Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Leadership Institute, Day Two and Congress Begins!

This morning, the Leadership Institute began with a discussion of radical democracy. We began by reviewing an explanation of radical democracy written by WILPF's campaign to Challenge Corporate Power, Assert the People's Rights. From that document:
Radical democracy is a state of political being. It is not a kind of government, it is an end of government. It starts when people assume they have the values, beliefs, and skills to govern themselves. Then they create processes and institutions to meet their societal goals.
Understanding radical democracy is a long process which I hope will continue to be a part of WILPF's work and the work of progressive people everywhere. It is an important part of the US WILPF mission statement: "WILPF members create the peaceful transformation they wish to see in the world by making connections that build and strengthen relationships and movements for justice, peace, and radical democracy among people all over the world."

We then moved onto a session on the Nuts and Bolts of Organizing, specifically understanding the consensus process. It was helpful for me to review consensus, since it is the decision making process used by the national board. We received handouts on Consensus, The Time to Consense, and Notes on Facilitation & Process. I was particularly strengthened by the knowledge of Sarah Seeds, from Berkeley, CA who helped us understand the roadblocks to watch out for during the consensus process. I also enjoyed the clarification on stating Reservations, Stand Asides, and Blocking.

Then we had lunch, where I was able to talk with Luz Morales about our mutual love for Pollo Campero, the best fried chicken in the world. (A few franchises have opened in the U.S., but their recipe is not as perfect as chicken directly from Guatemala.) I was also excited to see Susi Snyder during lunch - our superstar International Secretary General who I am lucky enough to be rooming with! Susi started working for WILPF in the International office at the United Nations in New York, and transitioned from being the Director of our UN office to being our Secretary General. She inspires me in many ways, including the fact that like me, she is under thirty and involved in WILPF.

After lunch, we ran through the structure of US WILPF - our national program, including campaigns and issue committees and our membership structure, including branches and at large members. Goodness, I forgot how complicated we are - its only when you explain organizational structure to new members when you really realize how much is involved in our ninety year old organization.

We were then joined by some WILPF superstars. Sonia Sanchez, a WILPF sponsor, spoke eloquently on the need to include young people whenever she is asked to speak. We also met Pamela Jones-Burnley, our US Administrative Director, Mary Day Kent, our US Executive Director, and Susi Snyder. Other WILPF staffers who have been involved in the Leadership Institute are Jody Dodd, our US Leadership and Outreach Coordinator and Kate Zaidan, our US Program Coordinator. Chris Morin, our outgoing Membership Chair and incoming co-President helped facilitate the Institute. Sha'an Mouliert and Evelyn Spears from the United for Racial Justice, Truth, Reparations, and Restoration (UFORJE) campaign faciliated our workshop yesterday on diversity and racial justice and also participated in our Institute today.

Then participants discussed what areas of WILPF they are interested in getting involved in - since by attending the Institute they agreed to be active for at least a year in WILPF. There was a lot of discussion around this which I unfortunately missed because I had to attend the final board meeting of the outgoing board. The attendees also participated in an evaluation process before the formal Institute concluded. We are going to be hooking up attendees with mentors for dinner this evening.

The final board meeting included a by-laws change, which created a standing Nominations Committee. I'm excited to report that this is a way for WILPFers to get involved in national WILPF - by helping to seek out and grow our leaders, facilitate the process of selecting our US representatives to the International Congress, and oversee the nominations process for the next board. The committee will consist of four non-board members representing the diversity of our geography and one Membership Committee board member.

Next up, I officially registered for Congress and bought a beautiful 90th anniversary long sleeve shirt and button. Now, I'm off to dinner. After that, we will have our Opening Social Event, beginning at 7pm. Tomorrow kicks off the meat of the Congress, beginning with my campaign's plenary session. (My campaign being Women Challenge U.S. Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East, WCUSP for short.) The Save the Water campaign plenary session will be held after lunch tomorrow.


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