On Friday, April 9, 2010, 55 members of CLPP’s New Leadership Networking Initiative gathered for a day-long meeting at the Red Barn, on the campus of Hampshire College. We began with a panel featuring voices from economic justice and reproductive rights organizations: Impacts and Opportunities of the Economic Crisis featured Melissa Cariño from RESIST, Inc., a foundation that funds activist organizing and education work within movements for social change; Kenyon Farrow from Queers for Economic Justice; Emily Kawano from the Center for Popular Economics and the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network; and Caitlin Murphy from the Ms. Foundation for Women, which provides funding for women’s health and to end violence.
Presenters addressed a wide range of issues related to the economic crisis, including an overview of its causes, the impacts on poor communities in the U.S., the funding forecast for 2010 and 2011, social justice philanthropy, and strategies for organizational sustainability. Participants shared experiences and individual and organizational strategies to weather the current economy and reductions in funding. Participants then broke into small, facilitated groups to brainstorm best practices.
The afternoon presented a unique opportunity to engage participants in self-governance of the NLNI meeting by generating small working groups to address topics raised by the morning discussion, using Open Space principles and processes. With the support of volunteer facilitators and scribes, the small groups explored issues including how classism manifests in our organizations; organized resistance to institutional violence; harm-reduction as a tool for social justice organizing; and planning a training on supervision and staff management within social justice movements.
After an hour, participants presented the most significant findings from their conversations. Some shared powerful accounts of violence suffered at the hands of the state, and how they were inspired to organize for justice both inside and outside of prisons. Another group presented their dreams for a movement inclusive of mothers and children engaging together in learning about and organizing for reproductive justice.
For the first time ever, we streamed a live webcast of the morning panel and discussion so that members of NLNI who were unable to attend in person could still access the meeting and submit questions live via chat, email, or text message.
At the close of the meeting, participants moved to the center of campus to attend and present at CLPP’s 24th annual conference, From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom. They spent the next two days learning, teaching, dancing, and building together, their new connections and collaborations firmly rooted in the spring NLNI meeting.