Trees, blueberry bogs and video games

It’s Labor Day weekend, so here’s a look back at the SmartBrief stories that resonated most with me last month as I labored over the eight newsletters I edit.

A way to better understand what refugees experience

In the August 17 issue of the BoardSource SmartBrief, I learned about the way The Spero Project helps people better understand refugees. It’s a refugee experience walk in which participants have just moments to grab the items they need the most, go through a simulated journey to a refugee camp and end facing a wall that displays 24 years’ worth of monthly calendars. An organizer reiterates that’s “24 Christmases, 24 birthdays, 24 Thanksgivings,” noting that “the average length of time a refugee is in limbo without a permanent residence is 24 years.”

24 years. An unimaginably long time to have your life in limbo.

REI’s HQ employees will have to get their blueberries elsewhere

REI built a gorgeous new headquarters in Bellevue, Wash., complete with a blueberry bog and a fire pit. BUT … the building is up for sale before any employees set foot in it. In the August 24 issue of the Business Transformation SmartBrief, we shared the story of REI’s choice to sell the building it began constructing in 2018. Now the company needs cash since sales slowed during the pandemic, and it also says it is taking a new look at the importance of remote work.

Maybe REI employees can set up little personal blueberry bogs. Is that possible?

In Berlin (and elsewhere), citizens pitched in to water trees

A story in the August 5 issue of the International City/County Management (ICMA) SmartBrief introduced an app being used by citizens in Berlin to save trees that are being threatened by drought. This article delved into lots of topics, including the fact that the US Air Force flew saplings to Berlin after World War II along with food and supplies.

Trees matter, for oxygen and detente.

Berlin
Photo credit: Unsplash/Alejandro Cartagena

A video game could help older adults with depression

I’ve dealt with depression in the past. More recently, my father-in-law experienced depression when he was living with us the last few years of his life. I’m all for pretty much anything that might help people overcome it. That’s why a story in the August 14 Social Work SmartBrief about a video game that might help older adults with depression get better interested me so much.

Please take a break to read this story about brakes

It took five miles and (ultimately) three police officers to help a motorist in Mississippi stop her car after the brakes failed. Dispatcher Bailey Whitehead stayed on the phone with her from the moment she called until the three officers jumped out of their patrol cars and physically stopped her car. Whitehead has been a dispatcher for a year. Learn more via the August 18 issue of the Public Safety SmartBrief.

It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of Whitehead’s career accelerates.

Before I leave the topic of public safety and the National Emergency Number Association, I want to mention something that is happening this month that you may be interested in. Country music star Craig Morgan is hosting a Facebook live concert benefiting America’s 9-1-1 emergency call takers this month. It will take place on Wed., September 23, at 4:00 p.m. CST and will be broadcast live on Morgan’s Facebook page. Funds raised from the event will support education and wellness programs for 9-1-1 public safety professionals in local communities across the United States.

Tanks for the memories

In the August 26 ROA SmartBrief, I learned about the deactivation ceremony held for the Company E, 4th Tank Battalion. Tanks have been a part of life at Fort Knox for 70 years, and they are going away as the corps reduces its dependence on tanks in general.

Having come from a military family, this type of thing always tugs at my heartstrings.

This was not just another brick in the wall

This story in the August 12 issue of the Sigma Xi SmartBrief was such an interesting take on how an ordinary object has the potential to do something extraordinary. It detailed the way scientists have discovered how to “store energy in ordinary red bricks by heating them with acid vapor and adding reactive compounds.” I also had so much fun with the wordplay of the headline (I originally wrote “Not just another brick in the wall” and it was improved upon by a colleague with the addition of “This was…”) … and you’re welcome for the earworm.)

The Beirut explosion, explained in profoundly sad, simple terms

In the August 12, 2020, issue of UN Wire, we shared one of several stories in August about the explosion in Beirut. Here’s the quote that got me, from Amal Mudallali, Lebanon’s ambassador to the UN, who said the blast was like “15 years of war in 15 seconds, the darkest 15 seconds we have ever seen.”

Lessons from Freddie Gray’s death

As I mentioned last month, I attended the Education Writers Association National Seminar (virtual) in July. I heard Wes Moore and Erica L. Green speak about their book, Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City. I appreciated their presentation, and the fact that Moore found it important to enlist Green’s involvement to give the project a “journalistic lens.” I wrote more about their presentation here. I would appreciate it if you would read and share my post. It’s more important, though, that you read the book (as I’m doing now) and try really hard to learn its lessons and share those.

Working at Future/SmartBrief

The language below is the same thing I always share at the end of these monthly wrapup posts (with a few minor modifications). Before saying what I always say, though, I want to mention what committed, compassionate colleagues I am working with on some of our organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts. We may not ever get it exactly right, but we are working at it. Spending time with these people gives me hope in a divisive world.

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc, including a health care and life sciences editor position that may be open to telecommuters, can be found at this link. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

What does kitty litter have to do with social work?

July — it’s a month that starts off with a holiday that celebrates freedom, but most of us spent its 31 days hunkered down in our homes waiting for positive progress toward getting rid of COVID-19. Those of you who are essential workers didn’t have that luxury, and I applaud you with the most resounding applause I can muster. Thank you.

My colleagues and I are getting a bit tired of writing the three words “amid the pandemic,” but sometimes that’s the only way to express the backdrop of business and life right now, especially when we have a limited amount of space. Therefore, although it’ll make a few colleagues grit their teeth, here are my favorite stories from the July newsletters I edited for SmartBrief — yes, amid the pandemic.

BoardSource

In the July 9 issue of the BoardSource newsletter, we shared an article in which the CEO of PayPal, Dan Schulman, discussed how PayPal is giving $30 million in grants to Black-owned businesses as a demonstration of support. He explained his philosophy:

“Values can’t just be words on a wall. Otherwise they’re just propaganda. You have to live them, you have to act them out. And you have to demonstrate them visibly.” – Dan Schulman

What does kitty litter have to do with social work?

Business Transformation SmartBrief

I have been fascinated by the fact that the pandemic has led to a change shortage and a general speeding up of our society’s progress toward being a cashless society. In the July 24 issue, one of the summaries included three articles — one about the coin shortage, another about how quickly the world will become cash-free once the pandemic wanes, and one about the various ways grocery chains are responding to the coin shortage — that covered different aspects of this topic. This is the only brief in which I routinely run polls, and here’s what people think about the route to a cashless society:

What does kitty litter have to do with social work?

International City/County Management Association

We have a section in the ICMA SmartBrief that recognizes when local government professionals make transitions such as retirement or beginning their service in a new place. It was such a pleasure to be part of sharing the news of Jane Brautigam’s upcoming retirement as the city manager of Boulder, Colo., in the July 28 issue.

Jane is the current president of ICMA, and I was at the association’s conference last year in October when she took office. Going to the conference gave me such an appreciation for the role its president holds, and I recall the positive message she shared as she took over. I’m so glad I had that opportunity to be a part of ICMA’s annual meeting and to get to know some of our readers.

Here’s an interview with Jane as she began her term:

National Association of Social Workers

Recently, I drove my dad to a single-day surgery clinic so he could have a procedure done. The clinic had told me they had a “shady spot in the parking lot” where I could wait for him (because the lobby is closed to visitors). I didn’t mind waiting in the car (especially now that I finally have a car with air conditioning).

However, I had not given too much thought to restroom options, since they had said the procedure would last 45 minutes. Apparently I’m really bad at medical procedure math, because I took them at their “45 minutes” word and didn’t factor waiting time pre-procedure, prep time and recovery time into the plan.

