In this series of articles, our Chief Strategy Officer shares the building blocks of ScientificBrand’s distinctive approach to transforming the mission of science into movements for change. In this article, he explains The Center of Gravity Principle.
Eight years ago I left the branding firm where I worked in New York City to lead the marketing and communications team for one of my clients, a regional nonprofit working in children’s mental health. People said I was making a poor career choice.
But I went because I was curious. I’d led engagements with prominent organizations for years and had become obsessed with a simple question: How does an organization actually create authentic change over time?
I started work and saw immediate opportunities for the organization to align on strategic priorities, clarify its brand, and unify teams around a shared purpose. As we addressed each point, a path toward growth emerged and we shifted our brand and communications activities to serve a strategic approach — inviting parents, partners and the public to help transform children’s lives.
Defining the Center of Gravity Principle
After two years, I paused to reflect. The organization had stepped boldly onto the national stage, shifting the national discourse and fueling a sense of urgency and action for children’s mental health. I wanted to capture what I was learning professionally as well as through years of volunteer service in neighborhoods across the New York region. Three ideas emerged:
- Unity matters. Organizations cannot create productive lines of action without first gaining unity of thought and vision.
- Purpose motivates. People are inspired to action by a positive vision of change and sense of purpose.
- Generosity attracts. When you offer new research, experience and insight to the public discourse and invite people and communities to help shape the future, your work attracts collaborators and confirmations. People begin looking your way for inspiration — and they step forward to help.
Today, we call the culmination of these ideas, the Center of Gravity Principle. When organizations align internally and lead with a clear purpose, they begin to become magnetic. By looking with fresh eyes at the needs of their audiences, organizations can find new routes to authentic impact by choosing to advance both the field and their own mission through the power of partnerships, convenings and campaigns. They begin to shift from being just another organization to leading a movement. They become a center of gravity.
And here’s a secret: Approaching this work with a spirit of generosity and collaboration sets organizations up for a leap that transcends what traditional branding, communications and fundraising can accomplish.
But first, a shift in mindset from competition to collaboration
It is easy to say a rising tide lifts all boats. Yet, organizations are understandably concerned with what they perceive to be limited pools of financial support, prospective employees and audience interest. And, the history of power and its systemic abuses raises essential concerns to address.
We have learned that when we expand our vision to also include advancing the field, we begin to contribute to a cause, to the rising tide itself. When we join forces with individuals, communities and institutions, we begin to contribute to a movement of change with the potential to impact millions of lives. Ironically, boats anchored too tightly to the past or competitive mindsets risk taking on water and sinking when the currents of the market, research and awareness shift.
Reflecting on my choice to go client-side, I’m brought back to the power of curiosity and collaboration. I could have stayed at that boutique branding agency. But, something pushed me to take a chance. Something pushed me to bring my professional and volunteer experiences together to try to understand what it takes to rally people to a vision of change and then translate this vision into movements that improve lives.
I’ve come to see that no one person or organization can do this work alone. We must create opportunities to partner with people, communities and institutions to shape a shared and sustainable future. When we do, the work becomes magnetic. Mindsets, approaches and outcomes shift. And the seeds of a movement begin to germinate.