Some of the most well-known brands in the world once had wildly different names: Google, for example, was once called BackRub. Nike was once known as Blue Ribbon Sports. But more often than not, a name change is the last-ditch Hail Mary to revive a struggling—or altogether broken—organization.
That was definitely the case with Architecture for Humanity, the sprawling nonprofit that shocked its hundreds of employees and thousands of fans when it abruptly went bankrupt last year. The news seemed to come out of nowhere for an organization that had raised millions and had dozens of projects underway all over the world. What happened to Architecture for Humanity? wondered Inhabitat. "Good intentions, bad management," concluded The Architect's Newspaper—a toxic combo of overambitious growth, out-of-control costs, and bad communication.
What remained were the volunteers. People who weren’t necessarily even being paid to run projects in their own cities under the Architecture for Humanity name but were still showing up, serving their communities, and building. For the past year, these local leaders worked to resurrect the organization, as we recently wrote, reimagining themselves as a radically transparent band of nimble, on-the-ground community architects. No overhead, no bureaucracy, only real people doing real projects in their communities.
But after its public rebirth, it still needed a new name. "While there’s still a lot of good energy and a strong following for [Architecture for Humanity], it’s one that ultimately failed in its business plan and execution," says Garrett Jacobs, the new nonprofit’s executive director. In coming up with a new name, the route they took seemed sensible. They worked with several nonprofit branding specialists; they collected surveys, videos, and market research; and they came up with two good names. Then—what with their radically transparent ethos—they put them to a vote. "As soon as we put those names out, it became very clear than neither was going to work," Jacobs says, laughing. "There was an email chain that was about 100 emails long, from all the chapters around the world, and the dialogue got really heated."
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This article was published on Fast Company. A link to the original piece appears after the post.
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