Handing off the Torch in Boston

On 1-11 (2017)

At 1:11 (pm)

In 111 Dartmouth Street (Boston)

We empowered our friend and Open Hub Co-founder

To help take Epicenter Community to the next level

Open Hub Boston was formed in April of 2013 to continue the good work of Boston’s longest serving mayor, Mr. Tom Menino. Where Boston World Partnerships ended, our group of engaged active citizens continued. Mayor Menino’s view that “visionaries don’t get things done” propelled us to take the remaining funds of Open Hub and donate them to help Epicenter Community accelerate its growing success under the strong leadership of our fellow member, Malia Lazu.

This is what Joy looks like from that random arrival of a check that helps to make a difference (click on the photo for a brief excerpt of Malia’s remarks):wdsc_0007_keithspirophoto

Open Hub was a grand adventure of working together on community supportive projects and while we have individually moved on to new adventures, many of us continue to stay connected.

Here then is our short history and photo finish:

Open Hub’s launch event took place June 6, 2013 at the offices of Sherin and Lodgen.

Open Hub was formed to “welcome, inform, connect and service our beloved Greater Boston Community and beyond.”

Some 14 of us signed onto that welcome letter including

David Cutler, Debi Kleiman, Mark O’Toole, Danielle Duplin, Mike Lake, Chris Rohland, Bill Ghormley, Malia Lazu, Joshua Hurwitz, Jed Willard, Patty Katsaros and Chad O’Connor. Also joining were Susan Houston, Michael Flint, Lennox Chase, Shannon O’Brien and Phil Budden.

We opened an account at Eastern Bank because of their history as a community focused bank and because Bill and I both respect their now chairman Bob Rivers who turned to disruptors to change bank culture in Eastern’s fight for relevancy and survival. wdsc_0142_keithspirophotoWe liked his spirit then and still do now. The check we handed over transferred from one Eastern Bank account to another. Great leaders think alike.

 

Whatever small steps we took as a group was amplified by our friend and partner Malia Lazu who always said “there is nothing transactional about building social justice.” Epicenter Community is her next step to go bigger and bolder for Boston.

“Give people a different way to create civic space and they will do it. Getting it done, finding each others humanity and telling each others stories” is what makes Malia’s leadership so impactful.

And so, at 1:11pm on 1-11 of 2017 at Brownstone, 111 Dartmouth Street many of us in person, and the rest of Open Hub in spirit, transferred the remaining funds to Epicenter Community to carry the torch forward with the strongest embodiment of the original vision.

Evelyn Dunphy – First Lady of Katahdin

eevelyndunphyportrait_hrclick this photo of Evelyn for a short video where she answers my question “What does Katahdin mean to you”

With the National Park Service celebrating its 100th anniversary,  I commented that I thought Maine Watercolor Artist Evelyn Dunphy was the real First Lady of Katahdin. What I meant by that was, quite simply, of all the people I have come across connected to the mountain, no other person had done more hands on, up close, community driven work to make modern day Katahdin real. Sure the President and his wife declared The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument on August 24, 2016 on the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. And yes, land was accumulated and donated, but fractious conversations emerged. Residents, people from away and politicians of all sorts got involved. Yet, long before celebrity and notoriety, Mount Katahdin was quietly enjoyed, shared and championed by many, enjoying the wild spaces as Governor Percival P. Baxter envisioned them.

When these spaces were threatened, it was individuals like Evelyn who became active in raising awareness of the beauty and the need for preservation. She painted and donated artwork and was recognized and awarded the First Artist in Residence in Baxter State Park. Ever.

She has shared those watercolor images in shows around the world. She leads art workshops and engages people, mano a mano – hand to hand – brushstroke to brushstroke as she shares her love of the Katahdin region and her art of watercolor. To me, this makes her the First Lady of Katahdin. A true ambassador for the wilderness preserved by Governor Baxter for the people of Maine.

“But Katahdin in all its glory,

Forever shall remain

The Mountain

Of

The People of Maine.”

A Seat at the Table

cryer-bm-seat-at-the-table

Do you stress over getting a seat at the RIGHT table? Are you suffering from FOMO? This post was inspired by dinner on an overnight train to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We were seated with strangers just north of Baltimore but found ourselves celebrating dessert with these randomly created new friends in Washington DC, without ever getting up from the table. This is a rare occurrence. More likely, these days, we’d do an online search for information about a person before we’d meet with them. Our opinions shaped, not by what they say, but by what others say about them.

KeithSpiroPhoto of Jeff Pulver #MoNage interviewing Jack Dorsey

Jeff Pulver #MoNage interviewing @Jack Jack Dorsey co-founder of Twitter

I’ve just come back from MoNage – A conference looking at the age of messaging as communications on the internet. My friend, Jeff Pulver, has been exploring the future of communications with some of the best thinkers, active innovators and disruptors on the planet. Presenters came together from as far away as England, Israel and New York as well as a couple of well known locals in Boston.

Keith Spiro Photo Chris Brogan & Christopher Penn at Jeff Pulver #MoNage

Local favorites Chris Brogan and Christopher Penn share a conversation onstage at #MoNage Behind the humor were amazing insights of change since they co-founded PodCamp some ten years earlier.

