USC Annenberg launches new Center for Third Space Thinking

Annenberg Foundation provides launch grant to support the center’s educational and community engagement initiatives.

The Center for Third Space Thinking, a new, innovative center dedicated to equipping businesses and nonprofit organizations with the essential soft skills needed to thrive in a communication-at-the-center world, has been established and will be based at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The former dean of the Annenberg School, Ernest J. Wilson lll, founded the center, and the Annenberg Foundation has provided a $1.5 million launch grant to open it. 

To meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of today’s complex and digitally disrupted business environment, the Center for Third Space Thinking is helping people and organizations solve complex problems through a new communications-driven methodology. The new methodology, built around the five core competencies of adaptability, cultural competency, empathy, intellectual curiosity and 360-degree thinking to approach problems from multiple perspectives, will be applied to the center’s work in three areas — leadership development, education and community engagement. 

Wilson says the new center should become the go-to resource for anyone interested in using soft skills to improve individual and organizational performance in a period of high-velocity and widespread change.  

“We are creating a novel third space that relies on communication-centric strategic thinking and its critical soft skills that are in such high demand, but seriously undersupplied in the market. We’re going to fix that,” Wilson said. 

The Annenberg Foundation grant will help launch the center’s educational leadership and community empowerment programs and share the center’s knowledge with diverse, underserved communities to improve their access to soft skills development.

“We support this powerful vision for educating a cadre of Third Space Thinkers,” said Wallis Annenberg, USC trustee and chairman of the board, president and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation. “We believe soft skills are imperative in our quickly changing world and are excited to support the center’s leadership programs.” 

“We are grateful to the Annenberg Foundation for providing the Center for Third Space Thinking with the funding we need to launch our important work,” said Shellee Smith, the center’s executive director. “With this first grant, we now have the ability to transform people and organizations with a new, fresh, communications approach to strategic thinking and problem-solving.  We will be looking for partnerships and further resources to be able to serve the maximum amount of people in order to have a deep and wide impact.” 

The center hosted its first two-day leadership development Boot Camp for high-potential executives on the USC campus on October 5 and 6. A total of 25 executives from a diverse set of organizations, including Google, IBM, Western Union, United Airlines, AECOM, Southern California Edison, Quest Diagnostics and the Annenberg Foundation attended the highly immersive Boot Camp that helped the participants gain critical soft skills and become more effective problem solvers. The center’s next Boot Camp is scheduled for April 4–6, 2018. 

About the USC Annenberg Center for Third Space Thinking 

Housed in USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the Center for Third Space Thinking is dedicated to conducting applied research, executive leadership education, community empowerment and teaching a whole new generation of leaders equipping them with the problem-solving skills needed to thrive in a communication-at-the-center world.  More information on the USC Annenberg Center for Third Space Thinking can be found at: www.uscthirdspace.com

About Annenberg Foundation 

Annenberg Foundation is a family foundation that provides funding and support to nonprofit organizations in the United States and globally. Since 1989, it has generously funded programs in education and youth development; arts, culture and humanities; civic and community life; health and human services; and animal services and the environment. In addition, the foundation and its Board of Directors are directly involved in the community with innovative projects that further its mission of advancing a better tomorrow through visionary leadership today. Among them are Annenberg Alchemy, Annenberg Learner, Annenberg Space for Photography, AnnenbergTech, explore, GRoW @ Annenberg and the Metabolic Studio. The Foundation encourages the development of effective ways to communicate by sharing ideas and knowledge. 

Contact:  
Shellee Smith, shellee.smith@usc.edu, (626) 319-1062 
Kirk Stewart, kirk@ktstewart.com, (503) 705-9702 

Gretchen Parker McCartney is Director of Media Relations for USC Annenberg. Prior to joining USC in 2010, she was a reporter for Us Weekly and a writer for The Associated Press and newspapers in Florida and Texas. Her work has appeared in publications all over the world; most recently, she was a...