About half an hour after I had dropped him off, the staff asked me to come get his jewelry so they wouldn’t be responsible for it. When I approached the door for the jewelry, I asked if I could use the restroom. Although the answer wouldn’t have been a firm “no” if I had been pushier, the answer was, “well then we would have to take your temperature” and they clearly did not feel inclined to do that. I asked if I had time to drive somewhere to go to the restroom (this seems hilarious in retrospect) and they said “yes.”

I went to get gas, which I needed to do anyway. That place’s restroom was closed.

Then I figured Starbucks would be a safe bet. After navigating the Starbucks parking lot (why are so many of them so awful?), I went into the establishment and saw a “restrooms closed” sign.

Then I ended up at McDonalds. Their bathrooms were open (limit 5 people at a time). This has been the second time during the pandemic that a McDonalds has saved me when I needed a restroom (thanks, McDonalds).

I would have needed to do the whole hunt all over again if the staff hadn’t found my dad “cute” and wanted me to come in to hear the post-procedure instructions. Thankfully, I was able to use the restroom then (it had been a few hours since the McDonalds trek). I did fail the initial temperature test (maybe because I had been sitting in a hot car for a few hours? I didn’t want to run the air conditioner continuously so I had been alternating window open and A/C on), but I finally passed and was able to use their restroom.

How does this relate to SmartBrief you ask? The whole time I was on the restroom odyssey, I was thinking of an article we shared in the July 24 issue about how there are so many fewer public restroom options during the pandemic. For some homeless people, this apparently has led them to either wear adult diapers or use “5-gallon buckets filled with kitty litter.” What has our society come to when this is the only option for some of our fellow humans?

National Emergency Number Association

Let’s just juxtapose two stories that represent July for the Public Safety SmartBrief from NENA. In the July 28 issue, there was a story with the headline “Agencies advise against calling 9-1-1 about masks.” Then in the July 30 issue, we ran “Experts advise calling 9-1-1 in certain mask situations.” Different places, different policies. Ultimately, while there are limited times when it’s appropriate to call 9-1-1 about a mask situation, it’s not OK to do it to tattle on someone who isn’t following the rules. That clogs up phone traffic and may keep someone whose life is in danger from getting help rapidly.

Reserve Officers Association

In the July 6 issue, we discussed the National Guard’s response to COVID-19. The National Guard has been part of our awesome free testing site here in Tallahassee (I got tested there in May). The Defense Department has approved giving two medals that National Guard members can earn for their service. They are the Humanitarian Service Medal and the Armed Forces Service Medal. These are well-deserved honors for such critical work.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary Society

An article we shared on July 13 about a 120,000-year-old necklace that helped researchers understand how string originated was interesting enough. But here’s what got me: One of the study’s co-authors, Ofer Bar-Yosef, died in March. His wife was the study’s primary author and said, “I know he would have been very happy and proud to see this paper out.” I found this very poignant.

UN Wire

In the July 13 issue, a story discussed the Srebrenica genocide and how nine additional victims of the massacre from 25 years ago had been buried recently. So many things about this story were so sad, but as with so many things about UN Wire, it was the human face of the mother profiled in a video embedded in the story — a mother who lost her husband and her sons — that made this story stay with me.

“I can’t bring them back, I can’t forgive [the perpetrators], and I can’t take revenge.” – Ramiza Gurdic

Also in my SmartBrief World:

The Education Writers Association National Seminar

I participated (virtually of course) in the Education Writers Association National Seminar, and I very much appreciate EWA awarding me a scholarship to attend. My colleague, Kanoe Namahoe, also attended. She and I are working on a wrapup post, so I’ll link to that next month.

For now, I’ll share that one of my favorite sessions was the one with Nic Stone, author of “Dear Martin” (among other books). “Dear Martin” was challenged in Georgia earlier this year. Very few things fire me up like a book challenge. Here’s something Nic Stone said that I agree with wholeheartedly:

“Censorship issues always highlight to me the way adults in positions of authority think about children.” – Nic Stone

A post about anti-racist workplaces

I wrote What is it going to take to get unstuck from racist practices at work? based on a Quartz webinar I attended in June. If your workplace has done something that helped you and your colleagues make progress toward being an anti-racist workplace, I’d love to hear.

Working at Future/SmartBrief

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

What does kitty litter have to do with social work?
Side note: You know this is an old picture because I haven’t gotten my nails done since the pandemic began. :-/

*The views expressed here are my personal opinion and not those of my employer.

June: Not your ordinary news month

When I wrote my wrap-up of my favorite May stories from SmartBrief, I couldn’t help reflecting on the difference between the pre-May 25 stories and the post-May 25 stories. I even added a story from the June 8 issue (which at the time hadn’t even been published yet) because I found it so reflective how rapidly the nonprofit sector’s focus had shifted after George Floyd’s murder.

Setting the tone

I realize it’s probably an awful habit to check my email before I get out of bed in the morning, but I do. Therefore, the first work-related thing I read on the first day of June was Why are leadership thinkers silent about Floyd and the protests? by SmartBrief senior editor James daSilva. This post made a difference to how I approached the month for a few reasons. To put it most succinctly, “silence is also a message,” one of the key points in the post, is so true. It’s true as it relates to the way governments and businesses choose to respond to challenging times in society, and it’s true for us as individuals.

In addition, I breathed a sigh of relief after reading this post because it was a sign to me about the choices I could make in my editing work as the month progressed and as I contributed to SmartBrief’s leadership Twitter account, which I help manage (please feel free to follow if you don’t already). Finally, it was published at the beginning of a day that finished off with the CEO of Future plc, SmartBrief’s parent organization, saying , “We have never made a political statement at Future and we’re not making one now, this is a fundamental truth – black lives matter.”

As an organization we won’t know if we have succeeded in showing that we support that fundamental truth for a long time. But it made a difference that our CEO said something — immediately and without reservation.

Now, having gotten that long prologue out of the way, these were my favorite stories from June.

BoardSource SmartBrief

In our June 3 issue, there was an article about how to empower Black-led organizations to help their communities. Author Jamye Wooten founded an organization that provides microgrants through the Baltimore Black-led Solidarity Fund. Wooten said, “Relationships move at the speed of trust and social movements move at the speed of relationships.” This captures so much about what makes nonprofit efforts work (and last), all in one sentence. 

June: Not your ordinary news month

Business Transformation SmartBrief

The Business Transformation SmartBrief (BTSB) has four focuses: change management, “people, planet and profitability” (which is, to overgeneralize, about environmental, social and governance factors in investing), digital innovation, and any research that applies to those areas. An article we shared in our June 3 issue discussed 10 reasons change management efforts may fail. One of the reasons is the belief that “leaders can force people to change.” In my experience, a leader may be able to make change happen, but doing so comes at a cost to morale, productivity and long-term success.

The post’s author wrote, “A senior manager who tried that approach told me, ‘All I got was malicious compliance.'” The term “malicious compliance” seems about right. And I agree with this reminder: “People need to understand the motivation for change and leaders must ‘win them over’ to succeed.”

Entrepreneurs

I filled in as the editor of SmartBrief on Entrepreneurs for the June 26 issue. The issue included a story about Alexa von Tobel, who founded LearnVest, a company that was designed to help people understand financial planning better. LearnVest was sold to Northwestern Mutual in 2015 for $375 million. Von Tobel discussed how she started the business with only her savings (no capital). “I had so much conviction,” is what she says about her process.

