Archive for category capacity building

There is Nothing More Difficult

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By Barbara Phillips

“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things.”

And so, courageous social justice warriors convened as the Organizational Fellowship Program September 16 – 17, 2011 in the Bay Area to reflect upon their collective journey to initiate a new order of things within themselves, their organizations, their communities, the broader social justice movement – across the U.S. and beyond.  The weekend was about sharing the stories of that journey and, more importantly, learning from those experiences – lifting up struggles with terminology, theory and practice and appreciating that context matters.  As one participant said so eloquently, the weekend marked not the end and not the beginning, but “The end of the beginning.”

It was so appropriate that the convening of September 16th was at the site in Oakland where the first convening took place almost three years ago.  My hope for those who were returning is that they were flooded with raw, unfiltered memories of that first experience – not just their thoughts, but their feelings about jumping into the unknown. One participant spoke with particular openness and honesty about the panic that swept through him as he pondered, “What do we do now???” – after being a part of the OFP.

My hope is that these social justice warriors embrace the reality of the unending repetitiveness of that query, “What do we do now?”

The answer will come to them as they continue their collective struggle.  And if they are lucky, the answer will never be definitive.  They will never know for sure that a particular course of action is “right.”  They do not need the false certainty of being “right”; all they need to move forward is the intention to struggle honestly and with compassion and to continue reflecting, thinking critically, learning as they go, and sharing all of that with the community.

There will be many times when the way is not certain. That is the nature of initiating a new order of things. The civil rights movement embraced the reality of those recurring moments with a song, “Do What the Spirit Say Do.”  The community sang that song over-and-over until there was a collective decision.  These courageous social justice warriors will create their own unique response to these moments because they are initiating a new order of things.  And for that we should all stand in grateful solidarity.

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Social Justice Organizations Moving from Intention to Practice: the Journey of Minnesota’s Fellowship Organizations

Social Justice Organizations Moving from Intention to Practice: the Journey of Minnesota’s Fellowship Organizations

By Barbara Phillips, Social justice activist and former Ford Foundation Program Officer for Women’s Rights and Gender Equity

The Minnesota cohort of the Organization Fellowship Program convened on March 24- 25, 2011 in sunny, cold St. Paul, Minnesota.  We were ever so fortunate to be in the beautiful and huge conference room of the Northwest Area Foundation with sunshine streaming through its windows wrapping around two walls.  It is tremendously valuable to be in beautiful, comfortable spaces.

Those who are stuck in thinking all should go just as well or even BETTER if activists are more “authentically” stuck in some dank, dark, dreary space need to get over it.  Why do you think the Rockefeller Foundation keeps up that beautiful villa in Bellagio, Italy and uses it as a place of contemplation, reflection, and strategic thinking for scholars and activists it considers worthy of investment?

So, we were in a space conducive to challenging work, and the creative facilitation by Bo Thao-Urabe and Karen Perkins enabled high energy, extraordinarily focused collective thinking throughout the entire convening. The convening engaged the organizational leaders in sharing and reflecting collectively.

As the groups shared their work, I was first struck by what seemed to be a deepening of openness, honesty, self-reflection, and appreciation for the uniqueness of each organization and understanding of the work.  Each group shared a particular challenge now encountered in their work, and then there were thoughtful, respectful, creative responses from the collaborative

Some challenges lifted by these groups are:

• How to create, articulate, write and incorporate gender equity into policies and practices,
• How to approach concerns about “offending” the community,
• Defining who the organization is accountable to, and therefore, how do we pick with whom to collaborate,
• How to manage the risk-taking component in all of this, including approaching a potential partner/collaborator/ally,
• How to align the conversation of the board and leadership, who are focused on organizational level policies and practices, with the more personal conversations within the community,
• How to handle the practical side of transitioning from a “crises center” to an “organizing center,”
• Here’s a project we intend to launch; give us your feedback.

It became clear at this March convening that the OFP groups now owned its share of this space – no longer are they looking to AAPIP for answers; these OFP leaders are creating answers within themselves and among each other.

Then, extraordinary community organizers – Eun Sook Lee, Kori Chen, and Pakou Hang – challenged each member of the OFP to take the risks of launching itself into actual community organizing.  As each OFP member is changing internally, how will they move that change externally into programming, into base-building, into that community base, and ultimately into the larger community and public policy?

The most telling comment upon the transformation already experienced by the OFP members came when a member commented, “This is scary stuff.  I can hear it now, but I couldn’t hear it two years ago. I’ll face much opposition. It’s scary.  Are we willing to take that risk?” 

And the answer of the OFP groups is a resounding “YES!”


