Reflections and Insights for the New Year

Last month, Robin, Gabrielle, and I (Program Leaders for Growing Food and Sustainability in Middleton, WI) attended the annual Grand Aspirations January Gathering in Roger’s Park, Chicago. (Though it tried, we did not let the polar vortex stop us.) Basically, January Gathering is a time for program leaders from all over the Midwest (Middleton, Milwaukee, Twin Cities, Highland Park-Detroit, Chicago, and Lexington) to come together to share skills and knowledge that help us run awesome programs, like green infrastructure projects, youth garden camps, and youth-run worker cooperatives.

We also get to hang out and make revolutionary frirends! Anthony (program leader in Chicago) taught us how to make a gif at the No Talent Show.

We also get to hang out and make revolutionary friends! Anthony (program leader for Lets Go Chicago) taught us how to make a gif at the No Talent Show.

This was Gabrielle and my third January Gathering (hard to believe!), so we were thrilled to have Robin attend for her first time as a new program leader. (Unfortunately our fourth program leader, Emilee, was too sick to make the trek with us, but as you can imagine, she has heard ALL about it.) Gabrielle and I both remember how transformative our first gathering was and hoped Robin would come away feeling empowered and excited for the year ahead. Read her reflection below to hear how the gathering impacted her:

January Gathering grounds and energizes programs. January Gathering is a time to reflect and to look back over the year to search for success and evaluate failure in order to find solutions. To begin, it is important to look at the core values of Growing Food and Sustainability and Grand Aspirations: Justice, sustainability, prosperity, and community. Looking back at our core values, there were some that we were making progress toward, and others we had hoped to do better. Evaluating our progress allowed us to become grounded, to look forward and make important changes, such as improving our intern curriculum. To improve your program, you have to improve yourself. The gathering allows time to remember why we do it. When walking into a training session there is energy that fills your body. You feel hope and joy fill your soul. While in sessions you begin to grow as you self reflect. In Grand Aspirations energy and passion are recovered to make a change. You finally can feel one with yourself and a serene sense of freedom comes over you. When sessions are finished, you feel empowered and you begin to realize that it is not just about your program. It is about every program around the country and the amazing work we are doing as a whole. The work we do today will eventually change the world by solving the problems, one garden, one solution at a time. One garden may seem too small to have an impact, but when we all come together and work towards the same goal, something much greater is born.

Even though it was my third January Gathering and fifth gathering in total (including two National August Gatherings), I came away with tons of new insights and perspectives on our work including…

  • Leverage existing institutional resource flows to grow the green economy. Or in other words, we need to focus on creating new, sustainable systems that meet needs within our community.
  • It’s all about the ripple effect. If you don’t have the ripple effect, it’s not enough.
  • “Morph the system while winning within it” – Lynn Hinkle
  • Anti-oppression needs to be central to every part of our work. Every time we make a big decision or build a new project, we need to have anti-oppression at the center of our conversation.
  • Growing food with kids is sweet and cute, but the work we are doing is also “deadly serious”.
  • The systems we’re trying to change are huge and intimidating (the industrial food system), but are also very intimate (the food I can grow for my neighbors).

Since we’ve been back, we’ve had some great discussions reflecting on the history of our program and where we are going from here. We’re all itching for spring and are eager to put our plans into action!

Look how excited we are to get to work!

Look how excited we are to get to work!

Stay warm, Natalie and Robin

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Ring in the New Year! January Gatherings Got Me Pumped!

Friends,

A quick note from the National Gatherings Team — we wanted to let you all know how excited we are about the programming that this January Gathering is boasting, and we wanted to bring you into the know.

As always, our January Gathering is being modulated to meet the growth needs of our many teams, team members and regionalities! Our three gatherings, Oakland, Chicago, and D.C., will each have specifically designed curricula to explore old and new topics — we will continue developing our anti-oppression programming, our trainings on how to train, our budgeting and fundraising sessions and our personal development sessions.

THE NEW AND EXCITING SESSIONS ARE: a totally revised and revamped media training that will more intentionally link media to local needs AND a session on fractal leadership model development. There is room for more sessions, too, so if you have something to suggest, let us know! Anthony from the Agenda Committee can take your comment or question at anthony.betori@gmail.com.

The food is going to be good // the connections are going to grow our network stronger // the snow in each city will be beautiful // the possibilities are growing!

We can’t wait to see you, new teams and old! The second best time of the year is here — January Gathering is coming!

January Gathering is Coming

New Garden Classes at the YMCA

By: Chanel Copeland
Location: Chicago, IL

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Cross-posted from LetsGoChicago.org

Hi my name is Chanel and I work for the Chicago Summer of Solutions. I began working with them through YEP (Youth Employment Program). I really enjoy working with Summer of Solutions because it’s showed me a lot of things I didn’t know. I’m still open minded to know more but from what I have done so far it has been the best experience. I signed up to work with Children’s Garden at The United Church of Rogers Park. However, we recently began new garden classes at the Westwood Manor nursing home where we run a greenhouse. We teach the kids from the YMCA Summer Camp next door about gardening so they will start their own garden with their families.