Remember the 1960’s? Back then, AT&T made it possible to reach out and touch someone. Nobody is really sure just how to go about doing that today!  With so many social media platforms and tools, we are all a bit unsure as to how to find our connections let alone feel confident that they have even seen our messages.  Jeff Pulver says that  Facebook today is the AT&T of the 60’s  but also that we have become a society of swipe to the right – where one can block somebody online or unfriend them with just a simple hand motion. Doesn’t say much for relationships but it does seem to create a forum for incivility and bullying.

Let’s face it, marketing has changed dramatically. Chris Brogan and Chistopher Penn, two giants in the world of digital communications and messaging, co-founded PodCamp ten years ago. Ancient history that became part of their wild and wide ranging conversation on stage about the changes in media and community.  As I see it, going back those ten years, everyone had access to the same amount of space, gated mostly by the size of the screen with which a viewer went online. Podcasts were unique with radio-like portability.  Today, portability is the device in our pockets. There is an explosion of ways people communicate. What’s formal? What’s a chat between friends? How do Millennials differ in their use of communication tools at work and with friends?

Social media platforms have moved to a pay to play model with Facebook and Google dominating and owning so much data, they can control how to dole it out and at what price. Since brands can’t be sure of how they’ll find us, they pounce at every opportunity. The more primitive forms are via remarketed ads and social media “suggested posts & tweets.”

Overall, there is a sense of desperate overload; too many platforms, too many places where you might find your prospects or your friends. How many apps do you need just to get access to the people you regularly talk to, if you even call it that anymore?

To be effective, marketing must be real, trustworthy and transparent. We are more likely to listen to our peers than to any marketer’s message. Brands are learning this. We all need to be aware of how our “likes” are being used.

These days, “The Google” knows all. It has an answer to nearly everything and it has the ability to match up our search patterns with marketers.  This makes us complicit in the skewed results we see. We each live in our own personal bubble of internet search serving up only things that we are likely to click. If we like something, we will only see positive things about it. If we dislike someone, we will only see negative things about them.

With all the online access points and nearly 2 billion people on Facebook, there’s a false sense of anonymity. But just a quick google search for my name yielded 395,000 results in less than half a second. How do you fare? Have you done a search for yourself online?  Try it.

Our future is fully dependent on the digital reputations we build daily. This is not necessarily the reputation we want to have but the one that more correctly reflects the expectations of the seeker. The one thing we all want in life and in business is acceptance. A virtual or real seat at the table.

Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument

1-16September2016.indd

Happy 100th Birthday, National Park Service. How fitting that on the centennial of the National Park Service, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument was declared official by the President of the United States.

I was so pleased to have The Cryer select one of my images of Mt.Katahdin and the surrounding area for the September 2016 cover of the monthly newspaper.

I had the pleasure of kayaking around Millinocket Lake and attending renowned watercolor artist Evelyn Dunphy’s workshop at Frederic Church hundred year old camp in the Shadow of Katahdin.Rhodora_©KeithSpiroPhotoDSC_2870 Evelyn, a dear friend and world class artist has led workshops all over the world- Italy, Provence, Ireland, France and most recently, Cuba. But it is her annual visits to the Katahdin region and her activism to protect the area that her earned her a fierce local Maine loyalty and she was awarded Baxter State Park’s First Visiting Artist (2009). She is truly the First Lady of Katahdin in my eyes.

Congratulations National Park Service, Katahdin region and artist Evelyn Dunphy for your modern day successes in preserving the natural wonders of our little piece of the world in Maine.Church camp E Dunphy_©KeithSpiroPhotoDSC_2740.jpg

 

The Platform, she said, was Chocolate

The platform, she said, was chocolate. And much of the marketing centered around  fair trade cocoa and real chocolate chips.

I was sold. I got the whole concept in the first presentation. The hot chocolate mix was OK.cisse hot Cocoa pkg

What chocoholic could find fault with a product that had melting chocolate chips at it’s core? Even better, the founder of  Cissé Trading Co, Diana Lovett, had a passion for sustainable development which came out of her public health work in Africa. “I longed for a way to contribute to what I believed in through a business, so I created a cocoa company committed to responsible sourcing and investing in growers.”

As time went on and the organization grew from 2 to 4 full-time employees.  I became more impressed and engaged with the marketing, and the process, and the plan of this small but smart start up. A very human approach in touch with today’s need for consumers to know more of the story and less of the Madison Avenue product pitch.

Meet her farmers; LA FUNDACIÓN DOMINICANO DE PRODUCTORES ORGÁNICO The FUNDOPO cooperative is a Fair Trade certified organization made up of about 1,500 organic cocoa farmers in Altagracia, Dominican Republic.

Read Cisse’s accolades.  Yes, I am an investor. But now, after watching them move into box stores like BJ’s, family department stores like Target and uniquely fascinating distribution plans that include the likes of Krogers, I found myself becoming a Cisse Chocolate Groupie. The quarterly reports were easily digestible. Indeed, each financial data set, in the early days, came with a sample of a new product. cisseSuperThins pkg In the end, at the last of the samples, it was The Super Thins that pushed me over the line. I could no longer just root for them from the sidelines. I needed to help them get to the next level.

