We are excited to share the impact that Intentional Insights made during its first year, and we’d like to start with the story of how Intentional Insights was born.
It was a crisp winter afternoon in January 2014, and Agnes Vishnevkin and Gleb Tsipursky were deep in conversation as they walked through a neighborhood park. They reflected on their long-term journey of learning about and practicing self-improvement strategies based on recent research in cognitive science, psychology, and behavioral economics. Agnes was excited that adopting these techniques helped her make progress on several important goals, from communicating with colleagues more effectively to improving relationships with family and friends to making strides in her life-long struggles with procrastination and perfectionism. As she and Gleb discovered and discussed new techniques, Agnes would often exclaim, “I wish I learned this in school!”
On this winter walk their conversation took a different turn. With so many effective research-based tools that have the power to help just about anyone reach their goals effectively, is there an online resource where all this information is presented in an easy-to-use way? Gleb and Agnes had been learning these strategies through a variety of resources, such as academic books and research articles in various disciplines, online forums, and local rationality meetups. They realized that for many people these sources can be hard to access and benefit from.
They had spent the previous week researching this issue, and it became clear that there was no single resource that brought together the materials in a clear and accessible manner. Agnes and Gleb were sad to see that these powerful tools were out of reach of most people, kept out of sight in the ivory tower of academia and in little-known online communities.
So on that walk, Agnes posed the question: ”If this is not being done, why not be the ones to do it?”
Over the next few months Agnes and Gleb worked on developing the initial strategy and content for Intentional Insights, as well as doing a number of public workshops, including one at Ohio State University’s Newark Campus. Agnes and Gleb discussed how individuals can use science-based strategies to reach their goals, with Gleb giving a talk on assessing reality, followed by Agnes sharing strategies for making decisions to reach your goals. The feedback forms that participants completed after the workshop showed that they found it impactful and beneficial, but the highlight of the event was during the group discussion.
One of the participants, a college student named Sasha, shared an important decision that she had been considering. Sasha revealed that she has a health problem that is gradually getting worse and that the only way to treat it is to undergo a major surgery that would be followed by a year of recovery time, during which she would not be able to go to school, work, or do most other activities.
One of the topics that Agnes covered in her talk was a common thinking error called hyperbolic discounting, which causes us to prioritize short-term gains at the expense of much higher long-term rewards. Agnes described the research-based strategy of taking a long-term perspective when making important decisions, and explained how it can be applied by imagining what our future would be like depending on the decision we make in the present.
Sasha said that while she had been putting off her surgery, learning about hyperbolic discounting made her think of the better future she could create for herself if she had her surgery sooner instead of continuing to delay this difficult ordeal and allowing her health to deteriorate slowly. She decided there and then to have the surgery in the summer after she finished her school year!
After a summer of research, planning, networking, and even promoting Intentional Insights at the Secular Student Alliance annual conference, Agnes and Gleb brought together a core group of dedicated volunteers to launch the organization officially. Agnes took the lead on putting together the agenda and preparing materials, and she and Gleb spent countless hours working to help make sure the meeting was a success.
The kickoff meeting took place in September 2014. Unfortunately, health problems prevented Agnes from attending most of the event, since she had experienced a nervous breakdown a few weeks earlier and was struggling with debilitating anxiety, especially during group interactions.
As Gleb started the meeting, there was a lot of uncertainty around how it would go. The room was full of people with a diversity of backgrounds, including psychology, cognitive neuroscience, community organizing, and engineering, but they were all there because they shared a passion for helping people access effective research-based techniques to reach their goals.
The meeting was a success, and Intentional Insights was born. And as we mark our first year, we invite you to see a glimpse of that day and check out a video of the Intentional Insights kickoff meeting.
In the following months, the organization grew rapidly, and Agnes continued to be involved. During this time, Agnes embraced the challenge of co-leading a start-up nonprofit, using it as an opportunity to make further progress on procrastination and perfectionism difficulties using evidence-based techniques. She also used science-informed strategies to recover and grow mentally stronger in the wake of her mental health crisis.
Now, Agnes looks back with pride on the progress that both she and Intentional Insights made over the past year. From a simple idea on a cold winter walk to a rapidly growing organization with an international reach and a team of dedicated volunteers and generous supporters. Intentional Insights has come a long way, and Agnes can’t wait to see where it will be a year from now.
Our Year by the Numbers
As of October 15, 2015
|51||Blog posts and videos published|
|34||Articles, guest blogs, podcasts, and videocasts (Lifehack, Salon, The Columbus Dispatch, The Huffington Post, The Humanist Hour, The Plain Dealer, Unbelievers Radio, and others)|
|12||Presentations and workshops|
|5,663||Followers on Facebook|
|2,034||Followers on Twitter|
|605||Followers on Pinterest|
|4,059||Downloads of Find Your Purpose Using Science book|
|258||Users of Find Your Purpose Beta web app|
|9||Active collaborations with other organizations (American Ethical Union, American Humanist Association, Atheist Alliance International, Humanist Learning Institute, Planet Purpose, Secular Student Alliance, The Life You Can Save, Unitarian Universalist Association, Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association)|
|66||Volunteers from 14 countries and from every continent except Antarctica|
Financial Needs for 2016
|$42,050||Annual operating costs|
|8,500||Social media management|
|4,000||Administrative and legal costs|
Top Financial Priorities for 2016
|$42,050||Annual operating costs|
|$26,000||New website, donor database, and financial software|
|Our website, generously provided and maintained by volunteers, lacks the features to allow our audience to engage with our content in the most impactful ways. We plan to develop a new website with a full compliment of tools to enable maximum audience engagement and the cultivation of a virtual community dedicated to learning and practicing research-based self-improvement. This website will be integrated with a donor database and financial software, allowing us to streamline daily operations and channel maximum resources toward developing content and engaging with our audience.|
|$81,000||Full-time staff position (salary and benefits)|
|At this time the work of Intentional Insights is carried out by a team of volunteers and paid contractors. This arrangement is not sustainable and poses a threat to the success of the organization. Having a full-time staff person will ensure that Intentional Insights will not only survive, but thrive, and make a lasting positive impact on the world.|
We hope that this Annual Report conveyed the impact that Intentional Insights made in its first year. With your support, we can go a lot further next year!
Please donate now to help us unlock a $2,000 challenge grant. Come along with Agnes and the rest of the Intentional Insights team on this journey to empower people like Sasha to make wise decisions to build a better future for themselves and for the world.