[syndicated profile] nara_feed

Posted by usnationalarchives

This post comes from Kerri Young at Historypin, our partners in the Wartime Films engagement project, and is part of a series outlining how NARA is using design thinking to reach new and existing audiences.

Last month we looked at how research and analysis have helped us narrow our focus on particular audiences and a subset of relevant content. Today we’ll take a look at how we built our evaluation framework for the project.

Having narrowed our target audiences for the Wartime Films project and settled on WWI-focused content for our engagement efforts, we began to really concentrate on our goals for the pilot. Unlike a traditional publicity campaign seeking media responses, or a management document to commit to deliverables, we’re seeking particular outcomes for the target audiences, as well as ways to measure the impact of our engagement. Outcomes focus on social transformation, and are defined as changes in the behaviour, relationships, activities, or actions of the people, groups, and organizations with whom a program works directly.

Working with Historypin’s research and evaluation team at Shift, we decided on the formula of actors + actions = intended outcome to shape our goals. Recognizing that we’re part of a much larger ecosystem of cultural heritage organizations encouraging discovery and reuse of our national treasures, we focused the formula on answering two key questions : what did we want to see happen in the project, and how could we measure our specific impact in the space through this particular pilot?

Screenshot of chart showing aims (the change we want to bring)

Brainstorming initial goals for our teachers target group.

Using a widely-adapted, user-centered approach to planning called Outcome Mapping, we’re able to focus on social transformation, particularly how it pertains to the public discovery and creative reuse of primary source materials. For us, the desired “big picture” change is broken down into a series of multiple outcomes that multiple actors can work towards. To build our outcome mapping framework, we first pinpointed not only NARA’s wider goals for access and reuse in the project overall, but for each of our target audiences individually: teachers, local museums, and coders/digital humanists. The audience analysis we carried out in the beginning of the project was key in helping to define these goals, and placing them in the framework helped us organize the actions and results we were hoping to see.

Screenshot of outcomes chart (change we want to see)

Some outcomes for our museums target group.

We narrowed down the most important aims for each group and created a spreadsheet to organize our intended outcomes, the activities that can help us reach those outcomes, and methods to measure how effective the actions have been. The outcomes we settled upon for each group focused on issues of awareness, access, and community, each connected to larger organizational goals for NARA (see the National Archives 2014-2018 Strategic Plan).

The next steps of this process involved coming up with initial activities- such as teacher workshops and publishing raw metadata for coders- that can be logically linked to our outcomes. We then created measurements for these activities, which can be anything from surveys and interviews to observations like social media hits, teachers blogging, etc.

By approaching the Wartime Films evaluation from a social research perspective, the key outcomes and ways of measuring those outcomes are aimed at seeing an increase in social engagement. While the activities and measurements for those activities might change over the course of the project, having this framework in place allows us to ensure our overall goals stay consistent.

hasty Worldcon notes

Aug. 23rd, 2016 10:37 am
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
[personal profile] brainwane
Several things I recommended during Worldcon just now:

I had a very good time at Worldcon and am recovering now.

[Linkspam] Monday, August 22

Aug. 22nd, 2016 07:49 pm
tim: A bright orange fish. (fish)
[personal profile] tim
[CW: rape] I Anonymously Reported My Rape for the Anonymous Attention, by Nicole Silverberg for Reductress (2016-08-17). See, you can write humor that deals with rape and that's actually funny.

The Blood-bag: Co-narcissists and Narcissists in Tech, by Marlena Compton and Valerie Aurora (2016-08-22). On people who enable narcissists (i.e. most people who work in the tech industry.) The "blood bag" metaphor is so good.

How To Make a Real Commitment to Diversity, by Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (2016-08-17). The description of professors who give lip service to diversity in their programs but refuse to take the slightest risk to encourage it (or even to, you know, discipline predatory people) is so familiar.

“You Do Not Exist To Be Used”: Dismantling Ideas of Productivity in Life Purpose, by Gillian Giles for The Body Is Not an Apology (2016-08-17). "You do not exist to be used."

Shameless plug: buy a "San Fran Trans Co" shirt from my friend's collective!

What It's Like to Have 'High-Functioning' Anxiety, by Sarah Schuster for The Mighty (2016-06-27). In general I don't find "high-functioning"/"low-functioning" typologies to be useful, and I don't find everything in this article rings true for me, but some of it does.

