Alumnus recognized as global change maker by Good Magazine
April 30, 2014
Hunter Franks, BA ’08
Major: Communications and studio art with a graphic design emphasis
Hometown: San Francisco, California
Current Occupation: Artist
Involvements while at Lewis & Clark: Editor-in-Chief of the Pioneer Log
What inspired you to start the Neighborhood Postcard Project?
I was working on a project with youth in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood when the project coordinators started a discussion with the people in their neighborhood. They asked them what they wanted to improve in Bayview. They heard answers like gang violence, unemployment, and drug use — but they also said that they wanted to change other people’s perception of Bayview. I found that extremely powerful. They had an opportunity to try to end violence or homelessness in their neighborhood, but they said all they wanted was for people to not look at them and assume things because they live in a certain neighborhood. So I set out to find a way to help them do this and change perception of San Francisco’s marginalized neighborhoods in the process.
Can you tell us a bit about how the Neighborhood Postcard Project has changed over time?
The project began as the SF Postcard Project in San Francisco in April 2013. I quickly heard from people all over the world who wanted to change perception in their neighborhoods and communities. I created a toolkit and postcard templates so that anyone was able to start the project where they live. The project has been adopted in New York, Portland, and just last week was translated into Spanish and carried out in Chile.
What are some challenges you’ve faced with trying to develop your project?
As with any endeavor, growing and sustaining the project is a challenge. I have been able to identify and secure partnerships with community organizations that work in those neighborhoods where the project is most valuable. The project provides them with programming and engages their community, enabling them to tell their story. I’ve also gained support to continue expanding the project through various communities across the country through a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
How has your Lewis & Clark experience helped you along the way?
My experience at Lewis & Clark gave me the opportunity to be part of a unique community. I was able to interact with peers and friends from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and lifestyles on a daily basis. I also had the opportunity to curate events and media through my experiences as manager of the Platteau and my position as editor in chief of the Pioneer Log. These positions provided me the chance to interact with all of Lewis & Clark, and work to build a more connected and engaged community.
Do you have some advice for students interested in community building or starting their own social change initiatives?
Start small. If you see a challenge and have an idea to address it, think about the minimum of what you will need to get your idea across and turn the idea into action. Then do it. Sketch it out, build it with copy paper and scotch tape. The best way to learn is by doing it. Another key is to talk to people. Listen to them. I started the Neighborhood Postcard Project because I heard from youth in Bayview that they wanted to change perception of their neighborhood. I simply created something to help them do that. Talk to people you might not otherwise talk to. People will amaze you. Everyone has unique stories, challenges, and dreams. These stories are what matter and what will help you create meaningful, impactful change.