For the last three years, we have been thinking very differently about our annual reports, focusing them on engaging folks around ideas, insights, trends, and questions. We learned a lot from our experiences, and built that into this year’s annual report, a Toolbox.

On Wednesday, Living Cities launched our 2015 Annual Report. We called it #HereAndNow: The New Urban Practice Toolbox. “Here” because we believe that people can use the tools curated in this new microsite wherever they are–in cities around the country and beyond. And “now” because we need a social change field that is taking on poverty and inequality with urgency.

For the last three years, we have been thinking very differently about our annual reports, focusing them on engaging folks who care about and work on the same issues that we do around ideas, insights, trends, and questions that we are seeing and grappling with. This is not about telling our story as an organization because we know that we can never achieve our mission on our own. Instead, we aspire to tell a story that is about something far bigger than us. Over the last two years, we have been calling that “something bigger” a “New Urban Practice that can achieve dramatically better and faster results for low-income people.” We want to be part of building that #NewUrbanPractice, and we want you to be part of it too. That’s why we are open sourcing the report.

In 2014, we took a similar approach to our annual report, issuing a call for essays about what it will take to build a new urban practice. We wanted to showcase the most promising practices and thinking out there. We learned a lot from our experience of building, curating, and sharing the hub that we built for those essays. Here are three big takeaways from that work:

1) If you build, they will come, but they might not stay. When we launched our 2014 annual report, we were thrilled with the levels of engagement we were seeing. There was good news everywhere: Google analytics told us that people were actually reading the essays and even visiting our website to dig deeper. Our social media data showed us a robust conversation, including through the spread of the hashtag #NewUrbanPractice. But this excitement peaked quickly and then fell. This was in large part because we built the microsite as a static thing, so once people read the essays, there wasn’t much else to do with it. In 2015, we created instead a living platform that we will update on a regular basis, adding our own tools and inviting our network to share tools that they develop or find useful. We are also asking folks to share their experiences of using the tools and we will be posting those as well and considering input to help us improve the site.

2) We get by with a lot of help from our friends. We truly believe that we are onto something with our open-sourced approach to knowledge and communications. As a partnership of 22 foundations and financial institutions, collaboration is in our DNA. Through our deep partnerships with members, local governments, and other cross-sector leaders in cities, we know that so many individuals and organizations are doing incredible work. We want to learn from that work and we want others to be able to learn from it as well. That is why our New Urban Practice Toolbox shares tools that were developed by a diversity of institutions whose work we admire.

3) Tools are the new white paper. If there is one thing that we hear more than anything else from social changemakers across the country, it is that they hungry for actionable tools that can help them refine their thinking, improve their work, and achieve greater impact. They want digestible content and accessible analysis. They want help turning knowledge into action. We hope that the tools that we curated in the launch version of the New Urban Practice Toolbox can help to do just that.

Please get involved and help us to build this toolbox! Here are a few ways how:

  • Check-out the toolbox and test out the system’s functionality.
  • Say something about the possibilities or impact of tools in the toolkit. We’re including ‘testimonials’ and quotes from people in our networks about the tools and will be sourcing them in an ongoing way, so if you found a tool useful, or if you have a suggestion for how to improve it, please let us know!
  • Help spread the word about the Here and Now Toolbox. Share it with your networks, including on social media, using hashtag #HereAndNow.
  • Suggest additional tools for the Here and Now Toolbox. Are there tools, videos, documents, or other resources that you think are missing from this toolbox? Are you building something awesome that you’d like us to share? Let us know!
Published: March 18, 2016
Category: Blog
Contributors: Nadia Owusu