Meeting the Free Speech Crusaders Who Want to End Political Correctness, by Sam Kriss for Vice (2016-08-17). This line is brilliant, about why Internet trolls love citing the notion of "debate": "It's not hard to see why: only in a formal debate do you have to give stupid and boring ideas a hearing they don't deserve."

The Troubling Trendiness Of Poverty Appropriation, by July Westhale for The Establishment (2015-11-23). "It’s likely, from where I sit, that this back-to-nature and boxed-up simplicity is not being marketed to people like me, who come from simplicity and heightened knowledge of poverty, but to people who have not wanted for creature comforts. For them to try on, glamorize, identify with. "

I, Racist by John Metta (2015-07-06). "But here is the irony, here’s the thing that all the angry Black people know, and no calmly debating White people want to admit: The entire discussion of race in America centers around the protection of White feelings."

Activism, Language, and Differences of Opinion, by Julia Serano (2016-07-19) -- links to some of Serano's greatest hits re: language, politics, and social justice.

DPUB IG Telco, 2016-08-22: Use cases

Aug. 22nd, 2016 04:38 pm
[syndicated profile] w3c_dpub_ig_feed

Posted by Ivan Herman

See minutes online for a more detailed record of the discussions.

Note that, for holiday/vacation reasons the next two meetings will be cancelled.

Use Case Documents update

Section on horizontals

That section is almost ready. The agreement is that the various use cases should get an extra label on which horizontal area(s) they refer to. A simple security related use case will also be added, though a separate top level section on security will also be created.

Distribution and sharing section

The old content underwent a radical edit to align it with the rest of the document. More about on email (the editor of that section was not able to join the call).


The old section 6 was merged and only one section created. Few use cases were moved into the ‘fundamentals’ (2.1.5, 2.1.6, and also 2.1.13). It was agreed that a more thorough definition of “states” should be added to the section as an introduction, and maybe an explicit reference to the fundamental use cases that are relevant to this area. Also, because this is a fairly technical stuff, it is better if this section moves to a later position in the overall document.


There are now five different areas in the section. The question is really whether there is a need (or not) on a use case on Braille; is it really different on PWP than on the Web in general? This led to a more general discussion: what are the reason that accessibility gets more emphasis in the publication world than elsewhere, and could that be succinctly described in this document? That is still left open for now.


A few annotation related issues/use cases have been added. Otherwise there was no real progress the past week.

Editing timeline, schedule

The goal is to have a FPWD published for the document before TPAC. The following schedule has been agreed on:

  1. There is a (temporary) feature freeze on the document on the 31st of August. It is important to have the security section and the updated introduction “in” (and anything else that can improve things)
  2. Nick Ruffilo goes through the document on the 1st and 2nd as an overall editorial round in unifying style, terms, etc
  3. Heather takes hold of the document on the 5th of September to finalize an overall editorial round again on style, terms, etc.
  4. Ivan takes hold of the document on the 12th and gets it through the W3C publishing process.

A final version of the document would then be published after TPAC, probably beginning of October.

What Lies Beneath

Aug. 22nd, 2016 03:41 pm
[syndicated profile] kirkus_ya_feed
The books didn’t help me find a word for myself; my father refused to accept the weight of it. And so I made my own.

Trade: The wrong conversation

Aug. 22nd, 2016 02:50 pm
[syndicated profile] alaskanlibrarian_feed

Posted by Daniel Cornwall

While I have problems with the Trans Pacific Partnership, particularly in the areas of intellectual property and the ability of transnational business panels to override national law, I really feel we’re not having the right conversation on trade.

Attacking any particular multilateral trade deal not only allows proponents to label opponents as “anti-trade” and “isolationists,” it distracts us from what I think is the real conversation we ought to be having on how we write trade deals to begin with.

No one really wants to stop trade. The vast majority of people understand that we live in an interdependent world. No one country has everything it needs for modern life. But how that trade is conducted is important and how trade deals are created is even more so.

In a working economy, the legitimate interests of businesses, workers and consumers are all equally respected. In a capitalist economy you need all three groups to remain healthy or the economy collapses. As a result, in a working economy all three groups should have representation in writing economic rules.

