We present with joy this post from our beloved Peyton Rowe, associate professor of design at Virginia Commonwealth University, director of CreateAthon onCampus, and Chief Evangelical Officer of CreateAthon. Peyton has just witnessed the CreateAthon-inspired pro bono marathon hosted by our new friends at the Discovery Channel, who came to us earlier this year expressing an interest in using CreateAthon as a model for their own corporate social responsibility initiative called Creating Change. From Peyton:
I have a feeling I’ve been part of change.
I have spent the past two days amongst 200 or so Discovery Communications’ employees who devoted their time and talents to serving 40 nonprofits. I had no expectations of Creating Change when I arrived on Monday other than, “Cool. I’m at Discovery!” so I entered One Discovery Place at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning with wide eyes and my camera.
What I experienced was the next generation of CreateAthon. I watched as the dedicated people at Discovery Communications, led by Erin Dieterich and Jennifer Button, harnessed the power of a corporation for the benefit of nonprofits. The scope of the event is still hard to take in – workshops, event recommendations, taglines, posters, identities, PSAs, marketing strategies, social media tools – the list goes on. Not only was there some fabulously creative work developed but there was true teaching. These 40 organizations will get the digital designs, plans, presentations in-hand as well as a collection of guidelines on how to implement the ideas. What a gift.
I have been given a gift, too.
I have met some amazing people. I have seen behind the curtain of Discovery and what a great vibe lives here. Everyone I met, particularly Jess, Nikki, Terrell, Jilna, Noha (I hope I spelled everyone’s name correctly), was more than generous, willing to share their ideas and create something for the greater good. It certainly was bigger than even the 65+ people I wrangle at CreateAthon onCampus but it felt accessible. When Erin had food from four local restaurants – food from Madagascar, India, Cuba and Greece – I found a spot at a table and, as always, began conversation. It sure didn’t feel like I was in a building with 1800 employees.
I’m still trying to understand the complexity that is the structure of Discovery Communications – Jen assures me it takes new employees at least two weeks to begin to understand it. But, the energy of the group I worked with and of the event as a whole felt authentic, generous and inviting. As I wandered up and down the eight floors, visiting different areas of the company: Animal Planet, Science Channel, Discovery Communications, Discovery Commerce, Discovery Creative, their own in-house creative team, everyone grinned. I was welcomed by Team One Love when I was more than willing to put together a Keynote presentation for them. They didn’t realize how ready and willing I was to get my hands dirty and give. I didn’t realize that I would be accepted as part of the Discovery clan so easily.
Highlights of the two days have been:
Shadowing John Hendricks, founder of Discovery, as he visited some creative groups brainstorming
Watching the Senior Vice President of Creative Resources, David Shackley, giggle at teasing one of the creative folks while he was getting a massage
Hearing folks’ stories about meeting various talent, including Jilna’s deep connection with the Deadliest Catch captains – they treated her like a daughter
The not one, not two but THREE sweeps through various merchandise closets, storage areas and goodies. Yeah, I’ve got some cool swag.
Hearing one of Discovery’s employees just revel in the excitement of his client; he described her reaction “like a kid on Christmas morning.”
What a remarkable experience it has been.
I did get to remember why I love using design and communications for social good and helping nonprofits do their jobs better. I did get to feel the energy of the collective good and the creative brainpower of professionals using their incredible talents together. I did get to feel the surge of energy, up and down, as I focused on someone other than myself, and something other than paying the bills or meeting the deadline or getting it “right.” I did get to meet new people, help organizations that need it and have a blast while doing it. Best of all, I did get to see the result of CreateAthon’s inspiration.
I sent a message to Teresa and Cathy this morning, right before client presentations began. I think it sums it up best.
I have a quiet moment before presentations start at 12 and I just had to say that it's pretty amazing to be here and watch Creating Change, CreateAthon's second cousin twice removed Erin and I have decided, and know that this would NEVER have occurred had it not been for you.
40 nonprofits are getting pro bono work from Discovery Communications employees because of you.
200 Discovery employees are getting to feel what it's like to use their talents to help nonprofits because of you.
The issues and people served by the 40 nonprofits are getting a louder clearer voice because of you.
As I've said before, CreateAthon is at a tipping point.
This is just the beginning.