I AM EPIC! CAUSES + STORY + COMMUNITY

Creativity can exist anywhere. One of my goals for this year is to learn the role that creativity plays in the workplace. I want to see how creative people (or people in creative roles) enhance their work environment and thus, their business profitability. Because of this, I want to spend each term learning at different sized organizations: ideally, a nonprofit, a small company, and a larger corporation.

The first was my non-profit term. I applied and spoke to several different organizations before I found EPIC. Rubbing shoulders with top creatives while making a difference in the community? Sounds like a win!

So, a little about EPIC:

EPIC is a 501(c)(3) that inspires and offers a platform for creative professionals to have social impact in Chicago (and now Minneapolis!). EPIC recruits and matches volunteers (e.g. marketers, designers, storytellers) to collaborate with non-profit organizations—who otherwise would not have access to this caliber of talent—to strengthen their mission through more impactful print and web design and branding strategy. During an eight week creative rally, each team creates programs and materials — on a strictly pro bono basis — that their nonprofit client will use to more effectively engage and impact the lives of those they serve. With their powers combined, they make a bigger impact on the world than either could alone.

This year EPIC has helped Culinary Care, Topbox Foods, Honeycomb Project, Illinois Humanities Council, Genesys Works, Twist Out Cancer, and Interfaith House, working to tell their stories and ultimately change the lives of more people.

So, what am I doing there?

I am studying how creativity is used to capture the essence (or brand) of an organization in order to tell a provocative story and augment their ability to help people. By increasing this community involvement/outreach, the NPO can help more people with clearer strategy, better marketing tools and a focused message.

My partner, Chevy, and I are focused on telling EPIC’s story. We act as an outside consultant to see where EPIC can improve. We have been interviewing each creative director and NP client for the seven rallies completed this year. We have been doing this for two weeks and have already visited the offices of Edelman, Simple Truth, Oglivy, Genesys Works, shared a phone call with the founder of Culinary Care, with one of the Kennedy’s, and met with the founder and inspiration behind Twist Out Cancer.

On top of that, we are planning an EPIC event to highlight all of this incredible work. We have been scouring the city of Chicago for a location that is both economical and enhances the absolutely mind-blowing work that has been done this year. It has been a challenge, but not without its perks. I have visited building after building here in Chicago—taking advantage of Open House Chicago in the process. I’ve stepped in everything from the library on the 44th floor of a skyscraper to a coworking space nestled behind a church in an industrial park. We’ve finally decided on a space! I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so I’ll talk about it in a later post.

What have I learned so far?

In order to become better at branding and to highlight the character of EPIC, I attended Eric Staple’s masterclass at WorkShop. We spoke at length about what makes strong brands and how to improve our own personal branding. I learned so much from this class that it deserves it’s own blog post.

I’ve been devouring the Seth Godin’s book All Marketers Are Liars Tell Stories. It explains how marketing is not advertising, but is the spread of an idea. I’m only a quarter of the way through, and my mind is blown.

I decided that I want to learn more about Human Centered Design, so I am taking a class through IDEO and ACUMEN. We are focusing on how to help inspire more social entrepreneurship among young people.

I’ve learned that it is good to be a bad-ass. Take risks, ask for favors, and show up to bat. It’s critical in all aspects of life.

I’ve learned that creativity is not exclusive. Anybody can be creative. What stifles our creativity is the need to be perfect.

I’ve learned that soup is good for the soul, especially with good friends and giving hosts.

And I’m only a month in! I’m looking forward to November and the lessons I’ll learn as I continue to grow.