In trade deals, this seldom happens. Whether it’s NAFTA, TPP or some other trade deal, national governments invite industry representatives to meet in secret to hammer out rules that are presented as all or nothing votes to national legislatures. As a result, these deals are usually great for business, occasionally good for consumers but almost never satisfactory for workers in any but the lowest wage countries.

In our discussions on trade, we should agree that trade is a reality, but we should insist on representation for labor groups and the non-profit sector – cultural organization institutions and consumer groups. Potential rules should be weighed for their effects on businesses, workers and consumers at large. And they should be written in public and available for continuous public comment.

This will be a longer process than letting industry write the rules in secret. But the economy belongs to all of us and a more open process will ensure greater buy in for the deals that do ultimately pass. Let’s pass that message on to our elected representatives and hold them accountable for it.


Filed under: politics, Uncategorized Tagged: trade, working economy


Aug. 21st, 2016 09:12 am
[personal profile] jazzyjj
Editor's Note: The first part of this entry is not totally accurate. I did that on purpose. Not all of the heARTwords writings are factual, even other people's writings. But the second part of this entry is true.

If I found myself in a situation where I was being discriminated against because of my disability, what would I do? I have actually never before faced any disability discrimination. But if someone or a group of people were to do this to me, I'd first try to tell them that discrimination against anybody is illegal and to please stop it. I would be nice about it, but firm. If they still didn't stop, I'd threaten to contact an advocacy organization and get them involved. Then if they stopped I wouldn't even contact an organization, but if the discrimination still continued I would have no choice but to involve the organization.

What do I think is the biggest misconception about people with disabilities? I think the biggest misconception facing those of us with disabilities is that we're not real people, or if we are then we're all exactly alike. Well, the truth is that we are all people but we're not all exactly alike. In other words, one size does not fit all. To borrow from some Disability Awareness trainings, "if you've met one person with a disability you've met *one* person with a disability. No 2 people with disabilities are exactly alike, just as no 2 people are exactly alike." Period, end of story.

(no subject)

Aug. 21st, 2016 07:22 am
owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)
[personal profile] owlectomy
I keep reading Carol Bly's "The Passionate, Accurate Story" and then getting myself tied up in knots thinking I've got to write stories about global warming and nuclear weapons and whatever.

It's not that I don't want to write stories about global warming and nuclear weapons and whatever, but they kind of have to be subtle enough that I can respect them, and also not just retreads of Paolo Bacigalupi.

I'm already dealing with a terrible and insidious level of perfectionism, where I can't even get to the stage of having an idea for something unless I can feel like it's going to be fantastic right from the beginning. So when I put on top of that, "OH, AND YOU HAVE TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO SOLVE THE WORLD'S PROBLEMS" - I mean, that's nonsense, that's just another avoidance mechanism.

And actually "Ramblewood Underground" - it's not all the way there yet in terms of storytelling and story structure but in terms of being a passionate accurate story, it IS very much the sort of thing that I want to be writing, with characters who don't have chemical-weapons-testing jobs to quit like the guy in Carol Bly's story but who exist in the world as it is with all its problems, who can be engaged and compassionate people even if they can't solve those problems.

So that's my challenge to myself: to try to find my way toward stories that I care about, that are important to me, while lowering my standards a hell of a lot when it comes to them being politically and aesthetically perfect.

Texts and Genders Course

Aug. 20th, 2016 11:46 am
robin_anne_reid: (Treehouse)
[personal profile] robin_anne_reid
I've been very much consumed with other stuff during the past few years (including a tornado that took out a chunk of our roof in 2014--nobody hurt in the whole area which means we were incredibly lucky--and health problems). But I have a resolution this fall to start making more use of this academic journal, focusing specifically on one of my favorite (and often most frustrating) graduate courses: Texts and Genders.

