Five Faves from frank

The frank conference, convened each February at the University of Florida and curated by the Center for Public Interest Communications, is always an extraordinary gathering of artists, activists, academics, and changemakers from around the world. This year’s 10th edition, unified by the theme “The Long View,” was no exception. If you couldn’t attend in person or join online, your second chance has just arrived: videos of all the mainstage speakers have been posted on the web, and you can find them here.

In the less-is-more spirit of TED conferences, all the talks are relatively short (generally running between 10-15 minutes), and all 30+ recordings are worth watching. If that feels overwhelming, we recommend starting with the following five presentations that do what frank does best: entertain, inform, and inspire you to follow the frank credo, “Don’t settle for small change.”

“How To Be an Abolitionist,” by Tanya Watkins

Tanya Watkins is the Executive Director of Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, better known as SOUL. (Full disclosure: having seen Tanya speak before, we recommended her for this year’s frank, so we were already fans.) Tanya self-identifies as a “prison abolitionist,” and in this talk she tells you what it means to be an active part of that movement, and why her encounter with the legendary activist Dr. Angela Davis changed her understanding of how we get justice in America.

“The Great Stewardess Rebellion,” by Nell McShane Wulfhart

If you wanted to be a stewardess in the 1960s, you had to be young, pretty, trim, and single. And should any of those things change, you could be fired faster than you could say, “Buh-bye!” None of that would be accepted today, but remember this was the heyday of high-flying Mad Men and a low point for the rights of working women. In this talk based on her book, “The Great Stewardess Rebellion,” Nell McShane Wulfhart tells the under-appreciated story of how airline stewardesses led a worker’s revolution that changed labor laws and advanced the rights of working women everywhere.

“Mind Your Metrics,” by Dessa

Squinting at spreadsheets. Pouring handmade lipstick into tubes. Negotiating over the price of trailers. This is the life of a musician? It has been for Dessa, a supremely talented singer and writer who, like so many others trying to make it in today’s music business, must do everything by herself. For Dessa, metrics such as the number of likes on her Instagram account or the amount of t-shirts sold – things that have nothing to do with being an artist – they not only measure what she does, they start to define it. And it’s not a definition she can accept. Business guru Peter Drucker famously said you can only manage what you can measure. Dessa asks us to consider the opposite: is what you are measuring managing you?

“The Playbook,” by Jennifer Jacquet

In real life Jennifer Jacquet is a Visiting Professor at the University of Miami and an Associate Professor at New York University. For the purposes of her satirical talk at frank, however, she pretended to be a representative of J.J. & Friends, a PR firm that works with corporations whose toxic products are killing people and/or the planet and helps them sow doubt, distract, and outright lie about the damage they are doing. In laying out strategies from the same, playbook that has already served tobacco, oil, and chemical companies so well, Jennifer helps us understand what we can do to fight the lies and disinformation being circulated today.

“Turn Your Rage Into Inspiration” by Rick Serdiuk

Rick Serdiuk is the Creative Director of the Ukraine-based ad agency Banda. The day that Rick spoke at frank was just short of the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, an event that has gradually receded from the consciousness of most Americans, but, as Rick reminded us, remains a defining moment for Ukrainians. In this powerful and moving talk, Rick helped us understand how the Ukrainian people are essentially wheat farmers who, as he put it, are occasionally forced to become falcons who must fight to protect their very identity. He shared some of the creative campaigns his agency launched to keep morale high during the war (most notably the “Be Brave” campaign which circulated worldwide), and by the end of his talk, Rick made sure we understood why Ukrainians proudly call their homeland “the f*** around and find out country of Eastern Europe.”