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.

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!

Guerrilla art is changing perceptions of agency for the disabled

guerrilla art handicap stickerIt started out as a piece of guerrilla art, and now it’s changing official handicapped accessible signs.

Brian Glenney and Sara Hendren started to “modify” existing symbols of accessibility to change public perception about disability several years ago. After the project gained the attention of New York officials the revised symbol is becoming officially recognized within the city.

“Initially, Glenney and Hendren’s aim was to generate conversation. Though the ISA symbol had generally been a huge boon to disabled individuals over the years, it’s easy to see how the symbol itself was less than ideal. Compared to the bathroom sign stick figures we’re used to, the one on the ISA looks frail and immobile–more an outgrowth of the chair it’s sitting in than its own distinct entity. … the goal [of the new symbol] was to show a more humanized depiction of the disabled. That meant reorienting the visual focus of the symbol from the chair to the person, and replacing the rigid, static representation with something more dynamic and active.”

old and new accessible iconsRead the full story at fastcodesign.com »

And more about the Accessible Icon Project »

Spirit Mountain Community Fund website makeover

Spirit Mountain Community Fund home pageBlue Mouse Monkey worked with the Spirit Mountain Community Fund (one of Oregon’s largest funders of non-profits) to launch their new website in 2010. Two and a half years later the folks at the Community Fund were ready for a makeover that responded to the needs of their audiences, as discerned through analytics. During this makeover we shuffled content into new places to make it easier for their main audience, grant writers, to find. In addition to rearranging content, we also changed the look-and-feel subtly enough to ensure the new site kept a relationship with the old site, but strongly enough that users were alerted to the fact that the site had changed.

As always, we’re happy to work with the good people at the Community Fund, and gratified to be helping them help Oregon non-profits!

Upstream Public Health website launched

We are very proud to announce the launch of the new website for Upstream Public Health. Upstream is an Oregon non-profit that researches innovative public health solutions and moves them into the mainstream dialogue, providing expertise in regional policy and decision-making. Upstream’s old website obscured the impact of their work. Upstream enlisted Blue Mouse Monkey to provide them with a distinctive platform to frame issues, provide timely information to their audiences, and express the values and upbeat personality of the organization.

MRG Foundation Justice Within Reach party

The McKenzie River Gathering Foundation is a wonderful Oregon funder that focuses on racial and economic justice, peace, environmental protection, and LGBTQ rights. Each year they have a fundraiser party, and it’s always quite a shindig. This year performers include Spoken Word artist Toni Hill and Afro-Cuban musician Virginia Lopez. More info here.

This year Blue Mouse Monkey is sponsoring a table of ten. The party’s at the Ambridge this Saturday April 21st, starting at 7:00. Get your ticket here and support an amazing local foundation. See you there!