Here is the basic information about the class:

Required Reading:

Sara Ahmed. Queer Phenomenology. Duke UP. ISBN-10: 0-8223-3914-5. ISBN-13:978-0-8223-3914-4
Sara Ahmed. Willful Subjects. Duke UP. ISBN-10: 0-8223-5783-6. ISBN-13: 978-0-8223-5783-4
Ann Leckie. Ancillary Justice. Little Brown & Co. ISBN-10: 0-316-24662-X. ISBN-13: 978-0-316-24662-0
Ann Leckie. Ancillary Sword. Little Brown & Co. ISBN-10: 0-316-24665-4. ISBN-13: 978-0-316-24665-1
Ann Leckie. Ancillary Mercy. Little Brown & Co. ISBN-10: 0-316-24668-9. ISBN-13: 978-0-316-24668-2

Reading Schedule:

Weeks 2-3-4: Queer Phenomenology
Weeks 5-6-7: Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, Ancillary Mercy
Weeks 8-9: Willful Subjects
Weeks 10-11-12: Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, Ancillary Mercy

Course Description

Graduate Catalog: Three semester hours. A critical examination of how gender differences influence reading and writing strategies of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and film, including issues of gender and style, gender and usage, and gender stereotyping. This course is recommended for doctoral students planning to teach and/or produce scholarship on the college level.

The catalog description is written with an intentionally broad focus to allow different faculty to teach with their own areas of specialization.

Here's my specific course description for this class:

Fall 2016 Focus: The focus this fall is on an intersectional and interdisciplinary approach to gender theory and how to apply theory to literary works. The class will be a focus on two monographs by Sara Ahmed and a science fiction trilogy by Ann Leckie in order to explore how the theory and narrative of Ahmed's work are in conversation with the narrative and theory of Leckie's work.


Online Discussions: Six @ 200 points. 1200 points. One introduction and five on Ahmed's books.

Writing Journal: Seven entries @ 200 points 1400 points. Exploratory entries on the ways in which Ahmed's work is in conversation with Leckie's.

Paper (12-15 pages): A queer and/or willful reading of Leckie's work. Three assignments: Plan (200 pts); First Draft (400 pts); Final Draft (1000 pts). 1600 total.

Educating About Plagiarism Unit: Extra Credit quizzes and summaries.

Here are some first thoughts as I work on finalizing the materials to upload to the course shell:

More and more I have come to realize that it's important for me as a teacher to explain not only what I want students to do, but why I am having them do it the way I am asking, especially since I do all sorts of new and weird (to them) stuff.

That means a real shift in pedagogical choices from even ten years ago. One thing I've been working on, especially driven by teaching primarily online (which I mostly do because I *like* it, I know I'm weird, I did say weird, right), is embedding process writing in my theory and literature courses. The classes cannot be as writing intensive as the creative writing and composition courses I teach, but I'm working to get a balance in by using more focused discussion questions, and more journal entries which can also involve self assessment of process and learning.

So, for your fun this rainy (in Texas) Saturday morning, some text I just wrote for my Leckie Paper assignment lecture. I'm trying to break my long assignment handups into a lecture plus a shorter assignment handout that refers students to the lecture for explanation and process information.

Part of the lecture will be explaining how they're working on their final paper from the first discussion. (I'm gathering that my approach is very different from many my students report having had in their journals, so I'm hoping this will help those who find it so different to understand the method in my weirdness).

First: "Good" final drafts (defined as meeting my assignment criteria which are based on my knowledge of and experience with academic writing and publishing) come from an extensive and recursive writing process that takes place over time.

Second: Graduate students who carry a heavy weight of coursework and teaching responsibilities in their professional lives may have difficulty starting the writing process early enough on their own time.

Third: Even an extensive writing process can fail to generate a final draft that meets the standards for final drafts if students are dealing with texts and approaches that are new to them.

Fourth: An online course which does not allow for the face/face extended discussions of the traditional seminar does allow for online discussions that can be more focused and comprehensive, allowing for responses and analysis to readings to take place in a group setting where ideas can be shared and reviewed at a later time.

Five Votes: Why Voting Matters

Aug. 19th, 2016 10:26 pm
[syndicated profile] alaskanlibrarian_feed

Posted by Daniel Cornwall

Last Tuesday we had a primary election in Alaska that demonstrated why it is important to get out and vote in EVERY election. On August 16, 2016, only 15.4% of Alaska’s 515,714 registered voters went to the polls. The election resulted in seven incumbents being ousted out of the Legislature. I leave it to others to debate whether this was a good or bad thing. What I’d like to talk about today is just how close some of the elections were.

