A Minerva Holiday Guide

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by Johnny Merolla


The leaves are falling, and Seattleites have already begun griping about the cloudy days. The inevitable fall weather means the holiday season is coming. A time when friends and family gather around for animated conversation – and sometimes arguments – about our lives and world.


At Minerva, we are a peaceful, friendly team, but we never shy away from a debate where fact goes head-to-head with rumor or alternative facts. When the smell of turkey (or tofurkey) permeates the air and the family you see twice a year is debating from kitchen to living room like a Roman Senate, use some of the great work our clients have been doing to catalyze calmness.


Let’s take our favorite relative: Aunt Shirley from Nebraska. She cannot believe the severity of the opioid epidemic and thinks she has the answer: “The only way to stop heroin addicts is to arrest ‘em, or let ‘em die.”


Take a vigorous, measured breath from your nostrils and explain to her that even President Trump’s Opioid Commission recognizes addiction as a medical condition and recommends a different approach – increased access to treatment. Our client, Evergreen Treatment Services has been fighting stigma and providing treatment for addiction for decades. They operate clinics in Western Washington to deploy medication-assisted treatment that stabilizes brain chemistry and helps people begin their journey to recovery. Data and compassion, not stigma and arrests, are what drive their work.


Speaking of data, Minerva worked with the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) this year. IHME published the largest global health study ever. The data, collected by thousands of partners and collaborators from around the world, is used to form sound public health policy to help us all live longer, healthier lives. So as soon as Aunt Shirley segues to despair with a sigh, “What is the world coming to?” reassure her that – according to the data – health is improving around the globe. Fewer children are dying from preventable diseases, and some diseases are getting eradicated all together.


Mid-meal, after Aunt Shirley has had five glasses of Franzia rosé and begins to meddle in foreign aid, she’s likely to declare: “We need to quit sending our money overseas, people in other countries are corrupt and ungrateful.” Say a personal mantra and insert our client, Dignity Period, a nonprofit that provides young women in Ethiopia with menstrual pads. Too many girls in the northern parts of Ethiopia choose to drop out of school rather than face the shame of getting their periods at school. Through a unique partnership with an Ethiopian pads factory and university, Dignity Period is meeting girls’ pressing needs while changing cultural beliefs and social attitudes. Reassure Aunt Shirley that nonprofits like Dignity Period are very resourceful and put our citizens’ donations to efficient use. This creates a better world for all.


At Minerva, we are nothing if not realists. We know and see the dire situations that exist for many people around the world due to climate change, war, and poverty. However, it is so easy to get caught up in the web of near-constant negativity. That’s why it is important to recognize the good that is happening all around us.


Last, give Aunt Shirley a break. Understand that she may be feeling emotionally drained from the issues our world faces, and her life experiences – or lack thereof – may constrict the way she reacts. Be kind, and offer Aunt Shirley a different perspective.

About The Author

Sara Veltkamp

Sara Veltkamp

Vice President

Sara lives in Chicago, Illinois and is Minerva's vice president. She takes a lead role in all aspects of Minerva Strategies’ smart communication strategies and implementation. She loves a challenge and is obsessed with learning new things, from how to use new platforms and tools for storytelling to languages like Amharic, French, or Farsi to mastering a difficult yoga pose. She applies this energy and curiosity to all clients’ communication challenges. Learn more about Sara.