Although von Tobel was discussing a business decision, “I had so much conviction” seems to apply to other aspects of June 2020 and the challenges we all face.

International City/County Management Association

In the June 22 issue of the ICMA newsletter, we included a story about how the St. Paul, Minn., City Council voted to prohibit conversion therapy for minors. Prohibition of conversion therapy is an important issue to me. I advocated for such a prohibition here in Tallahassee, Fla. It ultimately passed, but one of the City Commission meetings I attended as the discussions played out will stay on my mind for a long time. People who have been personally affected by conversion therapy were courageous enough to describe their experiences. People who spoke of their opposition to conversion therapy were too cowardly (or perhaps just uneducated) to be compassionate toward people who didn’t fit their idea of the absolutes into which people should be sorted.

I’m happy to see conversion therapy bans being passed in more places. The American Psychiatry Association has opposed the practice since 1998.

National Association of Social Workers

Relando Thompkins-Jones wrote a piece called Representation Matters in Social Work: We Need More Black Therapists. We shared that piece in the June 9 issue. Thompkins, who is Black, discussed how frustrating it was to have a (white) therapist who “hadn’t heard of Amy Cooper, didn’t understand the racial dynamics at play in the story, and was not aware of the death of George FloydBreonna TaylorTony McDade, or others.”

Thompkins-Jones makes the case that there need to be more Black therapists, and suggests a “pathways approach” that provides support such as mentoring, field placements and workshops to help build skills for aspiring Black social workers.

Must practitioners always share the same identities of the people they support? No. Are understanding identities and their connection to power, privilege and oppression in relation to others important? Yes. Do we need more Black therapists? Yes. — Relando Thompkins-Jones

National Emergency Number Association

I have lived in Florida most of my life, so hurricane prep has been a consistent part of our routines. In this article from the June 4 issue of the Public Safety SmartBrief (NENA), a county emergency management director was discussing how hurricane preparations will be complicated by the pandemic. After explaining that people seeking to stay in hurricane shelters would “need to bring including masks, snacks, food ready that’s to eat and bed rolls,” Rupert Lacy said, “A shelter is refuge, not comfort.” That is technically true. I’ve never had to stay at a hurricane shelter (yet), but I can’t imagine a time when comfort is more sought after than when you and your family are away from your own home, unsure if it will still be standing when you return.

Reserve Officers Association

The June 1 issue of this newsletter had a story that discussed how the Army Emergency Relief program had expanded benefits for Army National Guard members or Reservists affected by the pandemic. One of those is a zero-interest loan of up to $3,000 to deal with taking care of the remains of family members when it’s impossible to have a funeral right away due to lack of capacity at funeral homes. This is known as “dignified storage.” There’s nothing wrong with the term, but it made me sad that it has to exist.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary

There were some excellent pieces of writing about the need for more diversity in science last month. In our June 9 issue, we shared US scientific societies condemn racism in the wake of George Floyd death. Several scientists presented compelling statements. Megan Donahue, an astrophysicist who is also president of the American Astronomical Society, wrote, “Racism persists because many of us have refused to see it.”

In addition, I found Donahue’s candidate statement from the time she ran for the office. The election was in 2017, so this statement dates back at least three years. Part of her statement reads, “I propose to increase AAS-supported outreach to underserved communities. We have hard work to do to meet the challenges ahead, from shrinking science budgets to meeting our own high standards for opportunities for all.”

Donahue’s statement occurred long before the George Floyd murder. It’s not that racism wasn’t present in 2017, but there wasn’t a national conversation of the type we’re having now. I admire Donahue for making diversity and “opportunities for all” a part of her platform.

UN Wire

I’m sorry to end this month’s wrapup on such a negative note, but the June 26 issue of the UN Wire newsletter had a story about the millions of Yemeni children facing starvation due to the pandemic.

And if the picture of the starving newborn atop this story doesn’t move a reader, I don’t know what will.

It’s a heartbreaking image, but one that the things I’ve discussed in all the other stories above — motivation, trust, conviction, acceptance, comfort, dignity, making sure the underserved are accounted for and putting aside our refusal to see racism — can be applied to making the type of change that literally helps people survive.

How to Build an Anti-Racist Company

I participated in a webinar on June 11, How to Build an Anti-Racist Company. (There’s a full replay here for Quartz members or people who take the 7-day trial.) This is a huge topic to fit into one hour, but that hour was an hour well-spent, and it will help me make a more focused contribution at my organization.

I wrote about the webinar here, and would love for you to tweet SBLeaders to share a commitment can you make to making your organization more anti-racist.

June: Not your ordinary news month

Working at Future/SmartBrief

This is a section I share every month. I do want to add that our organization just grew substantially as Future’s purchase of TI Media was finalized.

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays and Fridays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

June: Not your ordinary news month
I always work from home, but right now all of our staff members are working from home. For that reason, here’s a nice memory (and a lovely quote) from my visit to our DC office last December.

*The views expressed here are my personal opinion and not those of my employer.

Doing what’s right and being human: SmartBrief May 2020

The first Sunday of every month, I share my favorite SmartBrief stories from the prior month. The timing is a little odd this month, since the first Sunday occurs when a full week has already gone by. Because the first week of June was such a monumental one for our nation, and for the nonprofit sector, I have already accumulated stories I plan to use when I write my June wrapup on July 5.

One of the benefits of doing things the same way every month, though, is having a little time capsule of what transpired. In that spirit, I’m sharing my favorite stories from May (with one exception).

Business Transformation SmartBrief

In the May 8 issue of this newsletter, we shared a story about takeaways leaders can gain from the pandemic. One of the story’s points was how it can be effective for job-hunters and others in need of connection to ask for “warm introductions” from people in your network if you’re job-hunting during a pandemic. The story has to do with a lesson Ryan Smith, Qualtrics CEO, learned during the previous economic crisis. Conclusion: “The lesson here is if you do what’s right, it may pay off 10x down the line.”

BoardSource SmartBrief

It’s almost quaint how the pandemic seemed like our only and biggest problem on May 11. But it certainly was front and center in many of the stories across my eight briefs. I did not know about Sean Penn’s charity, CORE, what it did in Haiti, or the topic this story addressed: how he made sure so many people in California were able to be tested for COVID-19. The organization, at the time of the story, said it planned to expand the drive-through testing beyond California, to make sure rural areas were covered, and to serve the Navajo Nation reservation too.

National Association of Social Workers SmartBrief

In the May 15 issue, we shared a story in which a social worker discussed the challenges of doing their job while wearing personal protective equipment.

“As the hospital eventually required us to wear PPE when meeting with patients, I found myself trying to convey empathy from behind a mask. My job involves talking to people who are in a very delicate state, especially now. Day in and day out, I hoped that these patients were able to feel my empathy through my body language and tone of voice, since they were not able to see my expression behind the mask.”

I related to this social worker’s concerns.

Public Safety SmartBrief (National Emergency Number Association)

I’m not exaggerating when I say “I love dispatchers.” I had an appreciation for them before I started editing this newsletter, but now I think they are absolute heroes. An article in the May 5 issue was part of a trio of pieces that explained the changes dispatchers have experienced due to the pandemic, both regarding the volume of calls and the way they do their work. “We’re not very comfortable sitting at home,” said one. This does not surprise me at all.