  • In House District 38, Representative Bob Herron lost his seat by 260 votes in a race with substantially better turnout (21.7%) than the state average (15.4%).
  • In Senate District D, Representative Lynn Gattis lost her race for Senate by 148 votes in a race with 12.2% turnout.
  • In House District 9, Representative Jim Colver lost his seat by 95 votes in a race with 17.1% turnout.
  • In House District 40, Representative Ben Nageak lost his seat by just FIVE votes (765-760) in a race with 16.8% turnout.

In each of these races, the winning primary challenger will be the new legislator because the other party did not have a primary in that district. The primary election was the general election in these cases and around 80% of voters missed their opportunity to weigh in. A relative handful of voters in any of these races might have changed the outcome.

Extremely light turnout and lack of party competition at the primary level are not unique to Alaska and these factors are having federal effects. As David Wasserman of Five Thirty Eight puts it:

Primaries have become the new general elections — The Cook Political Report currently rates just 37 of 435 House seats as competitive this fall, less than 9 percent of the House. As a result, primary elections have become tantamount to general elections in the vast majority of seats. Because primaries are held on many different dates, they tend to generate less national attention and attract disproportionate shares of hardcore, ideological party activists to the polls.

In 2014, only 14.6 percent of eligible voters participated in congressional primaries — a record low, according to the Center for the Study of the American Electorate. That means a tiny fraction of voters who are the most hardened partisans are essentially electing more than 90 percent of members of Congress. And these low-turnout primaries are often easy prey for ideological interest groups who demand purity.

In Alaska’s most recent election, news media has noted that both major political parties targeted a few of their own incumbents this time around, with mixed results.

This might all sound depressing to you. It did sound depressing to me at first. But we don’t have to accept things as they are. We can make the primary electorate bigger. We can work to put more candidates on the ballot, either in a primary or for a different party. And here in Alaska, we can vote knowing that until we can persuade more of our friends and family to vote, our votes will have outsized influence.

Get off the sidelines this November. Vote. Then keep voting and take your registered friends to the polls in EVERY election. Don’t let another legislator or ballot issue get decided by a handful of votes.

Not sure how to register or vote? Check out this video:


2016 Primary Election Report (Alaska Division of Elections) – http://www.elections.alaska.gov/results/16PRIM/data/results.htm

Voter Registration by Party and Precinct (Alaska Division of Elections)  – http://elections.alaska.gov/statistics/2016/AUG/VOTERS%20BY%20PARTY%20AND%20PRECINCT.htm

Seven incumbents out of Legislature after low-turnout primary by Lisa Demer and Zaz Hollander, Alaska Dispatch News,  8/17/2016 – http://www.adn.com/alaska-news/2016/08/17/seven-incumbents-out-of-the-legislature-after-low-turnout-primary/

The Political Process Isn’t Rigged — It Has Much Bigger Problems by David Wasserman, Five Thirty Eight – http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-political-process-isnt-rigged-it-has-much-bigger-problems/


Filed under: civics


Aug. 19th, 2016 10:00 am
grrlpup: (rose)
[personal profile] grrlpup

graffiti on wall: "sam-i-am"

Today’s commute graffiti: kidlit-relevant! Commute graffiti usually goes on Twitter, but it was cutting the photo off.

I’ve had swimming on the brain. On Wednesday, I swam across the Willamette River downtown, with Sanguinity and a few co-workers and about 250 other people. It was fun! (Link is to a short FaceBook video.) I took it slow, and have much work to do if I ever want to join the River Huggers’ regular morning swims across and back.

I’ve never been one to follow Olympic swimming much, but like the rest of the internet I’m loving Fu Yuanhui. The tizzy over her mentioning her period reminded me of In Lane Three, Alex Archer , a 1987 New Zealand YA novel about a young swimmer working her way towards the Rome (1960) Olympics. The “but can she swim with her period?!” bit is almost all I remember– and I’m pretty sure I didn’t read the whole series. Trip to the university library on my lunch break today.

This post also appears at read write run repeat. Comments read and welcomed in either place!

Reinterpreting the classics

Aug. 19th, 2016 10:37 am
[personal profile] yendi
What if what Bryan Adams is really singing in "Run to You" is:

But that'd change if she ever found out about "you and I"?

So his wife wouldn't care that he's having a relationship with someone else (in fact, might be aware of it and be supportive), but she's a stickler for grammar and tends towards prescriptivism, and is appalled at the notion of using a subject word like "I" as an object.

