We build women’s collective power in the U.S.

October 5, 2023

Ms. on the Move: ComNet23

by Calondra McArthur & Elaine Hunt

Members of the Ms. Foundation team often have the opportunity to travel around the country (and sometimes the world!) to learn from and share their expertise with feminists and leaders in the fights for gender and racial equity. The Ms. on the Move series offers a glimpse inside these experiences, and a chance for team members to share what they learned. 

Where were you? 

We traveled to Atlanta, GA for ComNet23, which is an annual conference hosted by The Communications Network. The conference brought together communications professionals from philanthropy and nonprofit institutions across the country, and a few from around the world! 

What did you do there? 

Every day at ComNet23, we had the opportunity to attend “learning labs” that covered a wide range of communications-focused topics, including ethical storytelling, generative AI, language justice, and more.

We were also selected to present for/during a poster session to share learnings and our poster was titled The Blog is (Not) Dead, that dove into how we restarted our organizational blog and our process for developing content. Below is the poster we shared: 

Founder of Black Voters Matter and 2023 Woman of Vision Awardee LaTosha Brown closed out the conference as the keynote speaker, and emphasized the importance of communicating with love and centering the community in all communications work. In her words, “if you don’t see opportunity in this moment, you’re not looking hard enough.” 

Who were you in community with?

This was our first year attending, so we had the chance to get to know lots of new folks from across the country – people from other foundations, grassroots organizations, etc. who believe in the power of communications for good. 

Were there any event highlights or learnings to share?

The topics that the conference covered were expansive, but there were a few key learnings that we’ll be carrying forward in our work:

  1. On generative AI: As this technology continues to grow and the capacity evolve, communications departments have both an opportunity and a responsibility as they engage with it. Ultimately, AI can never replace good communications, because “our superpower is our humanity,” according to Executive Director at the Center for Community Media at CUNY Mikhael Simmonds. 
  1. On language and disability justice: Accessibility should be considered at the onset of all communications, not as an afterthought. When planning events or webinars, always survey attendees and staff on what accessibility needs they have.
  1. On ethical storytelling: For storytellers, in order to build trust, it’s key to meet people where they’re at and continue the relationship after the story is told. According to Diana Senechal of StoryCorps, “listening requires us to stretch a little beyond what we know, expect, or want.”
  1. Consider your audience: In thinking about who or what communities you want to reach or engage and it’s important to specific your audience(s) to create effective content and strategies that will help achieve goals. 
  1. Invest in communications: Communications and narrative change can be a powerful way to influence, amplify and advance the work of social movements. As such, if possible, dedicate resources for your communications function and make it a strategic priority. Plus, recent changes across social media have shown the importance of investing in your own platforms to stay connected with your communities.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience connecting with other comms professionals and it inspired and reaffirmed the work that we’re proud to do at the Ms. Foundation.