Reserve Officers Association SmartBrief

I’ve read multiple “deployment ceremony” stories since I began editing this newsletter in September 2018. This one in the May 6 issue had a pandemic twist: although there were 130 service members being deployed, the ceremony was a “rolling farewell” and the governor, who attended to see them off, said he was “really sorry I can’t shake all your hands.” This was probably a good logistical choice, but I felt for these service members not being able to share the moment together.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary, SmartBrief

I will often go to a scientist’s own website when reading a story for the Sigma Xi newsletter. Ostensibly, it’s to check that I’m spelling their name right or to see if they are on social media (sometimes I share the stories I’m editing via Twitter and/or Instagram). There’s a scientist, Tim Bedding, whose research was featured in our May 18 issue. His research charted the “heartbeats” of 60 pulsating stars.

But that isn’t the main thing that got that story to this point. It was the fact that his website contains a link to pictures of his kids. I love anything that gives the people behind these stories more dimensions than a passing mention in an article can provide.

UN Wire SmartBrief

I learned a new word from the May 11 issue. The word is “renovictions” and it means when a company “purchases apartment blocks, often with tenants already living in them, and then undertakes renovations to communal areas and vacant apartments within the block, regardless of need.” Renovictions. They sound dreadful and unfair.

International City/County Management Association SmartBrief

I’m doing something different with this final share of the post. It’s not a story that ran in May. It’s not a story that has run yet. It’s a story slated for the June 8 issue, which will be published tomorrow.

It’s a story no one could have anticipated when May started, but that, in my opinion, is the story that speaks most eloquently to our time.

In the June 8 issue, readers will see that Washington, D.C. added a street mural reading “Black Lives Matter” that covers two city blocks with massive letters on a road leading to the White House. Ed note: Here’s a link to the story. 7/4/20

Photo credit: Unknown

I’m also proud to work for a place where our CEO said at the beginning of last week, “We have never made a political statement … and we’re not making one now, this is a fundamental truth – black lives matter.” I agree with her and it matters to me to be part of a company that feels that way. It’s an important place to start, even though every company, every organization, every city, every town, every institution and every individual who does not have lived experience as a black person has work to do. A great statement is only a starting place, and we each have to take responsibility for being true to that promising start.

Working at Future/SmartBrief

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. As of this writing, the most recent position listed is this Senior Sales Development Manager position in our New York City office. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays and Fridays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

This is an older picture (from my first visit to our Washington, D.C., office in January 2019 — the appearance of this entrance has changed since then). But I still like it, because I was so happy to meet everyone in person. And I imagine it will be a good sign for our world when the doors greet employees again after a long period of working from home.

*The views expressed here are my personal opinion and not those of my employer.

No sports? No problem! Here’s a news game

The world is pretty much without professional and college sports right now. I have done 18 posts to highlight my favorite SmartBrief stories for each month, so although this little game won’t replace the thrill of the Final Four or a spring of baseball, hopefully it will change things up a little bit from my previous formats and exercise your brain.

The briefs I edit fall under the “nonprofit” umbrella, yet they are pretty diverse. Maybe it’s just the pandemic talking, but as I looked back at my favorite stories from April, there seemed to be similarities I don’t always see. Is it logical that there was an intersection between social work and business transformation? Is there a way science and social work converge?

I will do my usual breakdown of briefs and favorite stories after this, but if you want to challenge your mind, here’s an option.

Click on the graphic below and it will take you to a game.

After clicking on the graphic: 1) Click the green arrow to start 2) Click the red “next” button 3) Now you’re at the game! Drag the topic area to the quote you think it matches. For example, if you think “public safety” matches up with ‘Why don’t we just try … then become that?’, drag “public safety” to that quote. It will only stick the correct brief area to the correct quote, so the good news is you’ll have scored “100” by the time you’re done!*

No sports? No problem! Here's a news game

Whether you played the game or not, here are my favorites.

BoardSource (Nonprofit board management)

This story in the April 7 issue of the BoardSource newsletter was about how the American Refugee Committee went about rebranding itself. The article goes in-depth about how the organization arrived at its new name, “Alight.” I was struck by the executive director’s comment that they asked themselves, “Why don’t we just try to do what we think is right, and then become that?” So many businesses and nonprofits do things the other way around — picking a name or logo and then trying to squeeze themselves into that identity. I liked the call to really think about WHAT you are doing before telling the world WHO you are.

Quote: Why don’t we just try to do what we think is right, and then become that?

Business Transformation SmartBrief (Business transformation)

This is the newest brief to my lineup (it was created in December of last year). It has the word “business” in its name for a reason, but I like the stories that encourage people to think in transformative ways as much or more than the stories that are more narrowly focused on business and the fourth industrial revolution. In the April 10 issue, we shared a story about the power of imagination, even at times like this when businesses are forced to make very cut-and-dried decisions to survive.

Quote: Imagination is … one of the hardest things to keep alive under pressure.

International City/County Management Association (City/county management)

The reason I chose a quote from this story that was in the April 14 issue requires a brief explanation. The county council involved found itself in the position of choosing to reassure citizens that they would not increase taxes. That sounds a bit vanilla BUT … the prospect of a tax increase (which only one of the five members was supporting) really only got public attention because it was, for the first time, published in a larger newspaper than usual. It had to be published in a larger paper than usual because the smaller newspapers that used to carry legally-required ads of this type are now defunct.

The quote I chose for the “game” is “there are no more local print newspapers closer to the area,” but this is one that needs to be read in context.

“The advertisement was placed in small, local publications in years past. This was the first year that it was published in The Washington Post because there are no more local print newspapers closer to the area, [the county budget director] said.”

and

“The ad might have received more attention this time because it was placed in a large newspaper and people might be reading through the newspaper more because of a stay-at-home order in effect in Maryland.” (Also a statement by the budget director.)

Moral of the story: Newspapers of all sizes matter.

National Association of Social Workers (Social work)

Our team member who does the searches for the social work stories does a great job of trying to find angles we haven’t covered before. That’s why I especially liked this story in our April 23 issue about how the pandemic challenged traditional Ramadan practices this year. A social worker talked about how stay-at-home orders are especially difficult on elder members of the Somali American Muslim community where she works in Minnesota. The quote I used came from a business owner who was providing more context (and it’s certainly universal beyond social work).

Quote: The businesses here are losing a lot of money because few people are buying.

National Emergency Number Association (Public safety)

One of the areas of focus for the NENA Public Safety brief is how law enforcement uses social media to communicate with the public. That’s why I loved this story in the April 2 issue about a sheriff who is being a creative communicator. Sheriff Robert Maciol and other department staff members have been going to schools around the community to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and broadcast it on Facebook live. I’ve heard so many instances of kids missing their school routines. I have to imagine this delights some children (and their parents).

Quote: In these tough times, neighbors and communities need to band together.

Reserve Officers Association (Military reserve officers)

Before I read this article in the April 27 ROA newsletter, I have to admit I was a little skeptical (ignorant, I suppose) when I would read about an entire ambulance being decontaminated or an N95 mask being reusable if appropriately decontaminated. But this article explained it very well and made me appreciate the National Guard troops who are deployed against COVID-19 even more.

Quote: We’re trying to find out how much hydrogen peroxide is needed for how long, to be effective in different HVAC systems.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society (Science)

We use Gizmodo as a source fairly often in this brief, but I am always excited when one of the articles we’re sharing is from its Birdmodo category. In the April 9 issue, we shared an article about a rare hybrid hawk and how it came to be. The writer has such an engaging style; he makes bird stories fun to read while also providing accurate scientific information. I’ve been married for 27 years, so I can’t say I still know for sure whether it’s swiping left or right that’s a good thing, but I definitely got the point when the writer said this:

Quote: … after years of unrequited courting, someone finally swiped right.