Makes total sense to me.
[syndicated profile] aotus_feed

Posted by davidferriero

This week I had an opportunity to address the World Library and Information Congress of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) on the work we have been doing here at the National Archives in support of the Administration’s Open Government Initiative.  More than 3,500 librarians, archivists, and other information professionals from 145 countries have traveled to Columbus, Ohio for this week-long conversation on the themes of Connections, Collaboration, and Community.

IFLA World Congress 2016

I chose to share our experience in implementing the President’s Open Government Directive in the creation of three, soon to be four, agency Open Government Plans and how that work has contributed to the creation of the United States National Action Plan which is shared with the International Open Government Partnership.  It is the story of how a small agency can not only contribute, but lead in fulfilling the vision of open government’s three principles:  transparency, participation, and collaboration.

But it was more than an opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments, it was an offer to work with the attendees who are members of the International Open Government Partnership to ensure that their voices are heard in the development of their country’s plans.  More importantly, it was a challenge to those who are not already members to influence their own government about the Partnership’s work and the commitments articulated in the Open Government Declaration.

You can read the entire address here. I ended with:  “We share a common mission—connecting people with the information they need to improve their lives.  Let’s work together to make that happen and make this a better world.”

Going Graphic

Aug. 19th, 2016 05:22 am
[syndicated profile] kirkus_kidlit_feed
Every now and then, I like to do children’s graphic-novel round-ups, and this very moment seems like a good time. There are several rather high-profile graphic-novel releases coming in the next month or two, and I’ve seen some intriguing new stories out there. So, let’s get right to it. I’ll start with some of the lesser-known ones, two that are both, in fact, inspired by or based on Norwegian folk and fairy tales.Heartless Troll

(no subject)

Aug. 18th, 2016 09:47 pm
owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)
[personal profile] owlectomy
So - I think that one of the most important things that art can do, and one of the things that gets into really thorny questions about representation and what is universal vs. what's merely presented as something universal, is this moment when you say "Oh, I thought that was just me. That isn't just me." And - I think these moments are maybe especially significant to me as a person who's introverted and socially anxious - like, it's really hard for me to get that feeling interacting with other human beings because anything I say has been run through so many "IS THIS WEIRD???" filters that -- if it's a thing where I worry I'm weird or alone in my thoughts, I just don't say it at all.

But I was at a party tonight, and it was that strange and great and horrible mix of pleasant conversation and roiling social anxiety, and I remembered the first time I heard that Stars lyric where Torq sings "But it doesn't make it easy / To leave the party at the right time," and I thought, OH MY GOD, there's someone else who understands that leaving the party at the right time is ridiculously difficult.

I think I managed it. If I hadn't bought lights for my bike, it would've been the wrong time.

Pain hits

Aug. 18th, 2016 06:48 pm
badgerbag: (Default)
[personal profile] badgerbag
Pain kicking in big time, ankles, knees mostly. I am definitely glad I stayed moving very gently in the pool and didn't get vigorous or go any longer than 30 min.

Anyway pain and I will lie still, do some cbd stuff, and put on ice packs.

I still feel invigorated on some level, and happy.

Coming Up Roses

Aug. 18th, 2016 05:00 pm
[syndicated profile] slack_feed

Posted by Slack

How floral designer Kiana Underwood switched careers and found creative success later in life

Photo by Corbin Gurkin

It’s late on a Thursday morning and sunlight streams through the windows of Kiana Underwood’s floral design studio in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood. The light bounces off the white walls and long wooden counters that are often covered with fresh flowers. Today they are empty, save for a single arrangement.

As the classical strains of Debussy play softly in the background, Underwood puts the finishing touches on the arrangement, which includes roses and fuchsias from her garden. With her quiet, unassuming manner, you wouldn’t guess that in the five years since she founded her business, Tulipina, Underwood has become one of the most sought-after floral designers in the US. She specializes in high-end weddings, leads sold-out workshops, and has a book in progress.

Underwood herself wouldn’t have guessed that she’d end up here. When she was younger, she dreamed of being a diplomat and seeing the world.

It was later, after having a family, that she decided to follow a creative passion — but with no background in the field, she had to figure out how to grow her business on her own.

Before placing her arrangement in the window for passersby to admire, Underwood pulls up a chair and shares some of her secrets of her late-blooming floral career.

