A summer program by any other name

Roughly 30 months ago, some friends and I were talking about a summer program we wanted to create. We had been spending a lot of time on a few really cool projects that focused on energy-efficiency and green manufacturing, and we thought it would be really powerful to tie our initiatives together. We figured we could raise some money to make our own summer jobs, and even invite anyone who may have wanted to join us.

We had a few discussions about the name. We wanted a simple name that conveyed the summer timeframe and, rather than focusing on any particular activity, captured the kind of holistic, multi-issue work we were doing. We figured “Summer” and “solutions” were key words, and although we vetted “Solutions Summer,” “Summer Solutions,” and even “Summer of Soul-utions,” we eventually settled on one: The Summer of Solutions.

Ever since, we’ve been getting a variety of responses to our name, ranging from “Genius! That’s so exciting and powerful!” to “Hmpgh, sounds like Summer of Idealism to me.” (And, of course, we shouldn’t forget, “What’s that thing you’re doing in Minnesota again?”). Even among people who have been a part of the program, perspectives on the name have varied widely.

So what’s in a name, anyway?

In the Twin Cities last week, we had a discussion with our group about the name “Summer of Solutions.” Some people have really identified with the name and carried it proudly, while others have felt awkward using it. We’ve talked a lot about how to do this type of work as an ally with people facing joblessness, environmental degredation, racism, and other issues, especially since many of us will leave at the end of July. While some see “Summer of Solutions” as a creative force for starting community solutions projects, others think that “Summer of Solutions” sounds like the type of group that could be set up shop for two months, dictate a few solutions to be implemented, and leave a big mess.

In our discussion, we realized that “Summer of Solutions” or any other program name is not enough in itself to frame the program the way we want to; the “tagline,” or the brief sentence or two afterwards, is what really describes it. I’ve been thinking about the tagline and came up with a few examples of taglines we should and shouldn’t use. You ready?

Summer of Solutions: Handing out solutions left and right since 2007.
Summer of Solutions: Because hey, we’re pretty busy the rest of the year.
Summer of Solutions: Don’t worry guys, we’ve got this.

Summer of Solutions: Working together to create the solutions we need
Summer of Solutions: Training young people to see solutions in chaos
Summer of Solutions: Developing tomorrow’s young leaders through collaborative solutionary projects.

The difference between those demonstrates for me that the tagline can really shape what see in a program, way more than just the name itself.

But what’s really more important than what we say we do is what we actually do. I think figuring out our tagline is necessary for building strong and supportive relationships from the moment we meet people, but what’s really going to define the Summer of Solutions is what we create with it. Actions speak louder than words, you know?

So my question for you is: How do you describe the work you do, in a short 1-2 sentences? (and, if you’re inclined to respond, what do you do that backs it up?)

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