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Reflections from the OFP Convening – Gender in the Social Justice Movement By Barbara Phillips

NGEC OFP Guest Blog

Reflections from the OFP Convening:Gender in the Social Justice Movement

By Barbara Phillips, Social justice activist and former Ford Foundation Program Officer for Women’s Rights and Gender Equity

Barbara Phillips with the NGEC OFP Cohort in Los Angeles, Nov. 2010

 

I arrived in Los Angeles on November 18, 2010, knowing only that I would be in the presence of diverse innovative institutions and individuals attempting to build a national movement for social justice through transformative analysis and work placing gender equity at the core.

At the invitation of Peggy Saika, a dangerous woman because she is a visionary with fierce organizing, executive, and leadership qualities, I was to have the privilege of hanging out with community-based organizations representing Asian American communities convened under the Organizational Fellowship Program (OFP) of the National Gender & Equity Campaign to reflect upon past work and establish goals and plans for 2011. Undergirding the whole thing is AAPIP’s BRIDGE (Building Responsive Infrastructure to Develop Global Equity), a framework for building and strengthening social justice movements through organizational transformation.

As I joined the group for dinner – a stranger to all but a few – to get my first glimpse of these social justice activists, I was engulfed by spirited camaraderie as participants greeted each other with affection and filled the evening with caring about the work and each other.

To capture the moment, I jotted words that came to mind as I sat there eating great food, being welcomed by those around me, and listening to the chat around me and brief organizational check-ins:

• Affection • Community • Engagement • Commitment • Passion • Connection • Understanding/knowledge • Insight • Compassion • Hope • Belief • Culture

The next morning, the work began in earnest at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. Each group reported upon their work during 2010. The breadth and diversity of the organizations ranged from long-time dedicated advocacy troops to a remarkable Minnesota organization that recently transitioned from years of social services to now social services and advocacy putting gender equity/gender democracy first in all its work. And the age range seemed to span from 20s to 60s and then some. I was as engrossed as everyone else who listened respectfully to the presentations of each group.

I was struck by the honesty of the reflections, the openness in sharing challenges and self-critique, and the empathy and insight of questions. Presenters shared the experiences of discerning what “gender justice” actually means at all levels – internally with respect to organizational culture, policies, board and staff composition and practices, as well as externally in engaging members and constituents in the conversation and shaping the work in which the organizations engaged. In the words of one presenter, “This is a process of on-going work around gender, race, and oppression.”

There was no rote recitation of ideology; rather the entire conversation was a living definition of what we dream of when we aspire to practice informing theory and theory informing practice. Here were activists sharing, for example, what it means to bring LGBTQ issues into their work – learning to say “gender matters” as effectively as they have said race matters for positive social change. Eventually, I noticed a bunch of missing elements (elements that are ALWAYS in evidence when social justice activists get together):

• no dysfunctional personalities

• no weary souls sunk in despair

• no unrealistic young organizers

• no older organizers who knew everything

• no bumps, landmines and potholes in communicating across all the diversity in the room

Really, not a single quibble over process. Not a single eruption of warfare over the meaning and appropriateness of a word. Are these people for real??? True. The thoughtfulness and thoroughness of preparation for the convening was obvious. The facilitation by Bo Thao-Urabe, Beckie Masaki, and Alice Hom was exquisite.

In my over 40 years of activism, I’d never experienced a meeting in which each organization was itself engaged in deep internal transformation across such diverse, challenging, and innovative work And each organization was also contributing to a collectively determined vision, framework and work. Complicated and challenging. The pace was unrelenting, but no one seemed exhausted; to the contrary, the room buzzed with energy.

As I watched the incredible productiveness of these social justice activists, I realized BRIDGE and the transformative power of placing gender equity at the core of the work were responsible for what was amazing about this convening. It is through the tools of BRIDGE that these activists and organizations are undergoing internal transformation while developing the capacity for a different realm of vision and work – building a powerful, sustainable, broad-based social justice movement .

I observed that November weekend in Los Angeles, and find reason to hope. My son tells me there were thousands of young people at the U.S. Social Forum in 2010, ready to join in common cause. In Los Angeles – convening in one room for a brief moment – was the wisdom, passion, organizing skills and fortitude that the BRIDGE will channel and strengthen into a stronger, more effective social justice movement.

These organizations are making the abstract into reality. Their experiences show that through placing gender equity/gender democracy at the core of social change and utilizing the tools of BRIDGE, social justice organizations in the U.S. can transform themselves internally and can develop the capacity to create a powerful movement.

My hope is that other social justice organizations take a serious look at this work and make it part of their own; that funders realize activists have created an effective framework called BRIDGE for movement building; and that organizations and funders form meaningful partnerships in building the social justice movement that will bring about the change for which we have struggled so long.

I left the convening thinking of my favorite proverb, “Those who say it cannot be done, should not interfere with those who are doing it.”

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2010 Advancing Justice Conference (AAPIs United In Strength) June 23-25 Alexandria, VA

2010 Advancing Justice Conference

Coming up next month!