UN Wire (United Nations Foundation)

Finally, UN Wire, which as you can imagine for an international brief dealing with issues relevant to followers of the United Nations Foundation was heavily weighted toward the pandemic. The story I chose a quote from is related to the pandemic too, but as a Shot at Life champion and advocate for children worldwide to have access to immunizations, this is the one that stood out to me. It’s from the April 29 issue.

Quote: The effect of the lack of vaccinations has already begun to emerge.

Fun with a webinar

Since going full-time at SmartBrief in September 2018 (I had been a freelancer for a while before that), I have been reflecting on the adventure of climbing a whole new learning curve after having a career in a different industry. Some things feel much more comfortable now that I can see the two-year mark in the near future. Yet there are always opportunities to do something new. In April, I got to moderate a webinar. My part was pretty limited (introducing the speakers, helping get the questions asked by participants to them, saying goodbye and closing things out), but the whole process was interesting.

As I’ve learned from being a volunteer producer on the New York Times readalong and from some other recent experiences helping facilitate livestreamed events, preparation matters OH SO MUCH. Therefore, it was as interesting to me to see the backend pieces (meeting with the presenters, etc.) as it was to do the actual event. If you’re interested in learning more about GovPilot (government management software), you can get access to the “Cloud-Based Government Management for Crisis and Beyond” webinar by visiting this link.

Keeping people informed isn’t a game

I’m proud of the work we do at Future/SmartBrief. I take seriously our role in helping people stay informed, especially at a time when information is flying all over the place (not all of it especially accurate).

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. As of this writing, the most recent position listed is this Digital Ad Trafficker position in our Washington, D.C., office. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays and Fridays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

No sports? No problem! Here's a news game

*I know the score it gives you isn’t “100.” It’s actually designed for you to review the topic areas/terms first then try to beat the clock. Hey, I’m the nonprofit person, not the educational design person!

**The views expressed here are my personal views and not those of my employer.

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

At the beginning of March (32 short days ago), I had the heart-filling opportunity to read to students at Ruediger Elementary School during #ReadUnited, a United Way campaign to encourage childhood reading.

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

Who knew this picture would seem so anachronistic just a month later? An open school! People sitting within six feet of each other! People breathing the same air! Now, of course, the physical school is closed and everything has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although much of our content at SmartBrief has been taken over by coronavirus stories, we did talk about other things last month. Here are my favorite stories (and none of them are about the pandemic).

BoardSource

Unfortunately, we have had our share of hurricanes here in North Florida. After Hurricane Michael, my friends and I spent a day volunteering at a drop-off center for donations. I was assigned to take the clothing contributions that came in and put them in a holding area. I am as utterly guilty of this as anyone else, but some of the things people brought were clearly of the “this has been in our closet for five years and now is as good a time as any to get rid of it” variety vs. “this is something that could clearly be used by a hurricane victim.”

That’s why this story in the March 2 issue about when physical donations hinder instead of helping rang so true.

Here’s an excerpt:

A man showed up to the Seattle homeless service provider with a large box full of new, waterproof, cold-weather boots, a valuable commodity to survive Seattle’s cold, damp winters. Then, Reynolds took a closer look at the boots. They were all for the left foot.

The article goes on to give specific tips for people who want to donate items instead of money, such as the fact that “socks are almost always in need.”

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

Business Transformation SmartBrief

In the March 30 issue of the Business Transformation SmartBrief, we shared Jane Keith’s article about what she learned from guiding her team through an implementation of their own enterprise planning software product. “Ownership is important,” she wrote, as she described why organizational change is most likely to succeed if people feel heard.

I’ve experienced this time and time again over the course of my career. Stories like this will always make my “favorites” list.

International City/County Management Association

One of the things we hope our municipal agencies and elected officials will do is to keep us safe. Accidents happen, of course, but accidents that happen because people shirked their responsibility are different.

This article about the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans in the March 12 issue documents the “shirking responsibility” type of situation. (To be clear, it sounds like some of the details are still shaking out, and everyone is innocent until found guilty, but there were lines in the article (“Kevin Richardson, another New Orleans building inspector, pleaded guilty to accepting $65,000 in bribes in exchange for not reporting building violations and issuing false inspection reports”) for example, that I found infuriating.

I channeled that fury into a post I wrote for the Lead Change Group. The post juxtaposed the blatant disregard for human life exhibited by the New Orleans inspectors with the way a physician, Dr. Anthony Gbollie Charles, approached his responsibilities are the medical professional in charge of Lillian Chason’s case as documented in the book “Breathless.”

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

National Association of Social Workers

Who knew when Social Work Month kicked off on March 1 that so many social workers would have abruptly transitioned to providing services via telephone and the internet by March 31? The end of the month undoubtedly did not hold the celebration they expected (or deserved). At least this piece in the March 20 issue gave them some well-earned recognition. (It was directed to social workers in Iowa, but it applies across the board.)

National Emergency Number Association

The topic of this article from the March 19 issue isn’t new. It covers the trauma dispatchers face from hearing the absolute worst moments of people’s lives, as well as the proposed 911 SAVES Act, which would reclassify first responders from a federal perspective. The reclassification would take them from being “administrative service” (clerical) to “protective service” and provide better benefits, training and recognition.

Reserve Officers Association

My mother-in-law was blind, so I have a sizable soft spot for visually impaired people. That’s why I loved this article in the March 9 issue. It explains the artificial intelligence remote assistance (AIRA) system that helps visually impaired veterans through a combination of glasses fitted with online connectivity and sighted volunteers. As a side note, I discovered another way to help visually impaired people, Be My Eyes, through the BoardSource newsletter.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary

In the March 30 issue, we shared a story about how physicists at Harvard had created a more refined image of a black hole than the Event Horizon Telescope had created previously.

I really liked the description scientist Alexandru Lupsasca gave to describe the challenge of this work an explain why computer simulations are necessary. He said this type of imaging is like “sitting in New York and trying to take an up-close picture of a quarter in LA.”

UN Wire

Here’s the thing about UN Wire in March. Out of 13 issues, 12 of them had a coronavirus story as the top story. Not surprising, right? The one noncoronavirus top story was on March 6, about how girls still face threats after 25 years of progress. Seeing as how coronavirus can’t possibly be good for mitigating any of those threats, I guess the whole situation comes full circle, doesn’t it?

A little more coronavirus content

I realize the above subhead is about the least attractive subhead in the world, BUT I am proud of what SmartBrief is doing to help keep people informed about the coronavirus pandemic, in a way that is hopefully unique and useful.

The Special Report on Coronavirus comes out every Tuesday and Friday. You can subscribe here. Also, SmartBrief is donating $1 to the WHO COVID Solidarity Response Fund for every new reader referred.

Even this sort of relates to the coronavirus

Sorry, but it does! However, hopefully it holds some interest beyond pandemic life. I wrote a post about why empathy matters when leaders are guiding their organizations through a crisis such as the current pandemic. I’d love for you to read/share. Here it is.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve earned a coronavirus-free section!

