Jan 232012
 

Last week, in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, communities across the country gathered to Dream Big. Responding to our call to Occupy the Present, Change the Future and using Spirit in Action’s Collective Visioning Guide, diverse groups gathered to make the visioning process their own. We are delighted to share just a few snapshots of what’s happening on the ground:

Oakland, California – On Saturday, Jan 14th, artists, activists, cultural workers, educators and youth launched the Oakland Peace Center to “bring about a city of hope, justice, nonviolence and compassion.”  Yes!—a collaborative partner of Spirit in Action and member of the new Center—introduced collective visioning to participants in the day-long celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.  Themes that arose in the visioning session included a deep desire for locally grown food for everybody, community sharing, community currencies, music, art, connection to nature, generosity, love and beautiful, green spaces.  Participants discussed the importance of such opportunities to dream and imagine together a positive future and agreed that their vision is doable…”we have everything we need right now to get to this [vision]!”  Each person committed to tangible action steps that they can personally do, and something that they’d like to work collectively to do, to bring the vision into reality.

Boston, MA – Also on Saturday the 14th 40 people who are active in Occupy Boston came together for a half-day collective visioning and training of trainer workshop facilitated by our own founder and executive director, Linda Stout. The collective image of the vision they generated is about 16 feet long! There were a lot of younger people who had never been involved in any kind of direct action before Occupy, who found that collective visioning offers a positive foundation for social transformation. They all said they want to take this process back to their various working groups and assemblies. They expressed the value of including an intentional opening and closing, setting group agreements, building inclusive community space and using art-based expression to find common ground. One young man, newly involved in activism through Occupy, said, “I came here today hopeless and ready to drop out and go back to my individualistic path to getting what I want. I’m leaving with a vision of what’s possible, full of hope…and I know I will be dedicating the rest of my life to working for justice.”

New Orleans, LA – Jayeesha Dutta, a member of Spirit in Action’s Education Circle of Change and staff member of Rethinking New Orleans Schools, brought together eight friends and colleagues for a collective visioning house party. Starting with a “Communituesday” potluck, the group created collaborative collages to express their vision. The highlight from the process was “ the feeling of community and connectedness that resulted from this activity – and the deep sense that we must continue building this community with intention, love and creativity to in order to have the strength and resiliency to build the world we want to see.”

And it’s not too late to get involved!  For instance, this week, Occupy the Present, Change the Future will reach the biggest audience yet as thousands of Unitarian Universalists  participate in visioning as part of their “Standing on the Side of Love” month-long campaign. Meanwhile, 6th graders in a DC public school will be visioning what courage in action looks like.  You too can bring this process to your neighborhood, congregation, or organization. Please be in touch with us to let us know if you’re interested in hosting or participating in a collective visioning event.

Jan 232012
 
Our 2011 national Education Circle of Change gathering of educators, organizers, parents and youth lifted up the importance of trans-local organizing to transform our public education system. This year, in partnership with several members of the ECoC, we will be holding local and regional gatherings throughout the country.
We are delighted to support this network to live into its collective vision. Laura Ramirez explains that “the work of bringing to life the regional Education Circles is a reminder of the dedication that is entailed in making a vision a tangible reality.  I am excited to see that we are co-creating a nationwide effort to share, at the local level, the practices and ideas that have been incubating in the national ECoC for over three years.” Through this new phase, members of the ECoC will be keeping their ears to the ground while building bridges to connect their local communities to a national movement.  According to Bonnie Tai: “Each day it seems we fracture ourselves into competitors for federal or state dollars, media attention, political correctness, or moral righteousness.  A regional Education Circle of Change promises to bring the power of the collective visioning process to a group of people who are close enough geographically though distant in experience…to realize a shared vision of education and community.”
Finally, Jayeesha Dutta, reminds us about what it really takes to both co-create and live into a collective vision: connecting deeply to build strong, trusting relationships. Jayeesha tells us that “the ECoC has provided me with a nurturing network of brilliant progressive educators across the country. Through creating a collective vision and truthfully sharing our experiences from the heart, we have formed insoluble bonds with each other. In fact, I have found a well of inspiration that brings me strength, resiliency and most importantly, love, during these times of struggle in education.”
Jan 232012
 
As part of the Standing in Our Power (SiOP) Deep Listening Phase, members of our Core Committee are sharing reflections about how they came to stand in their own power and their hopes for this new network.  Check out our first Video Blog.

This video features Melissa Johnson, SiOP Core Committee Member.  Melissa recently accepted a new position as Senior Director of Foundations Relations at the NAACP. Melissa has extensive experience in the nonprofit sector and the development field.Most recently, she was the Executive Director of Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG), a membership association dedicated to strengthening the capacity of organized philanthropy to support community-based efforts advocating for policies and practices that advance social and economic justice. Prior to NFG, Melissa served as the national field director for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.Melissa’s career in philanthropy began in her work with community foundations in her native state of North Carolina where she served as a program officer and other key roles in rural and urban grant making, funding collaboratives, and major community initiatives. Melissa was a program officer at the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and graduate fellow at Foundation for the Carolinas. Additionally, her prior work at the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits grounded her commitment to build nonprofit capacity and strengthen the sector as a whole.

She holds a B.A. in English and Sociology from Wake Forest University and a Masters of Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a concentration on community practice and community development.