Lace up your trainers…January Gatherings are fast approaching!

Grand Aspirations’ January Gatherings are 5-days of intensive training to give program leaders the tools to run successful programs in their communities.  This year, we are hosting three January Gatherings in program locations across the country!

  • Washington, D.C. from December 28th-January 1st
  • Hapeville, Georgia from January 9th-13th
  • Chicago, Illinois from January 17th-21st

January Gatherings are an extremely important and effective part of the leadership development training that Grand Aspirations provides to program leaders.  In addition to covering topics from anti-oppression to project development, participants will also have the opportunity to learn from (and become friends with!) the other amazing program leaders running projects in other locations.  This is really the grand kick-off to our new year of projects, and we couldn’t be more excited!

Curious what past program leaders have said about January Gatherings?  Check-out last year’s blog post from the Middleton Summer of Solutions team as they reflected on their experience.

(Posted February 2012)

We (Natalie and Gabrielle) just returned from a 5-day regional training in Chicago organized by Grand Aspirations and man, was it awesome!  We met and became friends with fellow Summer of Solutions program leaders from the Twin Cities, Detroit, Iowa City, Chicago, West Virginia, Hartford CT, and the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts.  Our Middleton, WI program, Growing Food and Sustainability, was the only brand new program that was part of this Midwest gathering, so we had the incredible experience of receiving advice and support from many seasoned program leaders.  Thank you for sharing your stories of success, failure, and personal insight with us!

Every single training was engaging and eye-opening, so it’s almost impossible to share only a few thoughts, but here are some ideas that really stuck with us.

  • EVERYONE cares deeply about at least one of the four values that Grand Aspirations embodies: sustainability, prosperity, justice, and community.  By integrating all of these, Summer of Solutions programs like ours can involve people traditionally left out of the “environmental movement”.
  • Our current social, political, and economic system is not working for a vast number of American (and global) citizens, and their failures hit already marginalized groups the hardest.  We can choose to create new systems that strengthen communities, sustain individuals, and value our environment.
  • The transition is already happening. Cities like Detroit led the way for the expansion of American manufacturing, and they were also the first to be abandoned by our economic system.  Now, out of necessity, they are leading the way again, this time in revolutionary green economy ventures.
  • Creating the future that we want to see means making it sustainable, both environmentally and financially.  By thinking about ways to grow businesses out of
    our projects, we can provide needed products, services, jobs, and job training to our communities.  In Middleton, we plan to start a raised bed vegetable garden installation business and a bike-powered composting business.  Both will train high school students and post-high school youth in green entrepreneurship, nonprofit administration, and hands-on job skills.
  • Personal (and community) transformation is dependent upon personal sustainability.  We should strive to create jobs and experiences that people will be happy and satisfied dedicating their lives to.  In other words, we have to take care of each other and ourselves.

Whew!  That was kind of heavy, but we do believe in taking a step back every now and then to realize that our little project here in Middleton, WI is part of something much bigger.  We arrived home with a great sense of empowerment, inspiration, and responsibility.  We have so much to do to get our program ready but there is so much possibility!

Gabrielle and Natalie

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