Planting the seed

Underwood spent her early years in Iran, where some of her favorite memories are of her grandfather’s flower garden. When she was 15, she immigrated with her family to the United States and settled in San Francisco.

Becoming a diplomat someday seemed like a natural fit. Underwood loved languages — she speaks Farsi, English, Italian and Japanese — and was passionate about different peoples and cultures.

“The outside world was always very interesting to me,” she says.

She liked the idea of working for women’s rights and of making the world a better place.

After college in Santa Barbara, Underwood earned a graduate degree from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. But instead of staying in DC and pursuing an international career, Underwood returned to the Bay Area to be near her mother.

She left behind contacts and proximity to global institutions and organizations. She calls this decision her “biggest mistake” career-wise.

“Being a multilingual person and a Middle Eastern person, I should have just stayed there. Between Washington DC and New York, there was plenty to pursue,” she says. “I came back because I wanted my mom to be happy and I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be able to pursue anything in diplomacy in San Francisco.”

Photo courtesy of Kiana Underwood

The desire to make her mom happy was “a cultural thing”—family is one of the cornerstones of Persian culture. Underwood and her mother were very close, and she felt it was her duty to live nearby and not across the country or halfway around the world.

“I felt guilt, obligation and, of course, love,” she says.

Back in the Bay Area, Underwood married her college sweetheart, Nate, and landed a position as a research fellow at a prestigious think tank, Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Work at the think tank was uninspiring and she realized early on it wasn’t a place where she could pursue her passion. Instead of being with her peers, Underwood was surrounded by almost-retired professors. She lasted two years.

She left the Hoover Institution in 2003, after becoming pregnant with her first child. Baby number two and baby number three quickly followed. Underwood spent the next eight years as a full-time mom. It was gratifying, but she always intended to return to the workforce.

“Some women just love being a mom and that’s beautiful. But I’m not one of those women,” she says. “I always needed something else.”

Branching out

When her youngest was four, Underwood started thinking about what that something else might be. After being out of the job market for so long, she knew she would have to practically start over. With three kids, a husband and a mortgage, pursuing the nomadic lifestyle of a diplomat was out of the question. And her youthful dream of changing the world now seemed idealistic and not so easy to achieve. It was her husband, Nate, who had the idea that she could start her own floral design business.

Underwood clearly had a way with flowers. She had loved them since the days spent in her grandfather’s garden, and guests would often admire the arrangements in her home and ask if she’d be willing to create something for their party or event. But it seemed to her like there was so much competition and that everywhere she looked there was a corner florist.

The start-up costs were minimal, her husband pointed out.

All they needed was a website and photos of her work. “We have nothing to lose,” he told her.

In 2011, they launched the Tulipina website.

Photo courtesy of Tulipina

Finding fertile soil

Talent is one thing, marketing is another. Photographs of Underwood’s lush “garden-style” floral designs ended-up playing a huge role in her success. When she first started out, her main source of business was local moms. But as she discovered Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, Underwood began building a following that reached far beyond her neighborhood. She soon realized, “If you had beautiful photos, that was key.”

Instagram in particular has played a large role in her international following. After a Russian journalist discovered and featured her work, people wrote in asking for design lessons. Underwood started doing workshops, which have taken her to Russia, Indonesia, and Mexico, and now account for about half of her business.

Growing on your own

Having a mentor or guide in any new effort can be extremely helpful — but sometimes they’re just not there. When she was first starting out, Underwood reached out to floral designers who inspired her, and no one wrote her back. She got the feeling that since she was self-taught and hadn’t come up through the floral design world, she wasn’t taken seriously. Undaunted, she kept at her work and made her own name.

The lesson she took away from it was: “You have to make it on your own before someone wants to help make you more popular.”

As with many creative endeavors, to work as a floral artist you need to be comfortable with a lot of alone time. There are many people that Underwood enjoys working with — her husband runs the business side of things; she hires freelancers to help with larger projects; students attend her workshops, and brides hire her to create their bouquets — but her favorite part of her job is the quiet time when the only interaction she has is with flowers. “I love to put on my music and just work,” she says.

Emily Brady once scratched her eye on a bird of paradise flower.

Coming Up Roses was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Read the responses to this story on Medium.

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