Spencer Critchley's blog

This Future-Oriented High School Is Devoted to Digital Media

Instructor Jesse Valdez and prospective student Bella Prospero

A high school curriculum based on "Creativity, Self-awareness, Empathy, and Critical Thinking" -- and it's focused on digital media arts.

This sounds like someone set out to train the next generation of Boots Roadies! And who knows, I wouldn't be surprised if we end up hiring graduates of the Millennium Charter High School, which opened just a few months ago in Salinas, California, just up Highway 68 from Boots Road Group in Monterey. That seems all the more likely after a tour I was given recently by Hamish Tyler, MCHS' media center director.

One More Step (Ladder) to a Sustainable Office

Nick Frey installing an LED bulb

One of the things we're not keen on at Boots Road is changing light bulbs. That's because our ceilings here in the beautiful old Professional Building are about 15 feet high.

So when a bulb burns out (way) up there, we're inclined to think green: "That's energy being saved, right there."

But as LED technology has kept improving, we now have another option: energy-efficiency and being able to see indoors.

Surprise! Foreign Aid Works, and Other Good News

Spencer Critchley

Also published at the Huffington Post. When you hear every day about suffering, incompetence and corruption, it's easy to conclude that things only get worse in this world. But in fact, there's all kinds of progress being made, and many reasons for hope.

One of the best reasons I've come across lately is the most recent annual letter from Bill and Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation:

How We Used Animation to Help the Feds Help Veterans

Still image of two people from animationIt's a message from the federal government. About taxes. And labor rules.

How would you explain it?

"It" was the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, or WOTC "Watt-see"). WOTC could help veterans and other deserving people get a job -- if only they, and their potential employers, could learn about it in a way that didn't sound impossibly complicated.

Working with our client Social Policy Research Associates for the US Department of Labor, we at Boots Road decided to use animation and video to help make that happen.

Here's a one-minute animation we created. The goal was to motivate employers to take advantage of WOTC, while reassuring them that applying wouldn't be a big pile of paperwork:

The Social Impact Movement: Designing Nonprofits to Succeed

Also published at the Huffington Post. Recently, I raised an awkward question: "Are Nonprofits Designed to Fail?"

As I wrote, for all the good work a nonprofit may do, it's often hard to tell if a it's really making a difference: fixing the underlying problem, rather than forever treating symptoms.

Now almost by definition, the challenges that nonprofits tackle are hard ones. After all, the rest of society has failed to meet them. And some non-profits do of course succeed.

But like an increasing number of other observers, I suspect that much of the nonprofit sector suffers from structural flaws that can make success much harder than it needs to be.

Here I discuss two of the biggest such flaws, and explore ideas for fixing them. These ideas come from a growing movement towards social impact, which seeks to reinvent our models of how nonprofits can work.

I Want a Desk Like a Super-Villain's: Will Intelligent Agents Give Me One?

Also published at the Huffington Post. Every super-villain has a lair.

And in every super-villain's lair, there is a gorgeous companion, a weird sidekick, and... the desk.

The sleek, perfectly uncluttered desk, from which our super-villain will rule the world. On it may be a sleek computer, the desktop of which is itself perfectly uncluttered, aside from the Go button for the orbiting death ray.

I want that desk. (I don't need the death ray.)

Why Meaning is the Future of Marketing -- and How These 3 Companies Are Pointing the Way

Also published at the Huffington Post. Recently, I've been thinking about what comes after the current rage for content marketing. As I argue here and here, I think that over the long term, the over-abundance of content will lead to "no-content marketing."

But even now, we're seeing the next step along the way: what we can call "meaning marketing."

Meaning is what people really seek in most of the content they consume. (The writer in me hates the idea of "consuming" content, but I guess we're stuck with that term.)

Meaning marketing aims to give them more of it. Here are three examples of companies that practice meaning marketing.

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