Interview with Mary Joyce

Mary fosters success for activists online, delves into Seattle's creative culture, and takes in long views of the city from Queen Anne.


Q: Who are you? Introduce yourself as you would at a dinner party.

A: Pleased to meet you! I'm Mary Joyce and I help activists and advocates use scarce resources to communicate strategically and persuasively. I came to Seattle two and a half years ago to do graduate work in Communication at UW and decided to stay. It's a great city!

Q: What is your background? How does it differ from what you are doing now?

A: I root for the underdog. I've always been inspired by people and organizations fighting for change against all odds. I was New Media Operations Manager for President Obama's first national campaign in 2008. All of us at Chicago headquarters felt the historic import of our work. The feeling on election night, watching the returns in a union hall in the swing state of Pennsylvania, was incomparable.

My work with communication technology began right after college when I got a Fulbright scholarship to study pro-democracy nonprofits in Morocco. This was happening in the mid-200's when social media was blossoming. Blogs were big, YouTube had just come online, and Facebook was still only accessible to college students. I decided to try to use these new tools to help activists spread their messages and achieve their goals. I've been doing that ever since.

Over the past nine years I've trained activists and advocates around the world to use digital media strategically. I've also given public talks on this subject in countries ranging from the United Arab Emirates and Germany to Mexico, Spain and Norway. And I wrote a book, Digital Activism Decoded, which currently has a four-star rating on Amazon (I'm pretty proud of that.) Now I'm looking to bring my skill set to nonprofits in Seattle.

Q: What are you working on right now?

A: I'm working on two projects now, one related to consulting, the other to software. For my consulting work I help values-driven organizations working with constrained resources to communicate strategically. This means getting a clear focus on the goal, audience, channels, and messages one wants to communicate and then matching that vision to concrete tasks and work plans that match communication goals to organizationial resources.

I'm very compelled by "lean" thinking. A strategy is a plan that we make with the best information available to us, then the communication actions we take that test the strategy.; Measuring outcomes is crucial and allows us to constantly improve communication so we are using resources more and more efficiently to achieve impact goals.

Q: Why did you join Impact Hub?

A: Both of my projects are very self-guided. I needed a calm work environment that would also motivate me to push forward on a daily basis. The Impact Hub Seattle consistently exceeds my expectations. Not only is the space beautiful and well-maintained, the quality of events, and the genuine helpfulness and supportiveness or the other members has been a tremendous help on both my projects.

Q: How do you make money?

A: I make money through my consulting. The software project is still in bootstrap mode :)

Q: What is something that really excites you right now?

A: Other than my work, I am really excited by the creative scene here in Seattle. I helped a local poet, Sarah Galvin, build her personal website. I am a member of the SAM and frequently attend the Seattle Symphony. Last weekend I went to a house party where about a dozen people performed music, poetry, and even clowning. The creative part of human nature is what inspires my social justice work. When human beings are free from opression, fear, and poverty they can do amazing things.

Q: You have $10M to spend in the next year, and you can’t spend it on you, your friends or your family. How do you spend it?

A: I'd set up an institute for activism efficacy. It would work to determine the causes of activism failure across a range of progressive issues, would identify ways of doing activism that make positive outcomes more likely, and would then disseminate those method with a focus on achieving broad dissemination at low cost. The institute would also be rigorous in evaluating and increading its own effectiveness.

Q: What’s on the horizon for you?

A: I'm looking forward to developing a set of specifications for the software platform and creating working relationships with more Seattle nonprofits.

Q: Where do you usually hang out when you are at Impact Hub? How often are you here?

A: I'm usually at the Hub six days a week. That's Monday through Friday and then Saturday morning, which is when my collaborator and I have our meeting about the software project. When I'm not at the Hub, I like to wander around my neighborhood, Queen Anne Hill. It's so peaceful there. The greenery, the little downtown area, the beautiful views over the Sound- it's like a vacation every Sunday.


Q: What is something we don’t know?

A: Blind people can see. When a blind person clicks her or his tongue against the soft palate, the sound works like echo-location (source). The aural information is processed by the visual cortex of the brain. Apparently what they see is like seeing a person's peripheral vision: shapes are visible but not words or fine detail. This fact reminds me that 1) humans are capable of amazing things, and 2) received wisdom can be wrong, even when it seems obvious.

Q: Give us your top three Seattle gems!

A: 1) Betty Bowen Viewpoint: This is a Queen Anne secret, but it's too pretty not to share. Down the road from more famous Kerry Park, the viewpoint provides a 180-degree view over Puget Sound, Magnolia, and Bainbridge Island.

2) The Seattle Grind: Another Queen Anne secret, this cafe has tons of charm (Star Wars posters on the walls, paper chandeliers, comfy mismatched furniture, high ceilings), but there's hardly ever anyone in there. So I am trying to drum up some business for them! They're at 1907 10th Ave. West.

3) Thai Tom: This isn't a secret, it's just delicious. It's a hole in the wall in the U-District. You are sitting inches away from the cook if you are at the bar. But the food is cheap and ever so tasty. There's rarely a free seat at lunch time and strangers often have to share a table.



Contact Mary at [email protected].