos. They’re boxy but good.”

Parisian design collective Maentis is doing something similar in their reimagining of famous logos with a dose of added honesty. Check out their Universal Unbranding portfolio. A couple of examples are copied below to whet your appetite.

BP oil soaked bird

 

 

 

Ikea kitset logo