June 23 – June 25, 2010

“The Advancing Justice Conference is a national civil rights and social justice conference that aims to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders in one place to address a broad range of issues facing the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. It serves as a unique forum where researchers, advocates, direct service providers and other leaders can meet face-to-face, talk about their common challenges and find ways to work collaboratively.

The Advancing Justice Conference is a joint project by the Asian American Institute (Chicago), Asian American Justice Center (Washington, D.C.), Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco) and Asian Pacific American Legal Center (Los Angeles).”

AJC Workshop Tracks include:

Register online by June 2nd for their early bird discount
http://www.advancingjustice.org/2010/registration

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Creating Community Identity – Ideas + Questions Inspired by New Orleans Convening

OFP participants at New Orleans convening

(Sharing some reflections from our recent convening  – written by Megan Powers, NGEC’s Capacity Building Manager in Minnesota.)

A question bubbled up among many during NGEC’s recent OFP cohort convening in New Orleans: How can a group help to create and harness a community’s identity?

After viewing “A Village Called Versailles”, visiting with New Orleans residents and organizers, and much discussion, cohort participants noted that part of the success of the neighborhood’s organizing work can be attributed to a strong sense of community identity.

Read the rest of this entry »

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OFP Cohort Progress & Learnings – Year One

NGEC JourneyAs part of our ongoing learning and broader community sharing, the NGEC staff is sharing a few key reflections about the 1st year of our capacity building approach, process and tools  from the NGEC  Organizational Fellowship Program cohort.

Knowing that there isn’t “one model” for change, we’re actively documenting the questions, processes and challenges of our cohort that offer “signs of progress.”

See the full text here: http://genderandequity.org/year1ofp

Read the rest of this entry »

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“Justice Rising: Sparking Dialogue for Democracy” NGEC video & Guide

“Justice Rising: Sparking Dialogue for Democracy”

The intended audiences for the video and the guide are individuals and organizations who are exploring the meaning of social justice in their work. The following clips from the NGEC’s Justice Rising video offers various definitions and organizational strategies for advancing social justice in communities. It focuses on the importance of giving meaning to social justice as a concept and a framework, and shares tangible examples of how some groups have responded by creating programs and carrying out specific strategies.

Justice Rising – Video Discussion Guide

Justice Rising NGEC

Download .pdf (1.1 MB)

PART 1 of 2

PART 2 of 2

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Sample Exercises + Team Activities from NGEC’s Social Justice Capacity Building Program

NGEC OFP’s Sample Exercises and Team Activities

The exercises and activities we list below were initially developed for use in NGEC’s Organizational Fellowship Program with our 12 Asian American partner organizations in Minnesota and California.

Although they represent just a sampling of what we do in our intensive 3-year capacity building program, NGEC shares these resources in the spirit of making them available to wider audiences.

We hope folks find them useful and applicable to other areas of work.  NGEC welcomes and appreciate your feedback as we continue to refine and update these tools as they are tested and adapted by the community.

“Exploring Our Values” Exercise

“Fictional VRC Role Play” Exercise

“Organization Alignment” Exercise

“Organizational Transformation Role Play” Exercise

“Zooming In and Zooming Out” Exercise

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Building Power, Collective Leadership and Cultural Change

NGEC’s Organizational Fellowship Program is convening in New Orleans this year around the themes of: Building Power, Collective Leadership and Cultural Change.

We’ll be exploring aspects of these practices within the context of what’s happening in New Orleans, and providing space for each OFP member to share and reflect upon how these manifest in their own communities.

AAPIP will also host a screening of  the documentary “A Village Called Versailles” with filmmaker, Leo Chiang.

In a New Orleans neighborhood called Versailles, a tight-knit group of Vietnamese Americans overcame obstacles to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, only to have their homes threatened by a new government-imposed toxic landfill. A VILLAGE CALLED VERSAILLES is the empowering story of how the Versailles people, who have already suffered so much in their lifetime, turn a devastating disaster into a catalyst for change and a chance for a better future.

A few other sites and resources around the recovery & movement building efforts in post-Katrina :

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NGEC OFP’s Online Community ~ how we’re using Ning.com

NGEC's Online Learning Community on Ning

NGEC's Online Learning Community on Ning

Since last summer, NGEC’s Organizational Fellowship Program (OFP) members have been participating in an online learning community we started on Ning.com.

With 6 organizations based in California and 6 based in Minnesota in the OFP , NGEC wanted to experiment with ways to bridge the distances through an online accessible space for folks to stay in touch, share information, and conduct peer learning.  Although there were many options out there for social networking platforms (including things like Facebook or customizable platforms like, Elgg) Ning has turned out to be a good choice for us for several reasons: Read the rest of this entry »

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