Are you talking to ME?

 

 

 

                                                                                                      photo fdecomite–Creative Commons

By Ed Nicholson

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that it’s pretty much a lovefest for the hunger community. That’s because I love you. You do God’s work, and the world would be a much worse place without you.

But I have to tell you, as well as you feed people, some of you are just not very good communicators. A year ago, I asked the question, "Where is the online discussion of hunger?" Deafening silence.

I asked it again yesterday. Not much debate there, because frankly, there’s just not a lot of online discussion.

Come on people. We’re in The Age of Conversation. Exciting new communication tools. Two-way dialogue with your stakeholders. More golden opportunities for community building than ever in history.

Yet the overwhelming majority of the communication I receive from some hunger organizations is, "Please send us another ten dollars. It will help feed twenty hungry kids." I know this. So do the tens of thousands of your other supporters. It sounds eerily like a 1980’s Sally Struthers TV spot.

Are we not important enough for a meaningful conversation from you? Because if we’re not, I’m going to tell you something that will be hard for you to hear: You’re going to lose us. Someone else will come and take your place. Someone who will engage. Someone who will listen, and not simply push their own messages out. Someone who will make us feel as though our voices are as important as yours.

What do you think about that?

20 thoughts on “Are you talking to ME?

  1. Natalie Jayroe

    Ed-

    I have not blogged before…so here goes.

     

    Here is south Louisiana we have had some success making a virtue out of necessity and partnerships have been formed that would never had existed before 2005.  For instance we created the New Orleans City Council Food Policy Advisory Committee which in its first year tackled the issue of how to incent retailers grocers selling nutritious food to locate in low-income and underserved neighborhoods.  That lead to a Louisiana Fresh Food Financing Initiative that has passed some legislative barriers and will now have to be funded.  We are part of coalitions working on mobile markets, mobile pantries, urban farming, backpack programs, nutrition education and fresh produce distribution to Head Starts, SNAP and other nutrition program outreach, improving nutrition in schools, farm to school and buy local movements.

     

    We are having valuable conversations and we are also working hard to make sure we actual change.

     

    We are very, very appreciative of the partnership we have with Tyson Foods.

     

     

     

  2. Janie Singleton-High Plains Food Bank

    While we have not been hit as hard as some parts of the country, the Panhandle has been hit during these tough economic times.  We, in rural America, face many problems when taking care of our at-risk population.  Our 450,000 population is spread throughout 30,000 square miles.  We are feeding 29 families in Claude TX with Mobile Distribution System and another 31 families in Vega TX with the same MDS.  Our costs are high to transport needed food to these families yet we are committed to serve ALL of our at-risk individuals in the Texas Panhandle.  You may ask isn’t there a more efficient way to serve?  I say with committment comes a price.  This committment means everything to those 29 families in Claude and the 31 families in Vega.  The need is rising in our rural communities and we must remain focused. Many seniors in these communities must chose between medicine or food.  Seniors are a proud group and hate to ask for help.  I challenge each of you, regardless of your faith, to know your neighbors and church members.  How many need your help and are too proud to ask?  Pay attention!

  3. bill shore

    Ed,

     Great way to give the conversation a needed jumpstart.  With the new Administration making a priority of ending childhood hunger by 2015 there is more to talk about than ever!   An important time for business, government and nonprofits to come together.

    Billy

  4. Damon Smith

     

    Hello.

    I noticed a link to this post on your Twitter stream. I’m not a member of a board of a non-profit group on how to solve hunger or poverty or anything like that, I’m just an average citizen. Maybe one thing you can try to do is start up a conversation with members of the general public an get their thoughts on whatever issues that come to mind.Maybe you can start by asking them what kind of job hunger relief agencies in their area are doing. What conditions are like for those in need in that particular neighborhood or city.. That sort of thing. Maybe then you’ll start to get some topics you can discuss with your peers.

     

  5. Hildy Gottlieb

    Ed:

    Much of what you observe is symptomatic of focusing on problem vs. focusing on what is possible.  This is not semantic – it is the root cause of the effect you are commenting about.

    Focusing on "the problem" leads to downward spirals of blame and lack of resources and "if only" and "why don’t they just…" and what my friend Steve Jennings at ZyOZy Foundation calls the "begging bowl" mentality.

    However, when conversation focuses on what is possible – a positive end goal, rather than a "lack of a negative" (ending hunger, ending homelessness, ending this or that), conversations are uplifiting, inspiring – and therefore ongoing.  They tend to result in the kinds of dialogue where each suggestion is built upon the prior one (rather than each suggestion arguing that prior suggestions have little merit, which is common when problem-solving.)

