Lynn Fahselt and Peter Ferenbach are the co-founders of ReThink Media, a nonprofit communications and media firm. We are proud to have supported ReThink Media since its founding in 2008, and today their work to build a safe and secure future through media and communications is more valuable than ever. Lynn and Peter recently spoke with us on the initial launch of ReThink Media, what has been accomplished in the last 13 years, and what you can do to continue supporting their work.
What was your reaction when you found out that you received a grant?
This question requires two answers because it involves two organizations. In 1990, we launched a statewide advocacy group that aimed to build constituent power for peace in California, and we were launching it under pretty extreme financial pressure. We had nothing - no computers, no high-level connections, no major donors. We could go on. Literally, everyone on staff helped with fundraising every day. But when we met with Sally Lilienthal, she took a liking to us as an effective, ambitious, scrappy, entrepreneurial organization, and she believed in the importance of building power at the grassroots level. What followed was 13 consecutive years of organizational growth and a dramatic increase in our grassroots membership that generated hundreds of thousands of pieces of constituent mail and hundreds of media hits. Sally’s (Ploughshares) investment in constituent building contributed significantly to shaping the priorities of Representatives like Adam Schiff, Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, Ellen Tauscher, John Garamendi, and Xavier Becerra as well as Senators Boxer and Feinstein to this day.
Fast forward two years and we worked with Ploughshares’ visionary Executive Director Naila Bolus to partner with three other foundations on the launch of ReThink Media – a unique nonprofit focused on movement-building through media and communications. Naila’s sharp sense of marrying long-term movement building with short-term campaigning jump-started the project. And again, 13 years later, the data makes clear that the investment resulted in concrete victories on nuclear arms reductions and diplomacy with Iran, while also jump-starting the development of tailored media skills training grounded in the sector’s needs, targeted media and opinion analysis of the audiences we needed to reach, and the placement of thousands of media and opinion pieces across the spectrum of nuclear weapons issues,
What are you most proud of accomplishing in this field?
Over the past decade, ReThink has trained and provided media support to many staff people and experts, and almost all of the leading peace organizations. This support has measurably strengthened their media impact and their ability to use the media to advance their policy goals. We are also proud to have initiated a benchmark analysis of the gender and diversity gap amongst spokespeople in the sector and to have played a lead role in developing tailored media spokesperson training and pitching support for up-and-coming woman and people of color experts to both increase and diversify the sector’s voice share in the media.
What are you working on today?
Our agenda for 2021 includes:
• Driving an integrated narrative for nuclear arms reductions and control.
• Continuing to advance gender and racial equity in the media “voice share” of spokespeople quoted on these issues.
• Strengthening the hands-on media skills of an emerging generation of new staff.
• Building Executive Directors’ ability to drive strategic communications campaigns and build their respective organizations’ constituency.
What drives you to do this work?
The two of us have worked in partnership for more than 30 years to advance a vision of peace with justice; to build the capacity, the breadth and inclusion of our movement; to labor with humility as members of a broader team; and to continuously agitate for a better world. As Dr. King said, “the saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of a conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.”
How can people help you realize your goals?
With a very small staff, our arms control and disarmament team produced media hits in 2020 valued at nearly $1 million – and that doesn’t count the resource support we provide groups, the training, the consulting, or a host of other things that groups and experts routinely tell us they find critical. Heading into 2021, the most impactful contribution to our team would the addition of a staff person solely dedicated to working with women and people of color across the sector to strengthen both their media profile and their impact.
Our number one request of our colleague organizations is to use every media opportunity to strengthen teamwork across the sector and to continuously refine and strengthen our collective performance.
Ploughshares Fund is proud to have supported individuals and organizations working for over 40 years to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons. Since being founded in 1981, our network of grantees and partners have been behind critical milestones in the history of arms control and threat reduction. My First Grant aims to celebrate our historical impact while also highlighting the pathways forward in the peace and security field being made by our current grantees. Follow these stories – past and present – at ploughshares.org or by tracking #MyFirstPFGrant and #PF40th.
Photo: Peter Ferenbach and Lynn Fahselt.