Today, in Oakland, California, less than half of third graders read at grade-level. The Oakland Literacy Coalition brings together families, schools and community partners all committed to the reading success of Oakland’s youngest learners.

When we first met with the Rogers Foundation’s Cassie Perham and Sanam Jorjani, they sought strategic communications to better engage their audiences and champion literacy in their home town. Initially, MDC fulfilled their capacity needs for storytelling and to expand their digital presence.

We quickly came to the conclusion that by shifting and focusing their strategy, the Coalition could be a better literacy catalyst. Through our close work with these two rising leaders, Oakland Reads 2020 was re-positioned as a citizen engagement campaign of the Oakland Literacy Coalition. And the Coalition, shifted from a challenging collective impact structure to one emphasizing the Coalition’s strongest work – supporting and strengthening Oakland’s active and diverse literacy tutors, teachers and advocates. The Oakland Literacy Coalition is now an independent organization, and its clarity of purpose  and connection to partners are stronger than ever.

MDC provided the strategic communications counsel and capacity to support the Coalition’s move to independence with new branding, a new website, and content to tell its story.


by Jessica Scadron, MDC Network

We were honored to host over 130 literacy champions, from educators to city council members, such as Dan Kalb and Vice-Mayor Anne Campbell Washington; educators; literacy providers; volunteers; funders; non-profit leaders and many others dedicating their lives to equipping Oakland’s kids with the tools they need to succeed in school and in life.  Because, as Cassie Perham of the Coalition said, “Reading is a right that should be afforded to every child.”  A major theme emerged from this year’s event: connection.

CENTER FOR YOUTH WELLNESS | Social cause campaign


For millions of children, from all walks of life, the ability to thrive and live long, healthy lives is threatened by difficult experiences they go through—like growing up with abuse or neglect or facing the loss, mental illness or addiction of a close family member. These experiences can lead to poor health later in life, and are linked to 7 out of the 10 leading causes of illness and death like heart disease, chronic lung disease, cancer and stroke.

The Center for Youth sought MDC’s help to transform national pediatric practice to address this deadly toxic stress. In collaboration with the Center, MDC designed a strategy to raise awareness among pediatricians in the United States so that they would begin screening young children for toxic stress-- and shaped a plan to build grassroots support for achieving universal screening by 2020.



In late 2015, we launched the #ChildrenCanThrive campaign, creating the messaging, tone, and feel for this national public education campaign on toxic stress. We leveraged the Center’s dynamic CEO, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, as a thought leader, to offer moms and doctors the resources and tools they needed to do something about it.  

High quality content and strong engagement meant this campaign far surpassed expectations at more than four times its original projections, bringing thousands of pediatricians and parents-caregivers into the Center’s networks. MDC employed its connections to partner organizations and the media to widen and deepen engagement.

STORIES FROM SALINAS.ORG |  Identity and website

Salinas is most often in the news for murders, gang violence, and drug dealing, along with occasional stories about poor test scores. The Packard Foundation took aim at these issues by providing support to local organizations working with kids and increasing afterschool programming. MDC was asked to brand the identity of this new approach for the Local Grantmaking Program.

Through its research, MDC uncovered an alternative strand in Salinas’ trajectory: passionate homegrown leaders who stay or return to Salinas to work with the younger generation and help them pursue academic success in high school, college and beyond. MDC produced StoriesFromSalinas.org, written by MDC journalist Rob Waters and photographed by Salinas’ Jay Dunn. 

A GOOD HIRE | Social cause campaign

In Alameda County, more than one out of every four adults in the country has a criminal record and nearly half of people in prison are serving time for nonviolent offenses. This means that more than 375,000 county residents have records. MDC assisted the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and the National Employment Law Center to move the needle in Alameda County in a campaign aimed at convincing local business to hire more people with convictions or arrests on their records.

Our firm helped develop the campaign plan and we executed the A Good Hire campaign targeting HR professionals and mangers on LinkedIn. The first results were that hundreds of HR managers and professionals shared insights, videos and HR advice on ways to hire and support people with criminal records. 

Smoke Berkeley: This video tells the story of a successful business owner and her employee, a convicted felon. It shows her deep feelings about making this good hire and giving someone a second a chance.


By telling this longer story, rather the usual format of connected snippets, viewers have a more of chance to connect with the protagonist and experience how it feels to make a good hire.

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4 Biz Reasons Not to Run a Background Check—4 Best Practices If You Have To: This blogpost directed at human resources professionals garnered 5x the average engagement rate. It links to the story of Natalya, now an HR professional at a major employer, and is about an erroneous background check costing her the first job she applied to after college at a national bank. 

THRIVE FOUNDATION | Content strategy

As this Silicon Valley family foundation scaled up into social innovation and grantmaking more akin to co-creation than traditional grantmaking, its President sought strategic communications to support its innovative arm and network of grantees.

MDC embedded its services with her cross sector team and created strategically placed content, communicated its social innovation approach to its board and potential partners, and engaged a network of aligned mentoring influencers and programs across the country. 

| Spotlighting the highest quality mentoring programs |

The foundation’s unusual team brought together a pastor, preacher, foundation executive and design specialist. The team sought to identify and lift up best practices and strategically support highly successful mentoring programs. 


| Communicating social innovation |

MDC communications supported the foundation as it shaped a social innovation in the mentoring space. Since then, thousands have viewed MDC’s, "A communicator's short guide to creating a social impact pitch deck."


| Shaping research for different audiences |

When Thrive’s Research & Evaluation Director identified the common factors of successful mentoring programs, he wanted his findings to be useful for grantees and other mentoring programs–as well as for other researchers in the field.

MDC collaborated with the director to shape his research for both audiences and promote it to program staff who worked directly with the youth, while offering more detailed results for researchers. 





COMPETING FOR LOCAL GOOD | Identity and content.

Packard Foundation’s Irene Wong was seeking a special investment to celebrate the foundation’s 50th Anniversary and its legacy of supporting local communities. MDC collaborated to launch a social competition, Building Vibrant Communities, awarding $500,000 to organizations that cultivate empathy skills locally and equip young changemakers.

MDC worked with Local Grantmaking and Ashoka Changemakers to create the competition theme, messaging, and provide social and media outreach. More than 212 ideas were submitted to the competition from more than 50 cities. After the competition, MDC produced Competing for Local Good, a social competition guide for place-based programs.