BMSG celebrates 20th anniversary in 2013
Not every organization has a motto, but BMSG has two. After 20 years, they still fit the bill. First, from Dr. Suess:
Make every Who holler! Make every Who shout!
In Dr. Seuss's story, Horton the elephant hears a tiny voice on a speck of dust. Turns out the whole town of Whoville lives on that little speck. Horton organizes every Who so together they can raise their collective voice and be heard. We still take our cue from Horton and use the media to amplify what advocates do on the ground to improve the health of their communities. And then, from BMSG longtime friend Dan Buckley who coined the motto on our T-shirt:
All questions answered. All answers questioned.
This motto describes what we do when advocates come to us for help getting their voices heard. We start by asking questions that aim for the heart of the matter: Why do we want the change in the first place? Then, how do we get there? Our collaborations over the last two decades have helped advocates insist that public officials from city hall to our nation's capital answer their toughest questions. So what questions will advocates be asking in the next 20 years? And what answers will we be questioning? Whatever the issues, whatever the media landscape, one thing isn't likely to change: Advocates will still be pushing to create a better world — one where everyone, no matter their zip code, can be healthy. And if BMSG has any say, we'll still be using the power of the media to help them do it.
In celebration of our first 20 years, and in anticipation of the next 20, BMSG invited some of our friends and colleagues to share their media advocacy expertise and reflections with us in guest blog posts and in lunchtime brown bag talks. We invite you to pull up a chair, turn on your speakers, and enjoy the conversation like we did.
Brown bag discussion and guest blogger series
How can advocates put pressure on major corporations to address structural racism? What does it take to create a national campaign that will put pressure on policy makers and have a big impact? How can grassroots organizers make sure their voice is heard? These are some of the questions we discussed in our conversation with Color of Change Campaign Manager Brandi Collins on September 29, 2016. Learn more about Brandi's work at Color of Change by visiting https://www.colorofchange.org/campaigns/.
Effective storytelling is an important way for advocates to bring media attention to important public health issues. As the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program's Genoveva Islas points out in this brown bag, if public health advocates don't tell their own stories, someone else will, but from a different perspective. Along with CCROPP's Brandie Banks-Bey, Islas shares three steps that advocates can take to get better at articulating the problems in their communities and what can be done to address them. View video >
Values are an important part of communicating, but where do they come from and how are they created? Who gets to matter in public conversations, and how can advocates make their voices more powerful? In this brown bag, Praxis Project Executive Director Makani Themba discusses the role of institutional actors in producing values and encourages advocates to get involved in that process. She urges us to move beyond fleeting sound bites and develop a deeper communication strategy that addresses power imbalances. View video >
Going 'Off/Page' with youth-powered digital storytelling
How can poets work with health advocates and investigative journalists to raise awareness around some of the most critical issues impacting young people today? José Vadi explores that question and more through the Off/Page Project, a unique collaboration between two organizations that would seem to have little in common: The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and Youth Speaks, a San Francisco nonprofit providing literary arts education with an emphasis on spoken word poetry. In conversation with BMSG, Vadi discussed the Off/Page Project's work, which analyzes Stockton, California's bankruptcy crisis through the lives and storytelling of a group of Stockton teens. This new form of "sourced storytelling" powered by youth-centered spoken word films, is also showcased through The Bigger Picture, Youth Speaks' collaboration with UCSF's Center for Vulnerable Populations that exposes the systemic causes of Type 2 diabetes. Vadi shared with BMSG The Bigger Picture's two latest films, centered around the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages in the Latino community.
Automobiles are a major cause of injury and death, yet because they have long been a symbol of freedom in the U.S., efforts to regulate them often meet resistance. Even basic protections like seat belts and airbags that we now take for granted were once contested. In this video as part of BMSG's 20th anniversary brown bag series, Ben Kelley, director of injury control policy at the Trauma Foundation and author of "Death by Rental Car: How the Houck Case Changed the Law", discusses the evolution of auto industry regulation and changes in the public's perception of and media reporting on the issue since the early 20th century. View video >
Being an advocate often means working toward transformative social change in the face of great odds. When a challenge seems too big and we feel discouraged at the thought of tackling it, here are a few insights from BMSG Senior Fellow Lawrence Wallack to help keep us going. Read more >
Target marketing of alcohol to black urban youth
Alcohol sponsorship of rap artists has long been a key way for advertisers to target young black men. How have connections between the alcohol and music industries changed over time? How has this influenced cultural norms and risk-taking behavior in youth? Denise Herd, Associate Professor of Behavioral Sciences at U.C. Berkeley's School of Public Health, discussed these questions and shared research findings on the issue in her visit on June 13, 2013. Learn more about her work.
In the heat of a campaign, it can be easy to forget that advocacy is about more than winning a particular policy change. It's about values and relationships -- and that requires dialogue. In this brown bag discussion, Francisco (Pancho) Argüelles, executive director of the Living Hope Wheelchair Association, encourages us to step outside our comfort zones and learn how to open the space for conversation so that we can become better allies to communities struggling for justice. View video >
Advocates work tirelessly for social change on a variety of issues. But their efforts may be thwarted by underlying negative attitudes toward government and a widespread misunderstanding of its role in creating a healthy, functioning society. As part of BMSG's 20th anniversary brown bag discussion series, Patrick Bresette, program director for Public Works, explores how we can tackle this problem and build public support for a government dedicated to the common good. View video >
Blog: Media advocacy then and now: An advocate reflects on 20 years of using the media to improve public health
How is media advocacy the same and how has it changed in the 20 years since BMSG opened its doors? Our former deputy director, Katie Woodruff, looks back on the evolution and shows what keeps advocates going over the long haul. Read more >
Improving how the media report on health equity
How can journalists communicate about complex issues like structural racism and other root causes of health inequities? What questions can reporters ask to improve their coverage of dispossessed communities? What is the line between journalism and advocacy? These are some of the questions we discussed in our conversation with veteran journalists Sally Lehrman and Venise Wagner on January 7, 2013. We weren't able to record their visit, but you can learn more about Venise's work at San Francisco State University and find out more about Sally's work by visiting her website or her faculty page at Santa Clara University.