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LETS GO Chicago Mini-Documentary

Late last month, we teamed up with independent filmmaker Brendan Brown to produce this short video about our work building up the green economy in Chicago. The video was made for our online fundraising campaign on the FunderHut website, but also tells our story in general for those who are curious.

Watch the video and help us spread the word by sharing the links below on Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media. Here’s some suggested Facebook messages:

Check out this new video about solutionary green economy work taking place in Chicago and pass it on to friends in your networks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0O43X1tFQQ

Watch the video and support the work of young Chicago solutionaries taking back the economy with gardens, storm-water solutions, and a worker co-op in the making: http://funderhut.com/projects/view/donate-to-summer-of-solutions-2013-with-lets-go-chicago

As Chicago thaws, things are heating up for LETS GO Chicago

LETS GO Chicago members have been quite busy throughout the late winter and early spring and we are excited to tell you why. As Chicago thaws, the Rogers Park solutionaries are revving up for their fourth season of gardening, community building, youth empowerment and more. We have been preparing for our spring garden since early March by planting seedlings in our new greenhouse in West Rogers Park. Through a new partnership with the Westwood Manor Nursing Home, we are breathing life into the 18 by 32 foot space with the help of nursing home residents. The greenhouse is allowing us to select a wider range of crop varieties while providing a valuable learning experience for all involved.

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The greenhouse at Westwood Manor

Come mid-May, we will also be adding a community garden to this open space on the nursing home grounds:

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Future site of a community garden

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Inspiration to Join Summer of Solutions 2013 by April 14th!

The 2013 Summer of Solutions programs are accepting participant applications until April 14th!  Apply here!  Keep reading to learn about the life-changing experience that Summer of Solutions was for our alumni!

1Emily Stiever: “It was one of the first times where I could see what my life could look like in the future: the ability to work on social issues that I cared about and to live sustainably in community with people who shared a similar passion.” Read more…

1Ashley Trull: “I learned how to have creative confidence, which to me is being willing to put yourself and your ideas out there, boldly, knowing that you have the skills and resources within yourself and your community to make it a reality.” Read more…

1Nathaniel Cook: “Summer of Solutions was probably the most influential experience that I have ever had, and it has shaped me, my experiences, and my relationships ever since.” Read more…

1Shoshana Blank: “Even as young college students, we were able to do some big things in Summer of Solutions-Twin Cities because we were well organized. We could offer solutions to community members and be taken seriously because we had a plan of action and materials to back us up.”  Read more…

1Colin Higgins: “One of the main things that I took away is that I really enjoy teaching others, especially youth, about environmental issues and solutions.” Read more…

1Cecelia Watkins: “The greatest thing I took with me was a deep sense of practical empowerment—a sense that money is far from the only resource we can leverage for change, a sense that we are rich in those other resources.” Read more…

1Brianna Besch: “I still remember the first week of Summer of Solutions training as one of the most inspiring things I have ever done.” Read more…

2Ethan Viets-Vanlear: “SoS really taught me a way to help a community without being part of various systems of oppression and control that dominate most organizations and institutions in our society.” Read more…

Inspired yet?
Become a solutionary and apply to join Summer of Solutions 2013!

During the Summer of Solutions, you will receive training in community organizing and sustainable community development techniques. You will use these skills to demonstrate the promise of energy efficiency, community-based energy, green industry, local food production, and/or smart design as described in the locations you choose. Beyond the concrete skills you learn, Summer of Solutions will be a really fun community-based experience. It is a great chance to grow with, learn from, and work with other incredible young people and community leaders who are building a better future.

Now accepting participant applications: Arleta, CA; Chicago, IL; Hartford, CT; Iowa City, IA; Ithaca, NY; Johnson City, TN; Lexington, KY; Little Rock, AR; Middleton, WI; Oakland, CA; Raleigh, NC; Southern West Virginia; Twin Cities, MN; and Washington, DC!

Applications are due on 4/14/2013. Some programs may keep their local applications open beyond 4/14, but there is no guarantee that any specific program will do so.

Find more details and the online application here!

January Gathering 2013: A Tale of Three Cities

Our journey begins on December 28th in our nation’s capital. A dozen young Solutionaries from all ends of the country are convening at the Steinbruck Center in downtown DC. From Arleta, California and Reno, Nevada in the west to West Virginia in the east, these intrepid travelers join up with hosts from the new Washington DC Summer of Solutions program to learn the skills they will need to empower other young people through their programs and produce real green economy solutions. It is the beginning of the first of the 2013 January Gathering trainings (yes, even in late December), where we will work together to transform our minds and get prepared to run incredible programs this summer.

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Solutionaries at the DC January Gathering map their feelings of interconnectedness at the end of the week.

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