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From Behavior to Culture-How to Inspire Change

Are you too small to make a social change?

The following was originally shared as part of Theresa Agresta’s presentation on branding the Albany Capital Region at the Creative Economy Summit. 

Here I am…an agent of transformation.

I was a fourth grade student at St. Joe’s Grade School in Toms River, New Jersey.

Every morning at St. Joe’s, we would have to wait out in the cold for the bell to ring. And, every morning, I would shiver in my plaid uniform and navy blue knee socks. I had to find a way to get warm!

I quickly realized that the best thing to do was to go into church. So, I left the playground, snuck up the back stairs and went to morning mass…every single morning. I would get there just in time for communion and, when my mother found out, she thought I was a saint!

A few days into my plot for warmth, a couple of my best friends started to quietly follow. Then, within a few weeks, the entire fourth grade was showing up. Before long, there were several hundred kids seeking sanctuary from the cold.

The playground was empty…and Sister Juliana did not warm up to the idea.

There was a reason Sister was poised to dismiss this disruptive pattern. She was well-aware that the behaviors of a group of people are what create the culture of an organization, and she wasn’t interested in this kind of change.

At CultureTalk, we begin by measuring culture. We do it by digging into Archetypes, the underlying beliefs and behaviors, the unwritten rules of engagement. We use the results to create strong brand messages and important culture shifts. Because, it’s not what we say that creates a brand; it’s what we do.

A brand is the experience we create collectively. It’s the common threads and themes that tie us all together. It’s the passion that gets you out of bed in the morning.

When CultureTalk branded the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, we set out to create a shift in awareness. The goal was to change the perceptions of the chamber as an organization that serves only the City of Saratoga Springs, to one that serves all of Saratoga County.

But, we saw that we couldn’t just say that things had changed. We needed to build the brand on real behaviors. In the end, the messaging created worked so effectively because it reflected the actual week-to-week activities of the chamber. It reflected true behavior.

"A brand is built at the intersection of culture and communications"

| Theresa Agresta, Co-Founder CultureTalk

In order to build a successful brand for the creative economy in our eight-county Capital Region, we must do two things:

  1. Identify what we truly have in common.
    We need to understand the authentic culture of each city, village, and county. And, we need to stop focusing on what divides us. We need to erase the boundaries and connect the dots.

  2. Shift behaviors.
    Once we know our potential, we need to own the responsibility and act on it. 

If we are going to be ambassadors for this region, we need to first make the investment in ourselves. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you pay your staff competitive wages?

  • Do you charge for the value you deliver in your creative work?

  • Do you hire freelancers from around the world or across the street?

  • Do you invest in educating the next generation in your backyard?

  • Do you cross county lines for cultural events, inspiration, or entertainment?

If you think you’re too small to make a social change, remember that fourth-grade-girl.

I never expected anyone to follow me up the stairs. Yet, what I continue to find is that if you lead authentically, people will follow you.

I invite you to join me in climbing the back stairs. As we walk boldly toward a more collaborative future, shift your behaviors and help shift the culture of our region. Become an agent of transformation and participate in the growth of our creative economy.