So I went to my local BJ’s, pestered them and became a member entirely because they now stock Super Thins by the truck load. The Whole Foods store in my neighborhood doesn’t carry it and I made a point of telling them that they need to catch up. I want clear and easy access to chocolate, Cisse Chocolate products to be specific.

CisseSuperThins_c ©KeithSpiroPhotoNext came the random public survey. In heading down to a meeting in New York City and purely as a lark, I brought a snack pack case to see what would happen if I carried it with me – most visibly – all the way down to NYC. I chose to never mention unless someone asked. Sure enough, people started asking me “what was it?” Why  was I carrying it and more importantly what did it taste like?

For those brave enough to ask the question – I rewarded them with one of my single serving portions and warned them to be careful as this was an addictive chocolate treat.The comments were all endearing & you can see the video here.c cisse survey says_185000

And so, I’ve come to recognize that I have become a brand ambassador for Cisse pure and simple because I enjoy the process as well as the product.

Please help spread the word. Visit and Share the photos of this journey here and be on the lookout for a guy carrying a case of super thins and sounding the call for eating good chocolate for good reasons.

Magical Marketing of an Epic Eggplant

The Magical Marketing of an Eggplant of Mythical Proportion

Art ©Maria Castellano-UseryPhoto ©KeithSpiro

Art ©Maria Castellano-Usery      Photo ©KeithSpiroPhoto

Yes, folks, this is truly an eggplant love story that started many decades ago when I first met my then future father in law.  He was a meat and potatoes kind of man.  When I first started dating his eldest daughter, I was quickly under suspicion for all kinds of unimaginable reasons that came down to just one thing.  “Was I man enough to take care of his girl?” (in the event that we ever decided to run off to get married. That was the liberal side of him).

And so, I was invited out to many a family dinner. Theirs was a house where, when you were called to dinner, you grabbed your coat and stood by the door – awaiting the destination for the evening’s feast. Big name steak places. Corner diner, blue plate beef specials. Always meat. Always potatoes.  I fit right in – mostly vegetarian – always Eggplant when it was on the menu.

It didn’t take long for him to ask my future Mother in Law, “What’s the matter with that guy? Does he think we’re poor?  Does he always have to order the cheapest thing on the menu?”

Try as she might, I don’t think she ever really convinced him that I really, really did like eggplant.

Fast forward a few decades. My father in law has passed-on and my Mother in Law resides in the warm climates to the far South. She worries about costs and sees travel back our way as both a hassle as well as an expense. We’ve had ongoing discussions about spending the time together now and don’t worry about the money –  but – sometimes – money still lurks as a background obstacle to more frequent visits.  Lurked, in the background, that was, until I had an impassioned conversation recently about us paying her way, anytime and every time she wanted to visit the grandkids and the great grand kids.

The secret stash? The magic source of this limitless bounty of generosity?

The long held special EGGPLANT SAVINGS FUND, I told her.  Her husband was right. And after nearly 40 years of marriage – all that money I saved, eating the cheapest thing on the menu has transformed into this special fund that we could call upon to pay for her travel – anytime she wanted to visit.

The first set of tickets was in her hands in minutes. The laughter has never ceased. My father in law – of blessed memory –is a guest at most dinner conversations along with the requisite plate of eggplant.

And then I found Brushstrokes With ImpactTM   Art by Maria Castellano-Usery. Her program for having community impact while making the art she loves is wonderful. It’s a way of giving on so many fronts. You can follow her delightful blog here. Her psychedelic eggplant became my obsession as the gift to deliver to my mother in law. A birthday present, yes, but also a powerful reminder of the power of love, art and humor!!!

NextGen Community Impact

In conversations with the founder of Carii about how to build value in business in this fast changing digital age, I came up with the comment Next Generation platforms for social are needed that cater to the needs of Business & Community to deliver impact. There is just plain too much darn noise out here.

I was pleased to see Carii pick up on this theme and run with it on Twitter.

nextGen tweet

Communities built around business are the best advocates and cheerleaders any business or non-profit organization could hope for.

While Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were a great starting place for social, they are now 5-10 years old and have become tired as a platform for innovation and change. Worse yet, they have fallen into the trap of old marketing and advertising tools of capturing information and then selling it back to the group if they want to broadcast their message to a wider audience.

We are being held captive by the erstwhile tools that we happily poured our Big Data into. Boosting a post and paying for suggested posts are just so old school, interruption advertising. Have these people never heard of INBOUND MARKETING and HubSpot. Please. There are better ways to gather community and deliver the right messages to the right people at exactly the time they are looking for your information. HubSpot provides a ton of free resources to get you started.

And, if you are the Community Manager, don’t you want your members to be able to talk freely among themselves without being pitched to?

I surely do and that’s why I am beta testing Carii and offering suggestions that put community benefit at the center of it all.  We don’t need more intrusive marketing, we need better outcomes and results. Community action amplified by social conversations are the next wave of how business will get done.