Letter from San Francisco

There is no reason to do things the same old way. Extraordinary things can happen when you look at a problem with a new perspective (and burning calf muscles!)

San Francisco is many things but from where I am staying it is a city of hills. Undulating up out of the harbour spanned by the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, those hills seem to encourage a well-spring of creativity and new ideas. When just walking to get breakfast requires an ascent to return home that would equal many small mountains, I am guessing that letting your thoughts wander is an effective way to take your mind of the burning of your calf muscles!


One thing that has emerged from the hills here that caught my eye is a place called 826 Valencia . Founded by writer Dave Eggers , it is most basically a tutoring centre. But in reality, it is much more, it is a place where kids from all over the city can come and get the kind of one-on-one time that public education systems all around the world are unable to provide. It’s part place to learn, but also a place to make connections and foster creativity through writing and to buy pirate gear !


826 Valencia has now inspired similarly innovate centers all over the world and the stories that are emerging from those centers and other learning initiatives are being captured on a wonderful web site called – Once Upon a School . Their goal is 1000 stories in one year!


What really struck me about this place is that it broke the mould. They thought differently about the problem and came up with a way of addressing it that was both fun and engaging, but also delivered results.


Just imagine the results we could all achieve in our organizations if we could create something extraordinary that captured people’s interest and endeavour – there really is no reason to just do things the way they have always been done. To me – the very fact that is has always been done that way is a great reason to look at a new way of thinking and doing. How 826 Valencia do it? Well this great video tells the story – so take a few minutes to watch it, I promise it will make you smile and get your imagination churning.





See you next week back in Melbourne.



Alignment is Michel’s passion. Through her work with Brandology here in Australia, and Brand Alignment Group in the United States, she helps organisations align who they are, with what they do and say to build more authentic and sustainable brands.


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