A few weeks ago, I received the business cards issued to my colleagues and me to reflect our logo change since Future bought SmartBrief. The whole experience as orchestrated by Moo was so much fun and so delightful. Had the whole world not essentially gone into hibernation (except for all the incredible essential workers), I would have done a cute social media “unboxing.” Now that seems tone-deaf. People are being furloughed and losing their livelihoods, so it’s not the time. But I do want to share what a great job Moo did here:

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights
1. The outside of the box says “Yay!”
2. The seal says, “Made in Providence with pride”
3. The insider of the box says, “My goodness, you’re gorgeous! (We’re talking to your cards. But ok, you are too.)
4. The finished product is nicely arranged, with a card holder.

I love the attention Moo paid to how they presented their product. I also was happy to get my own business cards; it’s a small milestone I guess, but it was meaningful because I am proud of the work we do and of the effort we have put in over the past month, both to meet our usual standards and obligations and to rise to the occasion of coping with the arrival of the pandemic in the US.

About Future and SmartBrief

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer questions and provide more information about the process.

When there are open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc, they can be found at this link. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

*Note: My opinions about the stories are my personal viewpoint; they do not reflect an endorsement by my employer.

Grasshoppers on a mission and other fascinating stories

February 28 came and went without me noticing, but it was the two-year anniversary of the beginning of my editing career at SmartBrief. (Prior to that, I had been a searcher and writer of stories.) My first brief as an editor was the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association SmartBrief.

Lucky me, I had so much support from the production manager, the editor who showed me the ropes and the brief’s copy editor at the time.

I sort of laugh at the Paula that was so new to the responsibility of editing in February 2018. She was a little intense about it all (shocker, I know!).

I have a renewed respect for my colleagues who have been doing this much longer than I have. Being in work that demands so much sustained concentration for so long every day is a calling that takes discipline. I’m fortunate to be among people who do it so well.

I’m also fortunate that every brief, every day, somehow gives me a moment to think, “Wow. What if that DID happen?” I hope our readers feel the same.

Here are my favorites from February.

BoardSource

In our Feb. 28 issue, we shared the story of Solace Women’s Aid, a UK charity aimed at ending domestic abuse. They are running a Twitter campaign to demonstrate how abuse is often hidden and difficult to recognize. It uses the hashtag #hiddenabuse along with Twitter’s hidden replies feature (something I didn’t know about before) to share examples of why abuse doesn’t always fit the stereotypes — it can look like a typical happy couple.

Grasshoppers on a mission and other fascinating stories

Business Transformation SmartBrief

I learned about the $10 billion Jeff Bezos committed to help alleviate the effects of climate change through the BoardSource newsletter, but we shared a story in the Feb. 24 Business Transformation SmartBrief that took some really interesting angles on how exactly this money might be best used. There are so many competing ideas, from the environmentalists who think Bezos should be “confronting the fossil fuel industry head-on” to the researcher who says he should be “investing in solutions to reduce inequality and pricing carbon fairly.” I feel this whole initiative needs a leader with true backbone to give it direction.

International City/County Management Association

Summit County, Utah, has created a Communication and Public Engagement Department. We discussed it in our Feb. 6 issue. The goal is to reach non-English speakers and promote the county’s offerings and services. We have undoubtedly covered bigger stories, but to the residents of this community, I’m guessing it makes a difference that leadership cared enough to prioritize engagement.

National Association of Social Workers

First of all, it’s National Social Work Month so I’m wishing all my friends and acquaintances (and readers) in social work the best. I appreciate what you do!

A story in our Feb. 4 issue discussed a virtual reality application that helps people understand dementia. I watched the video embedded in the article (even though it’s theoretically optimized to be watched via a VR viewer). Having lived with someone with dementia for around three years, it was gripping. You can try to see the world through their eyes, but it’s so hard. This VR application makes it easier. Hopefully it helps social workers serve those with dementia (and their caregivers) better.

National Emergency Number Association

A contingent of National Emergency Number Association advocates went to Capitol Hill last month for their advocacy day. A number of them met with Rep. Norma Torres, who sponsored the 911 SAVES Act, which proposes reclassifying dispatchers from clerical to “protective service occupations.” I’m probably turning into a broken record about this, but it’s so important to recognize dispatchers for the work they do and to give them sufficient mental health (and other) resources. We covered this in our Feb. 13 issue.

Reserve Officers Association

If you don’t know that I am highly (obsessively, very, overwhelmingly) interested in being an Honor Flight guardian, it’s possible you haven’t been reading my blog for long! I didn’t get selected last year (and — to be fair — the number of veterans qualifying to take Honor Flight is declining as they age and pass away). Yet I still hope…

Therefore, when I read in our Feb. 26 issue that an organization in Chicago is organizing an all-women Honor Flight, I did indeed send them an email and say I would fly to Chicago to participate. (This probably won’t work out — why would they trust a random woman in Tallahassee begging to be a part of it all? How would I make the training that is undoubtedly a couple of weeks before the flight? Etc. Etc. Etc. Yet, if I don’t ask, I’ll never know, right?)

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honorary

After about a year and a half of doing these posts, I’m starting to detect a pattern. My favorite Sigma Xi stories seem to lean toward the ones that include animals doing silly (at least to the naked eye) things.

A story in our Feb. 18 issue discussed grasshoppers that were engineered to detect explosives — the setup involved a little backpack they had to wear. The really downer of the story was this: “The grasshoppers continued to successfully detect explosives up to seven hours after the researchers implanted the electrodes, before they became fatigued and ultimately died.” Talk about sacrificing for science.

UN Wire

It probably won’t surprise you that the UN Wire newsletter has been heavily skewed toward coronavirus stories this past month. There was a story in our Feb. 3 issue that caught my attention in a different way than the coronavirus, though. It was about a practice of ironing young girls’ breasts with hot stones in the hopes of discouraging men and boys from viewing them as sexual targets.” I never cease to be amazed at the injustices young women in our world still experience.

Keeping it Accurate

We editors had an opportunity this month to take a workshop through Merrill Perlman, a former copy desk chief at the New York Times. I took a class from Merrill last year, and it was a huge help to my editing process. I appreciate being given more resources to continue trying to improve my work.

Find the Interesting Stories (and Opportunities) for Yourself

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing similar fantastic stories.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer questions and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link.

If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

*Note: My opinions about the stories are my personal viewpoint; they do not reflect an endorsement by my employer.

Grasshoppers on a mission and other fascinating stories

Can cuttlefish wear glasses? And other SmartBrief highlights

Welcome to the “trying to keep it brief” edition of my favorite SmartBrief stories from the prior month. (We just closed on our house Friday and immediately headed out of town. Hence the shorter commentary today!)

BoardSource

My favorite BoardSource story was in the Jan. 15 issue and discussed nonprofit mergers. In this podcast, the guest talks about going to the location of a nonprofit that was the result of a merger, and how there were still two separate reception desks for the two previous organizations. Clearly the merger still had some bumps to overcome! The discussion happens at the 8:54 point in this podcast.

Business Transformation SmartBriefI

In the Jan. 22 issue of the Business Transformation SmartBrief, we featured an interview with the Chief Information Officer of Target. When he talked about the challenges of recruiting IT talent away from Silicon Valley to Minneapolis at a time when Target did not have a great reputation in this area, he said, “It was about selling people on the future, not the present.” I felt so much optimism in the way he framed this challenge.

International City/County Management Association

There’s a town in Austria that is said to have inspired the setting of “Frozen,” the Disney movie, and that connection has attracted tourists in droves. Mayor Alexander Scheutz is begging the tourists (around 10,000 a day) who want their own look at the Arendelle-like town to stay away. It’s causing multiple issues and he wants them to just let it go (couldn’t help the pun there!). We discussed this story in the Jan. 9 issue.