    Conversations about problems tend to begin with a) the things that are difficult to face and/or b) solutions about which we disagree. Conversations about what is possible focus on a) what we all WANT to face, and b) start where we all agree.

    So yes, you  are correct in your observation. Would you like to know that it can be different?  http://is.gd/shl6

    Oh and BTW, arrived here via Onecity’s blog.

    Hildy

  6. Jim

    Steve Thomas over at Oneicity sent me and I like them

    I like this "I’m going to tell you something that will be hard for you to hear: You’re going to lose us. Someone else will come and take your place. Someone who will engage. Someone who will listen, and not simply push their own messages out. Someone who will make us feel as though our voices are as important as yours."

    I not an expert at staying connected but I do know that my org and other orgs are "competing" for peoples attention and money.

    I like that you are telling the truth

     

     

  7. Al Doyle

     Ed-  I was reading one of my favorite blogs by Oneicity’s Steve Thomas and he directed me to your  post.  Awesome question!

    Maybe it’s not "boredom" by "guilt" that stifles the discussion?  We just don’t want to talk about it, and it’s easier to buy our way out with a donation here and sponsorship there.

    My good friend Ken Loyd, of homepdx.net in Portland has created a community of his "friends who live outdoors" and part of what he and his supporters do is help with needs like food and clothing.

    A major difference I’ve noticed with Ken is that he treats the people he serves like customers!  He  refuses to give them what he wants them to have…he actually goes into the streets and asks what they want.  I remember watching Ken created a donor funded prototype he called a "Space Bag", a mylar bag that would contain the basic calorie an nutrition contents for a day.  Ken spent weeks "test marketing" items to put in the bag, until he had a mix he knew would be a hit.

    Now, doesn’t that put some excitement into feeding?  Give us back the challenge and the relationship part of marketing.  Help us see our poor or hungry as customers.  Give them the respect they deserve and God’s created.

    PS:  on that topic, the book "The Blue Sweater" by the Acumen Fund’s Jacqueline Novogratz paints a marvelous picture of how to meet the needs in the Third World through principles of entrepreneurship.  It makes feeding and serving anything but BORING!

  8. Al Doyle

     Ed-  I was reading one of my favorite blogs by Oneicity’s Steve Thomas and he directed me to your  post.  Awesome question!

    Maybe it’s not "boredom" by "guilt" that stifles the discussion?  We just don’t want to talk about it, and it’s easier to buy our way out with a donation here and sponsorship there.

    My good friend Ken Loyd, of homepdx.net in Portland has created a community of his "friends who live outdoors" and part of what he and his supporters do is help with needs like food and clothing.

    A major difference I’ve noticed with Ken is that he treats the people he serves like customers!  He  refuses to give them what he wants them to have…he actually goes into the streets and asks what they want.  I remember watching Ken created a donor funded prototype he called a "Space Bag", a mylar bag that would contain the basic calorie an nutrition contents for a day.  Ken spent weeks "test marketing" items to put in the bag, until he had a mix he knew would be a hit.

    Now, doesn’t that put some excitement into feeding?  Give us back the challenge and the relationship part of marketing.  Help us see our poor or hungry as customers.  Give them the respect they deserve and God’s created.

    PS:  on that topic, the book "The Blue Sweater" by the Acumen Fund’s Jacqueline Novogratz paints a marvelous picture of how to meet the needs in the Third World through principles of entrepreneurship.  It makes feeding and serving anything but BORING!

  9. Mirjam Adolphi

     It was interesting to read  the other  comments.  I am Finnish and live in Ukraine, so  please excuse my poor  language. 

    I worked as  consultant  for  people  who  has  experienced  torture and were victims of  war. This was a life hanging  experience for. 

    Now I am in Ukraine and help children,  street kids, mothers under age, run  a safe house and simply help  those  families who need food and  clothes.  Normally they are old grandmothers and grandfathers who take  care of their  granchildren. 

    First contact with street  children were, when I visited  them at forest. They had  build  "a home in a box".  The  wild  dogs  were  their  madrasses and  cover. Together  they hunted for  food.  And  they shared  the  food-  dogs and kids.

    A thought  rung  through my mind. Are these  dogs  better missionaries than  we human?

    Our ignorence is  dangerous, it’s killing!

