Director’s Log | December 2018


Hot New Song: “The 12 Numbers of IEI”

I was reading yesterday about the most popular new holiday song of the past 30 years, “All I Want for Christmas” by Mariah Carey. The story is that it took her 15 minutes to write. It has earned her, so far, more than $60 million in royalties (much of that from cover versions – happiest one here; strangest from Bowling for Soup on their “Merry Flipping Christmas” album.)

So as I looked back on the work of the Institute for Emerging Issues over the past year and looked forward to our work next year, one financial model seemed to be writing a viral Christmas song, heavy on public policy, building off of our work on “reconnection.”

Surprisingly, despite the obvious lack of songs that fit that niche, and despite my following the Carey model and only spending 15 minutes writing it, record producers and reviewers* have not been impressed with my efforts.

I’m sharing it with you anyway. Call it “The 12 Numbers of IEI.”

Choosing just the first 12 numbers for the song has its issues. Most obviously, it leaves out some of the bigger numbers of IEI. So I had to leave out:
• The 35,000 students that surround us at our NC State home.
• The 31,000 people across the state on our mailing list.
• The 1,000+ people at our two forums this year
• The 52 episodes of our First in Future podcast on iTunes (thanks to the team of James Herrick, Beth Hatcher and Renee Potts) and the 24 versions that aired on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Channel.
• The 38 places that applied to be among our ten community models for ReCONNECT NC.
• We can’t fit in the 32 people advising us on our February 11 rural-urban forum (REGISTER!) or the 24 members of our National Advisory Board (chaired by Jack Cecil) or the 17 ReCONNECT to Community forum advisors.

In the song, we only get 12 numbers to work with. So here it goes. You fill in the music (It’s to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas”) and make this viral:
“For the 12th number of IEI, the North State gave to me….

12 scrappy staffers – IEI’s full-time team is, as Lin Manuel Miranda once wrote, “just like our country – young (well most of us), scrappy and hungry,” and it is an honor to get to work with them every day. Our newest members: communications director, Greg Hedgepeth, and LGFCU Fellow Paul Nolan.

11 regional meetings – between the 5 communities we visited to prepare for our ReCONNECT to Community work and the 6 regional meetings we went to with the NC Rural Center for our rural-urban preparation, we get around.

10 cool communities – we’ve been so excited by the places that have applied to work with us on our ReCONNECT NC work (the overall project is led by Sarah Hall). For the next couple of years we will be working with 5 communities that are doing fascinating work “reconnecting to community” – energizing more people to participate in community projects, and another 5 places (announcement coming soon!) that are “reconnecting rural and urban” through projects that yield mutual benefits for both.

9 Forum sponsors – and growing. Thanks to the work of development director Tony Reevy, we have nine key sponsors for our work on the ReCONNECT NC series. We’d love to have you join them!

8 faithy partnersour work (led by Kylie Foley, with support from Ellen Beasley and John Parker) with rural faith communities to help them identify how they can serve as anchor institutions in their hometowns gets us in contact with somewhere around 125 rural church pastors each year, and we get to work with 8 other organizations connected to The Duke Endowment on that work.

7 KidsReadyNC’ers – seven different key players are joining IEI in moving forward KidsReadyNC, our followup work from Kidonomics, led by Pat Cronin. Four communities (Catawba, Chowan, Randolph, and Rockingham) and three skilled technical assistance providers (the National Implementation Research Network at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, Janice Gruendel LLC and the Children’s Funding Project) are joining together to rethink how early childhood services are delivered to increase effectiveness.

6 career text sites – six different organizations have been piloting our next text-based career awareness strategy for high school students, called “Text, Talk, Future.” Through the work of Pat Cronin and Paul Nolan, we’ve tested it (so far) with 264 students, with more on the way.

5 sides to “Snapshot” – our tool, ReCONNECT County Snapshots (developed by Alicia James and Paul Nolan) to help counties determine how they are doing in “connecting” – through civic engagement, rural-urban collaboration, economic opportunity, health and technology is just waiting for a new year’s test drive. Take a look, invite your friends to comment and start a discussion about how your community might improve its connectedness!

#4cookiechallenge – as part of our ReCONNECT to Community work (led by Maggie Woods), we challenged people to get to know “one” neighbor they hadn’t met by bringing them cookies (or a healthy snack) and having a conversation. Reaching across the lines that divide us and beginning to work on some of our toughest community problems is a retail transaction. We do that one at a time. We hope you will take the #4cookiechallenge (instructions here from Renee Potts) during your holiday break, share your photo on social media, then challenge your friends to do the same!

3 Service Year’ers – as we launch our work on Service Year NC, an effort to double the number of young people performing “service years” in our state (Americorps, Public Allies, Teach for America, etc.), we have three people on our team spending at least part of their time thinking about how to do that, led by Darryl Lester.

2 Forums yearly – we’ve never tried it before, but thanks to everyone (especially our operations team of Davina Thrash, Simone Collman and Sharon Adams)… our new approach of doing a fall forum in another part of NC is working to connect us more places in the state. This year we were in Asheville. Next fall in Charlotte. Fall 2020 in Greenville. And of course, February 11 in Raleigh! We’re excited!

And 1 newly-reconnected NC!
Of course if you read this and worry about how many people will record this song and generate royalties with us, we welcome your donations, either to our organization or to support scholarships for attendees of our forums (you can do this when you register for our Forums). Help us RECONNECT NC! Happy Holidays!

-Leslie

*”Clunky, wonky, pitchy, but inspiring. You should definitely get on board the IEI train!” Simon Cowell
**“IEI has many strengths. Songwriting, unfortunately, is not among them.” Warwick Arden, NC State Provost

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