I also wrote a post in January based on a session I attended at the ICMA conference in Nashville last October. It’s about the manager of Meridian Township, Mich., and what he did when he discovered a report about Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of a resident was reported in 2004 (14 years prior) and not acted upon. Although he had not been manager at the time, he found it necessary to apologize.

Can cuttlefish wear glasses? And other SmartBrief highlights

National Association of Social Workers

Mental health parity is a topic we discuss often in the NASW newsletter. An article in the Jan. 14 issue talked about a young woman named Emma who died by suicide and how her father is supporting the bill. He blogs at GlitchesAndSmiles.com, which is worth a visit.

National Emergency Number Association

Burnout is an issue with the industry of first responders, and in the case of NENA, dispatchers particularly. In our Jan. 23 issue, we shared an article about reducing burnout and stress, something we do frequently. What I liked about this one was the relative simplicity of the concept and its emphasis on the power of writing. Dispatchers were encouraged to write about their experiences in response to email prompts. The writing, and the sharing among each other, led to significant reductions in scores on a burnout assessment.

Reserve Officers Association

In our Jan. 6 issue, we had a story about an Army Reserve unit preparing to deploy. This passage was heart-rending to me, as it would be to anyone with a heart:

Taylor’s 2-year-old son Axl toddled from his third row seat to embrace his father’s legs.

Taylor shooed the young boy at first, but as Axl clung to his legs, Taylor gave in with a pat to his head. Smiles filled the faces of families that admired the heartwarming yet heartbreaking moment.

“Honestly, I wanted to cry,” said Taylor.

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society

This one goes under the “wow — science requires people to do interesting things” category. For a study of depth perception, some scientist(s) put tiny 3D glasses on cuttlefish, as we shared in the Jan. 9 issue.

@Doug_Ellison, who is the Engineering Camera Team Lead of the Mars Curiosity Rover (cool gig, eh?), sent a tweet that was a reminder that all science should be questioned.

Can cuttlefish wear glasses? And other SmartBrief highlights

UN Wire

The United Nations began celebrating 2020 as its 75th anniversary year as January began. We discussed this and the “Decade of Action” plan in our Jan. 24 issue. As he briefed the UN General Assembly, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the dangers the world faces from “epic geopolitical tensions, the climate crisis, global mistrust and the downsides of technology.” He said, “commemorating the 75th anniversary with nice speeches won’t do” and encouraged “21st-century solutions” instead. I agree – we need so much more than “nice speeches” right now.

Employment opportunities at SmartBrief and Future

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing similar fantastic stories.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer questions and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link.

If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

*Note: My opinions about the stories are my personal viewpoint; they do not reflect an endorsement by my employer.

Golden stories for a new year

Golden stories for a new year

Some months, I sit down to compile my post of my favorite SmartBrief stories from the prior month, and I’ve populated the draft post with stories already. (This is my preference, because it makes the final writing a bit easier. A story that merited me taking a moment in the middle of a workday to log in to my blog site and add the link RIGHT THAT MOMENT is a golden story). There have been months when I sat down to write my post and had to start from scratch, either because the prior month was just too busy to jot down the fave stories or because nothing had jumped out to me yet. December was pretty good from that standpoint, because most of my favorite stories were already here when I started to write. It was also just a great month in general. Here’s why.

BoardSource

The beauty of working on business to business newsletters in the nonprofit sector is the huge variety of topics I read about every day. In the case of a story in the December 19 BoardSource newsletter about Sioux Falls Thrive, which is working to identify children and families struggling with food scarcity in Sioux Falls, S.D., and coordinate relief efforts with local nonprofits, the standout sentence was the one that contained a huge amount of common sense in 24 words about one of the Food Security Action Team members:

She recalled visiting a mother during her tenure, who didn’t have access to a can opener, but had a stack of canned goods nearby. 

How many times do we give in order to make ourselves feel we are making a difference, yet not take responsibility to look at the bigger picture and make sure our “help” is actually helping?

Golden stories for a new year

For the top 12 stories in the BoardSource newsletter from SmartBrief in 2019, please visit this link.

Business Transformation SmartBrief

Over the time I have been editing at SmartBrief, I have said goodbye to being responsible for the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association SmartBrief, the SmartCities SmartBrief and a newsletter for the American Society for Public Administration. I’m sure as time goes on, there will be more changes, and it’s always a bit of a challenge because I get attached to the subjects and the partners.

The newest entry in my lineup, the Business Transformation SmartBrief, will always have the distinction of being my first brief for which I was the initial editor, and for which I was involved in the team that put the brief together for the very first time. The brief covers many areas of business transformation, including environmental, social and governance investing, digital transformation and research related to these topics. I’m excited to be doing it and hope you’ll consider subscribing.

The story that has stayed in my mind the most during the Business Transformation SmartBrief’s first month is one in the December 16 issue about the Mexican chemical company Orbia, which used to be Mexichem. Many parts of this article interested me, but none more than the company’s “living logo.” The logo “changes yearly to reflect how well the company is doing in meeting a series of sustainability and profit goals.” I’m no logo expert, but I tend to see logos as static. It’ll be interesting to see how this idea goes. For what it’s worth, here’s the 2016/2017/2018 version:

Golden stories for a new year

For the top 12 stories in the Business Transformation newsletter from SmartBrief in 2019, please visit this link.

International City/County Management Association

I had never heard of the Indigenous Peoples Thanksgiving Sunrise Ceremony until this year. We discussed the November 28 event held on Alcatraz Island in our December 2 issue. Were these comfortable articles to read about how “Native people were banned from practicing a Sunrise Ceremony” or how “Native Americans call the federal holiday the National Day of Mourning“? They absolutely were not. But city and county managers (and people in general) need to be aware of the perspectives of all within their municipalities, and this piece opened my eyes wide.

The ICMA SmartBrief did not have a “top 12 stories” issue.

National Association of Social Workers

My favorite NASW SmartBrief story of December aligned so well with one of my core beliefs in general: that reading makes us all better at what we do. In this case, social worker Michael Laird discussed how reading literary fiction had deepened his insight into the human condition.

He talks about “The Box Man” by Kobo Abe, a Japanese novel that explores issues of identity. Laird writes:

As social workers, we can think of the box as a metaphor for escaping shame and the sense that one is different and unaccepted by peers, family members, and the community. 

Golden stories for a new year

For the top 12 stories in the NASW newsletter from SmartBrief in 2019, please visit this link.

National Emergency Number Association

I fully understand that it’s my role to present the story of my partners from their perspective and to retain objectivity, but in the case of the need for passage of the 911 SAVES Act, which would reclassify dispatchers as “protective service occupation” workers (rather than clerical), I am firmly with the dispatchers.

In the December 17 issue of the Public Safety SmartBrief, we shared how reclassification had not been included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. However, we had an opportunity in a subsequent issue to describe how 38 of the 55 counties in West Virginia have given first responder status to dispatchers (with an effort to seek a statewide designation underway).

The Public Safety SmartBrief did not have a “top 12 stories” issue.

Reserve Officers Association

Unless you were under a rock in December, you’ll recall that Giving Tuesday took place on December 3. Three military spouses, including the National Guard Military Spouse of the Year, organized a Giving Tuesday campaign that had a slightly different twist from all the Giving Tuesday initiatives focused on raising funds. It sought to reach 1 million acts of kindness. We talked about this in the December 2 ROA SmartBrief.