    All the kids who are living with us has  experienced hunger. Even they now will get food  today. The  tortyre  will stay along them for all their lives. Only God  can heal  them and He uses us peole in this  mission. If  we don’t care, the dogs  will…

     

     

  10. Randal Moens

    LOOKING OUTSIDE THE CONGREGATE BOX

    The National School Lunch Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program have all focused on feeding children in congregate settings.  Question:  How do you feed these same children when a widespread contagious disease shuts down schools in low income areas and children still need to be fed outside the congregate atmosphere.  Some thinkers suggest inceasing money value to SNAP Clients.  How about home delivered meals to children (Meals on Wheels for Children).  I know this would require new thinking and new legislation.  Any thoughts?

  11. Jeff Wiedner

    JC made a good point. There is a lot of focus on raising funds over building conversation. And while I agree that there may not be a real forum in place right now, I think that’s because a lot of our attention is focused on the immediate. That is, what is happening right here in my town.

    Many hunger organizations are very specific and local in their mission: food bank or relief agency serving their community, hunger alliance focused on a particular state. All very important and needed. And there are a lot of really good conversations happening in short bursts. But I don’t think we talk with each other on a sustained, national level.

    Judy is right: it feels awkward to always be talking on point. But the marketing adage is true: when we’re getting sick of saying the message, they’re finally starting to get it.

    I think most of us are already connected in the SM space. We have the skills and the technology is in place. Our networks overlap but have an incredible collective reach. If we can share our ideas and messages, even if we start just talking amongst ourselves, then those messages will start to trickle out to our combined networks. Then slowly that will get picked up by others. We just need to get the rock rolling.

  12. Steve Thomas

    Ed,

    I came across your blog today and was startled by your plea for discussion/conversation. A couple of thoughts came to mind.

    1. Seth Godin, the great marketing thinker, says that if the marketplace isn’t talking about you it’s because you’re boring. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/01/youre-boring.html That’s kind of harsh but might apply to your situation. Hard to imagine that people going hungry could be boring but maybe that’s the case. 

    2. You are getting some conversations–looks like 8 comments at this point on this post. But most do seem to be echoing your concerns. Maybe you’re not asking the right questions. Or you’re only saying what everyone expects you to say.

     

    We work with a variety of organizations who help the hungry. The conversations I know about are engaging and energizing. The nonprofits I know well are talking with their donors and their donors are talking with them. The messaging is about real change and real hope and making a difference, neighbors helping neighbors, not just a hand stuck out for a donation.

    I wasn’t very happy with my blog topic for tomorrow, so I’m going to mention your concern, we’ll see what my readers have to say.

    We do love good conversations about good causes.

    Let’s talk. Tell me more of what’s on your heart, Ed. What should I be talking about if I’m concerned about the hungry?

    You can find us on twitter: @oneicity

    st

     

     

     

     

     

  13. sarah owen

     

    Ed,

    Amen brother!  Love this blog post as so many times I feel as thought I am talking to mysefl about hunger.  I came to the non profit hunger world via a corporate background in corporate communications and came on the scene looking for the "corporate" hunger conversation –but it did not exsist.

    It seems to me that the only folks interested in talking about hunger are those involved in hunger issues and we already know what each other are going to say!  I can not tell you how many blogs, chats, on line groups and meetings are filled with hungerfighters who are talking to only to each other or worse only talking to themselves.

    Southwest Florida is beginning to have conversations regarding hunger via our regional newspaper The News Press.  The paper’s natural bend was to invite all the hungerfighters to the table and talk– I was all for that but I strongly urged them to not stop there–and we ended up with a great community conversation with folks who were the stake holders and servant leaders in the community–all around the table talking about hunger–and the reimagination of how we are approaching hunger in our community and in our nation.  It was refreshing to have an audience who brought new insights and view points to the issue.

    All hungerfighters need to talk, commuincate, blog, meet and scream from the mountaintops–but find an audience who has not heard it all before and speak their language…our job is to inspire, educate and generate action around the issue—

     

     

  14. Judy

     

    Great post Ed, as usual and I do understand where this is coming from.  We did our NoFood4You campaign about 2 weeks ago and I did everything I could to raise awareness and start online discussions through twitter and facebook.  Some general buzz was generated but I thought that we might be able to raise awareness and interest outside of our community.  Don’t get me wrong some was raised.  No one could ignore me for that long but I wold have liked more interaction.

    I think though that one of the issues that I have about talking about hunger online and I mean by twitter and facebook is that it really is incredibly negative and very depressing for people to hear about all the time let alone tweet or write about it!  I think we may be desensitizing people to a very, very important issue. 

