Twenty-five underrepresented experts gathered today at the ACLU of Northern California to explore themes of expertise, credibility and what it takes to create meaningful change in the world.

The program brought together scholars, attorneys, nonprofit leaders and social entrepreneurs from a wide range of organizations and institutions, including Stanford University, the University of California, the American Civil Liberties Union, Bend the Arc and the Equal Justice Society.  Experts in the room are shaping the conversation around juvenile justice, youth in foster care, sex trafficking in Brazil, sustainability in food and agriculture and more.

Do you want your voice to be heard?  Come see us in action. We run Write to Change the World seminars in 15 major U.S. cities on a rotating basis.  For more on our upcoming cities and dates, click here.


Give Credit Where Credit is Due


Everyone knows at least one person who spouts grandiose statements that are not linked to any specific credible source. I think this is how urban myths get launched. The person makes claims that “everyone knows that” and uses that weak proclamation to make wild and outrageous declarations.

That is why calling someone a know-it-all is not a compliment.

Valid and valuable evidence-based writing cannot be even a distant cousin of this kind of rhetoric. That is why attribution is key. And that is why someone will publish, broadcast and emulate your ideas: because you anchor them in truth, fact and primary sources.

When in doubt, attribute. If it is your own research, say so.

Because you are an expert in a field, your knowledge is vast and deep and you can with little effort fill volumes with what you know. But that does not mean any reader or consumer of your content in any platform, who exists outside your area of expertise, can even follow your line of thinking without help or a pathway to sourcing. They do not have your historical context, and they do not know the references.

You need to attribute your claims to primary sources. The attribution may come from a governing body, perhaps the American Medical Association, a database or even a historical text, but you must show the sourcing. A link to the news story or secondary reference describing the fact is not good enough, it is authority once removed. Go the primary source of data.

For instance, even if you heartily believe this to be the case, to claim “Most Americans do x,” is not valid, unless you link to the U.S. Census Bureau website page with the details supporting that statement with numbers, or the study that makes this statement.

In this June 2015 piece in The Guardian by Alexa Van Brunt of Northwestern University, she wrote: “Money can buy you a great defense team, but what if you can’t afford one? More than 80% of those charged with felonies are indigent.” She hyperlinked to a University of North Carolina research study with those stats.

In a piece in Talking Points Memo by Columbia Professor Christia Mercer in February 2015, she wrote: “Sam Harris infamously claimed last year that ‘Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas’ and has recently described sympathizers of Islam as ‘fake liberals’ acting ‘in the name of political correctness.’”  The hyperlink is to a recording of that statement.

Sourcing is the enemy of hearsay.

Consider your idea is a table. It needs legs to stand on. Yes, it can be a pedestal table with one center column holding it up, or even have  two to three legs and still balance a table top .But you will be able to seat many more people at that table if it is held up by four sturdy legs of evidence and sources.

Everyone does not know everything. Taking the time to demonstrate the transparency of how you arrive at your conclusion makes your argument valid and without holes that will sink it in the court of public opinion.

You are an expert with distinct credibility. Back up what you know and show how you  know it, so you earn the respect for your well-sourced ideas that you deserve.


Periodically we share wisdom from our team with our community. This post was written by OpEd Senior Facilitator Michele Weldon

This April with The OpEd Project

Each month, we partner with a number of incredible and diverse organizations around the country (and world). We work with with top academics and social justice leaders through our year-long “Public Voices Fellowships” and we run a number of our “Write to Change the World” programs, open to the public, in different cities every weekend. We also work with a handful of organizations each month that bring our programs to their communities and we wanted to highlight our partners from April. It was our honor to work with over 250 experts across institutions and we can’t wait to see how their ideas shape conversations, and the world. Check them out below.

We were thrilled to work with Jewish leaders from across the country with Rabbis Without Borders in New York City; students and young professionals working in international affairs with Global Access Pipeline in DC; a collection of faculty, students and community members in Cambridge with Harvard Law School; graduate students from across disciplines and departments with University of Washington in Seattle; non-profit executive directors and leaders in Oklahoma City and Tulsa with the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits; human rights activists in Yangon, Myanmar with Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights clinic; and faculty from across the University of California system at University of California, Merced.


Rabbis Without Borders -4/11/16


Global Access Pipeline – 4/15/16


University of Washington – 4/16/16

Banner - OKC

Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits – 4/26/16

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Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic – 4/29/16


University of California, Merced – 4/29/16


Would you like to bring The OpEd Project to your organization or community? Contact court@theopedproject.org for more information.


We were thrilled to have 20 experts from across the East Coast join us for our Write to Change the World seminar in New York City today. The group included faculty from Cornell, Emory, Columbia, The New School, Brooklyn College and Union College, a poet and performance artist, a documentary filmmaker, a food and wine writer, an actress, a former FBI agent and more.

These participants are shaping the conversation around critical issues of the day, like how we build social movements, food consumption and production, emotional intelligence, the need for more diverse investors and the social power of film and media.

A special thanks to the WeWork SoHo West for hosting us today.

Do you want your voice to be heard?  Come see us in action. We run Write to Change the World seminars in 15 major U.S. cities on a rotating basis.  For more on our upcoming cities and dates, click here.


A group of experts from the DC area gathered today at the International Labor Rights Forum to amplify their voice and influence in the public sphere. The group included experts from Islamic Relief Worldwide, Conway Strategic, Search for Common Ground and Third Way. Participants are shaping the conversation on timely issues of public value including applying human psychology in robotics, examining patriarchy in terrorism, and using television dramas to encourage social change.

Special thanks to our hosts at the International Labor Rights Forum and Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Do you want your voice to be heard?  Come see us in action. We run Write to Change the World programs in 15 major U.S. cities on a rotating basis.  For more on our upcoming cities and dates, click here.