What's in a Name?

RoseBud What’s in a name? A whole lot!

We have been talking for a while about a name change at the Community-Driven Institute. If you’ve read the posts that describe the Institute’s vision, its accomplishments towards that vision,  its goals for the coming 2 years, you know that the name “Community-Driven Institute” just doesn’t cut it.

First, it’s confusing. What does it mean exactly? From the name, would people know the results we are trying to achieve, or for whom? Not so much.

Second, it doesn’t come close to describing the powerful work we are doing, the impacts we are seeing, the difference we are making. When you’re making the kind of difference we are already making, you want to shout it from the rooftops! The name doesn’t do that, not by a long shot.

As you will see in the links above, one of our big goals for the next few years is to walk the talk of engaged transparency. And so we are coming to you, the people who are affected by our work – those who are are inspired by and who inspire our work.

We’re not yet asking for a name, although if you have ideas, please share them (as Bill Krauss did here).

For now, we are pondering the precursor questions. What should we consider when choosing a new name? What questions should we be asking?

Brainstorming names is easy. Figuring out the parameters for making the decision – that’s where the power lies!

As I’ve mentioned previously, Zach Braiker suggested our name should represent the outcomes for which we would want to be renowned. The difference we are making and intend to make. The outcomes we want people to expect from our work.

So then, when you think of our work – when you think of a class you may have taken with us, or this blog, or a speech you heard me give or a book or article you’ve read – what resonates? What difference has the Community-Driven Institute made in your life? In your client’s lives? Your organization’s life? Your community’s life?

What makes you want to learn more from us? What keeps you coming back, subscribing, asking for more?

And what other questions should we be asking (and answering) as we take this exciting step?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

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9 thoughts on “What's in a Name?”

  1. From your writings (and the book I regularly thumb through for reference) something that has clearly resonated with me is the power of vision. To paraphrase (poorly), it’s not enough to identify a problem and outline possible concrete solutions (i.e. a mission statement), but it’s crucial to the process and the sustainability of the proposes solution to have a vision in mind of what the community would look like once the problem has been lessened or eradicated. The new name for the institute should encapsulate this (without sounding uber-Utopian) vision-driven mandate. (Much like what Zach Braiker suggested.)

    Perhaps have a go at it future-to-present: Imagine yourself (and your team) in an office years from now, packing up supplies and hanging a ‘mission accomplished’ sign on the door. What label would you give to that assertion of ‘yes, we did it!’ if you had to sum it up in a few words…

  2. There’s great power in naming, which is why it can feel a bit … challenging!

    A variation on the vision question is to ask “What Kind of World Do You Want?” Can you express it in a word, or maybe two? Well, that’s what I’ve got this morning, maybe that will spark something for you.

    Btw, I really like that notion of hanging a “mission accomplished” sign.

  3. Reading this post and comments, the name “Vision Accomplished” comes to mind 🙂

    But at this stage you’re asking for more questions to be asking. One that’s often suggested but not noted above: what feeling do you want to evoke upon hearing the name? If hearing it for the first time, what “curiosity spark” do you want to be igniting?

  4. This is all so helpful – Romi, Pam, Christine – thank you. Answers are sometimes a dime a dozen – but great questions? Priceless!

    Keep ’em coming, gang. And thank you!!!!

  5. Love Vision Accomplished! I think you are doing it all right: transparency, community engagement, powerful community, and of course community-driven. Perhaps starting with lists of words that you want your stakeholders to associate with your organization – and going from there. Just a thought.

    Can’t wait to see what emerges…:)

  6. At Hildy’s request, I’m re-posting these “questions to be asking” from earlier tweets:

    What feelings are evoked when the name is spoken, written, read?
    What does empowerment feel, look and smell like for those who learn and grow from your work?
    What visual analogies come to mind? Gardening? Spreading seeds? Other?
    What changes in knowledge, attitude, behavior or skills will you bring about?

  7. Great ideas from all the comments thus far! I love Laura’s questions. In naming, I love to think about the energy that I want to create. Is it playful, serious, outcome-oriented? Much like Laura’s feeling evoked question.

    How is your audience finding you? And what name will resonate for them and what they want? For an org we were creating last year, I really liked this name that had “hats” in it. It really spoke to what happened inside the org, and how we did what we did. However, it wasn’t what our audience was searching for. We went with a name that would reassure them we would help them get what they needed instead.

    How memorable is it? I think part of the trouble with describer names, like Community-Driven Institute, is that they don’t stick in the mind. My first company was named “Spinorb” which didn’t mean ANYTHING. We did graphic design and communications. We just mashed 2 words from a list of words we liked! It turned out to be really sticky. No one confused us with anyone else.

    Another question is how can it be descriptive and yet also a bit unexpected? NurtureGirl describes me, but it is just enough off Nature Girl (a cliche) to have association and yet be a thing in itself. It has been super sticky. I named a magazine about 5 years ago – one about philanthropy in a metro area – GeneroCity. It both described and yet also, was a tad off, but the way it was off helped people get what it was about.

    In naming, I usually break it into phases. First, several ways of brainstorm generate a big list. Then set up criteria and start refining. Get it down to 3-5 and then test them with others. Then get a graphic going on the 2-3 favorites, so you can see it in print. Wait. Let it seep in, feel it out in different environments and people. Finally, choose what works.

  8. Laura and Jean:
    I am bathing in the great ideas / questions / approaches you are sharing. Hoping to post more of our thinking in the next few days, prompted entirely by all this rich rich brain-fodder. You guys rock!

  9. One more thought on this Hildy, and it was prompted by Jean sharing some of her personal branding dilemmas. When I first started consulting, I was working in Charleston,SC and being “local” was particularly important there. So, I branded myself as “Pluff Mud Consulting” which is unique to the area, and while very “fragrant” (especially at low tide), it is also what breathes life into the marshes. Folks loved it and I was immediately accepted in an otherwise-not-always-so-accepting town. Then, when I left Charleston, it wasn’t going to work anymore so I needed a new brand that was national and chose “Full Glass Consulting.” Like Pluff Mud, which was both visual and smelly, I again went with something that incorporated at least two senses (visual and taste), and that’s been a really great brand, too, especially since it plays off of the familiar glass-half-empty-or-half-full phrase. That’s a long way of saying that I really do think that visual is important, but I also think evoking other senses really helps, too!


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