    I guess what I am saying is that to promote more discussion we have to be coming up with more awareness campaigns and solutions behind these campaigns instead of just asking for the almighty dollar.

    You figure out a way to promote discussion and I will be right there backing you all the way in true hunger fighter fashion!

  15. susan

    Hi (all).  I haven’t been able to drum up that conversation either, whether online or in person. I think those of us who haven’t looked hunger in the eye still take a lot for granted and continue to stick to the same old tactics. Since Ed asked the original question (last year) I’ve been receiving news alerts every day of articles written on the topic. I get about twenty-five or thirty a day and sadly, they are the same article over and over and over again.  It has turned into depressing white noise in the form of a fill-in-the-blank press release. It leaves no room for discussion or new ideas, just potential ways to donate. While I know that a group of sixth graders and/or bankers who go on a lunch stike is a good idea in theory, I’m hard pressed to believe that it makes a bit of difference either in their world or in that of a hungry person/family. What we have are big well meaning Band-Aids and what we need is a (big) long term solution. I think engagement is key. Not so much with each other but with our neighbors.

  16. Rhonda Sanders

     

    Unfortunately I am not a very good blogger.  I end up spending hours a day on e-mail and phone calls but I have not yet developed the art of blogging.  At the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance we appreciate how Tyson’s has always stepped up to the plate to help with disasters, crisis and general hunger issues.

    All of  our food banks are reporting increased usage and many new faces in their lines.   Many people share stories of job losses,frustration and heartache when they are receiving their food.

    The food banks are completing their hunger study interviews and we will have new information to share with everyone in the fall.  This information helps us paint a picture of who is hungry and why. I look forward to sharing this information with all of you when we get it.

    The truly difficult question is how can we work ourselves out of a job.  How can we help families become self-sufficient so they don’t need additional food to get them through the month.  the answer to this will truly be a joint effort with many different organizations helping to pool resources, engage the hungry and help them improve their place in life.

    Any  more thoughts on this would be appreciated!!

     

    Rhonda

     

  17. Betsy Reithemeyer

    Ed, you are so correct.  Too much effort in going after the dollar versus meaningful conversation about the issues and how we can correct them.  It is not limited to hunger relief, but you would think that with it being the most basics of need for life that it would generate the most discussion.   People blog more about whether Jon from Jon and Kate plus 8 had a late night dinner with someone other than Kate then how we can help our neighbor and global community. While the whys and hows of why people are hungry are important, my efforts are on just feeding them now.  And, it needs to be part of our daily conversations.  In our new efforts the concept of community gardens, places to bring fresh food for those who need it and partnering with food pantries and the local food bank to bring food to those who are struggling in their lives, is part of every conversation.  We need to have these discussions and then translate them to action.  All the excuses in the world, not correct venue, don’t have resources, etc., boils down to the aspect that if it truly is important to us, we will find a way to do it.  When will conversation and ideas translate to action?

  18. JC Dwyer

     Ed, you’re absolutely right that there’s not enough conversation.

    One reason why this might be the case is that the communicators at many hunger relief agencies feel more comfortable in the world of fundraising, which relies on broadcast messaging, not in the world of advocacy, which tends to foster more debate and back-and-forth. 

    Another big reason could be that hunger fighters don’t have a real online forum for unrestricted, large-scale conversation. "Foodies" have the Comfood listserv and the Food System Creators Cafe, but hunger-focused debate is rare in these places. The national hunger-communication tools that do exist (such as Feeding America’s Hungernet, or the FRAC listserv) replicate the top-down structure of the anti-hunger industry, and don’t encourage spontaneous conversation. 

    Maybe we all need a new space to run around in?

  19. Lisa Goddard

    I see online discussions of hunger whenever there’s a news story about SNAP (formally known as Food Stamps), or some other government program.

    Whether someone believes it’s God’s work, or charity’s work,  or the individual’s work, or the government’s work (or some combination thereof) to ensure every human being has access to healthy food in socially acceptable ways – meaningful conversation will need to include the HOW and WHY people are food insecure in the first place.  

    One method to help address the hunger problem is by educating the community about how hunger doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We’re using our blog to highlight these connections, such as a recent post on the connection between pandemic flu and food security.

  20. ALCINO

     I CAN ONLY TALK(WRITE) ON BEHALF 

    i have no doughts that in little beautifull place in AFRICA called NAMAACHA all the effort´s of TYSON FOOD will b WELCOMED , but may i ask HOW, Logistics —

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