FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 06.18.2024

In this week’s @AvalonFYI dispatch, you’ll find client celebrations for Juneteenth and Pride, AI at Apple, TikTok’s future, a strong case for support, how to beat procrastination, sabbaticals, and more. Read it here!

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Dear friends,

Avalon will be closed tomorrow, June 19, for Juneteenth. For a deep dive on this important day in history, I recommend the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s incredible Juneteenth digital toolkit. Last Saturday, the Museum held its Juneteenth Community Day Celebration—and, this weekend, it will host Solstice Saturday which brings together celebrations of astronomy, Black music and Queer artists, and Afrofuturism.

Our clients are also turning out for Pride! Last Sunday, the Kennedy Center hosted a Broadway drag brunch. This Saturday, June 22 Wolf Trap will host its Out and About Festival, featuring music by Brittany Howard, Jenny Lewis, Lawrence, and others. In Massachusetts, The Trustees are hosting events all month, and their employee resource group Trustees Pride marched at Boston Pride. Also, tonight on the west coast, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and San Francisco Symphony will present All We Need Is Love.

In tech news, Apple announced “Apple Intelligence,” its entry into the AI arena. The company has partnered with OpenAI/ChatGPT to develop a tool that builds on each user’s data for complex queries and personalized tasks—capabilities The Wall Street Journal called “the holy grail of AI.” One thing that makes Apple Intelligence unique is embedded privacy; the tech works at the device level vs. interacting with a shared cloud. I’m excited to test the new features when they roll out.

Also of note, Frank McCourt of Project Liberty has expressed interest in buying TikTok from its current owner, ByteDance. McCourt is a billionaire and tech activist, who advocates giving users ownership of their data through a Decentralized Social Networking Protocol. Senior VP Jackie Libby shared a fascinating interview with McCourt, in which he outlined his ideas for an “alternative internet.” It’s a bold vision:

Think about this as a broad, collective effort to reengineer how the internet works and use TikTok as a way to catalyze that…Fixing the internet doesn’t solve every problem in the world, but we have a chance of having a technology that respects us and connects us in a way to solve big problems.

Jackie also shared a New York Times essay by Melinda French Gates, calling it “one of the best pieces I’ve ever read about what motivates someone to give.” Gates announced that she is leaving the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for “a new chapter in [her] philanthropy” that will focus on gender equality. She will begin with $1 billion of giving, which will include supporting access to contraception and reproductive rights in the United States. The essay is a great example of a strong case for support and the impact possible when donors feel personally connected to a cause.

In addition, I appreciated this article on psychologist B.F. Skinner’s approach to beating procrastination. His strategy for this common problem was to make the pain of not doing something greater than the pain of doing it. For example, if you want to begin working out, make a bet with friends that costs you when you don’t get moving. Or, increase the pleasure of getting started—perhaps that trip to the gym ends with your favorite smoothie. This wisdom is known as Skinner’s Law:

The bottom line is that humans, with our big ape brains, tend to overthink things, including procrastination. The specifics of why you are avoiding a task may be maddeningly subtle. But the solution is often as straightforward as recalling the basics of behaviorism laid out by Skinner 86 or so years ago. If you can’t get yourself to do something, increase the pain of not doing it—or decrease the pain of doing it—and see what happens.

Finally, I’m excited to announce that I will be taking a sabbatical July 5 – 27. Avalon introduced a one-month sabbatical benefit to all employees with 10+ years of tenure in 2023. It is an opportunity for dedicated employees to recharge and return to Avalon with fresh perspective. Since then, we have learned that sabbaticals do exactly that, and we know we can count on our incredible team to make sure nothing misses a beat. As president and owner, I will take a modified sabbatical, staying in touch with Avalon leadership to ensure continuity and address urgent needs, should they arise. If you have any questions, please reach out!

Take care,
Allison signature gray

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Allison Porter, President
Avalon Consulting Group