This past year was the first full calendar year that Impact360 Alliance has been in operation. 2019 went by really fast for me, and I can already tell that 2020 is going to go by even faster.
The year started just how we were hoping: By the end of 2018, we had a new name (previously Alliance for Integrative Approaches to Extreme Environmental Events). We had established our pillars, which is what we use to operationalize our mission and vision. And our holiday gift for ourselves was finishing the development of our three-year strategic roadmap that kicked off at the start of the new year.
A major push for 2019 was creating a strong identity, noteworthy presence, and active engagement so our researcher and practitioner partners know we exist, are in operation, and are listening to their ideas and needs. Probably the biggest reason I had for aggressively building our brand and identity was to spark interest and enthusiasm of people to want to join our staff by the end of the year. Let me tell you, that really paid off.
We launched our communications plan with the help of Big Thinkers Society, starting with our social media presence. Over the year, we found more of you prefer to engage us on Twitter than on Facebook, and, least of all, LinkedIn.
We kicked off a monthly newsletter, which is probably our most important channel for communicating with you all. (If you haven’t signed up, please do! …and let your colleagues know too.) My favorite newsletter, which was Joe Trainor’s idea, was the one about the need for us to be more intellectually humble to be able to build stronger connections between researchers and practitioners.
Our website started as a simple landing page to encourage visitors to sign up for our newsletter (sign up for our newsletter!) and follow us on social media (do that too!). Over the year, working with Jonny Bobgan, our website grew to include our blog “The 360“ and an extensive events page that lists a large number of researcher and practitioner meetings. You’ll soon see a gallery of resources for you to view our guides, such as the 4Is guide for designing researcher-practitioner communications, reports, and past webinars.
Speaking of webinars, by fall, our webinar programming was up and running. We hosted two webinars about designing researcher-practitioner communications with two different sets of guests. Those were the first webinars I’d ever attended or hosted. Thanks to Castle, Scott, Michelle, and Josh, I was pleasantly surprised by how natural, and inspirational our conversations were. I think the 75 collective viewers thought so as well.
Part of building awareness and enthusiasm for Impact360 included doing engagement at workshops and conferences. The first 2019 event I participated in was my favorite by far because I got to do improv with Alan Alda to better understand how researchers and practitioners can better empathize and communicate.
I attended my first American Meteorological Society annual conference, where I believe eight of our steering committee members gave talks or sat on panels. I was struck by the relative balance of researchers and practitioners at that conference compared to other large society meetings.
After voting to adopt their charter in 2018, we helped the North American Alliance for Hazards and Disasters Research Institutes (NAAHDRI) to formulate and welcome their inaugural board, as well as frame their initial organizational activities. We look forward to a long, synergistic, and fruitful relationship with NAAHDRI.
We had a significant presence at the 44th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop in Broomfield, CO. We organized a session to provide a venue for sharing success stories about researcher and practitioner communication and collaboration, which was very inspirational. This was the first event that we co-sponsored. (We sponsored three others in 2019.) Our support made possible the immensely popular graphic recording by Alece Birnbach. Her murals were a frequent topic of conversation and backdrop for group photos.
Over the year, we had many one-on-one meetings with researchers and practitioners to understand the diversity of views on the relationship between research and practice, the problems that pose the greatest challenges, and the need for research-practice integrations that Impact360 might support. These conversations were a primary source for my energy to work to get Impact360 off the ground.
We had so many conversations with you all that we needed help from our friends at The Frew Group and the Collaborative for the Social Dimensions of Disasters. From January to December, staff, collaborators, and I have had more than 150 one-on-one meetings with researchers and practitioners to understand how we can best serve you all to build stronger connections, integrate your approaches, and solve problems together. I hope we have twice as many conversations in 2020!
Our mission and business model is built around developing and deploying tools to support researchers and practitioners to reduce natural hazard impacts and disasters risk. Working with Andrea Small and Joyce Chou, we started concepting our inclusive problem-solving toolkit, which we call Toolkit360, early in the year, and finalized it in the summer, culminating in creating and submitting our first project scope of work framed around Toolkit360. Developing Toolkit360 kicked into high gear in fall, focusing on understanding how the toolkit can support the full spectrum of researcher and practitioner partners and scoping the twelve individual tools of the toolkit. We are excited to be able to say now that we will be partnering with the U.S. Geological Survey starting in early 2020 as our first user and tester of Toolkit360.
In October, we were fortunate to scope and kick off another project with a different partner: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. We are conducting a user experience project to provide recommendations to NOAA on how to modernize NOAA’s hurricanes.gov web ecosystem to better meet the needs of the public during the predictive phase of hurricane events. Not surprisingly, we are facilitating a unique problem-solving approach that brings together researchers and practitioners to collectively do evaluation, discovery, and design. Because of the scope of this project, Robert Soden and others at Co-Risk Labs are helping us out.
For this 2019 year in review, I saved the best for last: Impact360 hiring our first staff. We hired three amazing people–Daphne Thompson, Jamie Albrecht, and Zane Beall–to work as our–respectively–Communications and Engagement Manager, Design Strategy Manager, and Program Manager. Our strategy of building a strong brand and identity really paid off. We had a gratifyingly large number of extremely qualified applicants and hired people with more and better experience than I had thought possible a year ago. Since onboarding our staff in October, I am stunned by how much incredible work they have accomplished already. That’s how I know that 2020 will be an even more eventful, productive, and successful year for Impact360.
Happy New Year!