“I truly believe in the power of kindness and that it can save lives,” said Jessica Manfre.

Me too, Jessica.

For the top 12 stories in the ROA newsletter from SmartBrief in 2019, please visit this link.

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society

Just imagine being a humble citizen scientist whose passion and hard work lead NASA to credit you in a tweet. I mean … just imagine!

That’s exactly what happened for Shanmuga Subramanian. In the December 4 issue of the Sigma Xi SmartBrief, we shared the story of how Subramanian’s analysis of a NASA image of the Vikram lander’s debris field on the moon led to NASA confirming its crash site.

Golden stories for a new year

I simply love this vindication of doing what you love to do; that by doing so, you sometimes earn proper recognition.

For the top 12 stories in the Sigma Xi newsletter from SmartBrief in 2019, please visit this link.

United Nations Foundation

Every UN Wire SmartBrief has 14 items. Three days a week, 14 items, and a high proportion of these items address refugee issues. One story about refugees in the December 18 newsletter that covered the Global Refugee Forum featured a woman who left Syria and became a refugee in 2013 when someone shot a gun into her car. She discussed how education and job assistance do help refugees. However, she noted the more difficult shadow of racism and stigma.

“Becoming a refugee doesn’t change who you are,” she said. “I am still the same woman.”

For the top 12 stories in the UN Wire newsletter from SmartBrief in 2019, please visit this link.

A visit to HQ

Another reason December was “golden” was my opportunity to visit our Washington, D.C., headquarters. This was my first visit since we were purchased by Future plc. I got to see some of the cosmetic changes (more Future red, for example).

Golden stories for a new year

I also got to squeeze in a visit to the National Christmas Tree the night I arrived.

Golden stories for a new year

The most delightful part, though, was spending time with my colleagues. I love remote worker life, but I also truly enjoy my coworkers. I’m so grateful for two days with them.

Employment opportunities at SmartBrief and Future

If you’d like to discover your own “golden stories” as part of SmartBrief (or our parent company, Future plc), this is your section.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer questions and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link.

If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

This video gives a quick summary of our 2019 at SmartBrief. I have learned so much and dealt with so many interesting people. I’m looking forward to more golden opportunities in 2020.

A Recap

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

I’m linking this post up at Kat Bouska’s blog for the prompt, “Write a blog post inspired by GOLD.”

Golden stories for a new year

*Note: My opinions about the stories are my personal viewpoint; they do not reflect an endorsement by my employer.

7 Giving Tuesday causes and a bonus

At the beginning of every month, I share a post about my favorite SmartBrief stories from the prior month (here’s October’s, for example).

I do have favorite stories from November, but I’m changing things up today in honor of Giving Tuesday, which is December 3.

I feel so fortunate that my work at SmartBrief is with nonprofit sector newsletters (although everyone who knows me knows I get pretty attached to everything I do, including tolling and agriculture). Especially as Giving Tuesday rolls around, with its opportunity for so many great causes to discuss what they do and the difference a contribution can make, I decided for this month to share a way each of my partners is connecting on Giving Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday

BoardSource

As stated on their website, BoardSource “supports, trains, and educates nonprofit leaders from across the country and throughout the world.” Donations to BoardSource ” support our research and leadership addressing issues of critical importance to the work of the social sector and the communities and people we seek to serve.”

How to donate: Click here.

Learn more via the BoardSource newsletter from SmartBrief: Subscribe here.

International City/County Management Association (ICMA)

ICMA’s website describes the organization as “the world’s leading association of professional city and county managers and other employees who serve local governments.” I had the pleasure of attending ICMA’s conference this year, so you can get my perspective here and here.

ICMA has a Future of Professional Management Fund that seeks to “advocate and promote the council-manager form and professional local government management.” Read the 2018 Giving Tuesday post about the fund here and donate here.

Learn more about the ICMA newsletter from SmartBrief: Subscribe here.

National Association of Social Workers

NASW, according to their website, “works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social policies.”

Contributions to NASW are directed to the NASW Foundation, the NASW Legal Defense Fund and/or its Political Action for Candidate Election efforts. All three have links here.

Learn more about the NASW newsletter from SmartBrief: Subscribe here.

National Emergency Number Association (NENA)

The NENA website lists its role as being “the only professional organization solely focused on 9-1-1 policy, technology, operations, and education issues.”

NENA’s Gold Line Scholarship Fund seeks to help 9-1-1 professionals obtain training. Donate here.

Learn more about the Public Safety SmartBrief: Subscribe here.

Reserve Officers Association (ROA)

ROA describes itself on its website as “only exclusive advocate for the Reserve and National Guard – all ranks, all services”

There are multiple ways to contribute to ROA, including general contributions to its work, donations to its ROA STARs foundation, tribute benches and more. All are accessible by clicking here.

Giving Tuesday
ROA Tribute Bench Photo credit: roa.org

Learn more about the ROA newsletter from SmartBrief: Subscribe here.

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society

Sigma Xi says on its website that its purpose is to “honor excellence in scientific investigation and encourage a sense of companionship and cooperation among researchers in all fields of science and engineering.”

Sigma Xi’s Giving Tuesday initiative is what got me started thinking about doing this post for all my partners. I really love it!

Sigma Xi is directing its Giving Tuesday donations to help provide free one-year subscriptions of its STEM magazine, American Scientist, to 1,300 high schools. Here’s the link to contribute.

Learn more about the Sigma Xi newsletter from SmartBrief: Subscribe here.

Giving Tuesday
American Scientist Magazine

United Nations Foundation

The United Nations Foundation expresses its purpose via its website this way: “We work by building communities and incubating initiatives to support the UN and its priority issues, including achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

I am sure the UN Foundation will have plenty of Giving Tuesday options, but to take a moment of personal privilege, I will first list Shot at Life. Shot at Life is a grassroots advocacy program under the UN Foundation umbrella that helps children around the world have access to immunizations to protect them from polio, measles, pneumonia, rotavirus and other vaccine-preventable diseases. I’ve been involved with them for years. The World Health Organization notes several key improvements in getting children worldwide vaccinated, but says ” an estimated 19.4 million infants worldwide were not reached with routine immunization services such as 3 doses of DTP vaccine” in 2018.

Giving Tuesday

Contribute to Shot at life by clicking here. Contribute to the UN Foundation in general by clicking here. Another incredibly meaningful option is giving in memory of the late Jennifer Schlecht, who worked for the UN Foundation, during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

To learn more about the UN Foundation newsletter from SmartBrief: Subscribe here.

Food & Friends

Food & Friends is a cause that SmartBrief has supported for years (I’m not sure how many, but since I started there in 2017). For that reason, I want to give them a shout out because I have come to appreciate their work and I feel a personal investment.

The Food & Friends premise is “anyone can get sick and everyone can help.” Their services include home-delivered meals, groceries-to-go and nutrition counseling.

Contribute to the work of Food & Friends by clicking here.

It’s relevant to talk about Giving Tuesday and provide this boost to these eight great causes because there are programs such as the $7 million Facebook plans to match that are specific to the day. (I also urge you to read up on how quickly those matching funds go … a great case study of the challenges nonprofits face.)

And while we’re here …

I am staying with one of my monthly traditions, which is sharing our open positions.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer questions and provide more information about the process.

Here are the advertised open positions at SmartBrief as of 12/1/19:

(There are other opportunities with our parent company, Future plc, that are not specific to SmartBrief and are located in multiple places. Find all openings here.)

If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

A Recap

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.