Reflecting on a Grand Aspirations Leadership Gathering

x-posted to It’s Getting Hot In Here

Over the past ten days, 19 youth activists involved in the Summer of Solutions converged in chilly St. Paul, MN to build a strategy for reshaping our economy from the ground up. We learned how to run an effective summer program dedicated to finding tangible, local solutions to the problems of climate change, the economic downturn, and environmental injustice.

The program began in the summer of 2008 with one program of 20 participants, and over the course of last year grew into 9 programs across the United States. Collectively, there were 150 youth activists involved around the nation.

That was this last summer. Now, we’re looking forward to next summer and the growth it has in store for us.

I have had the amazing experience of working with folks from around the nation over the past 10 days at the Grand Aspirations Winter Leadership Gathering. Grand Aspirations is the organization that facilitates Summer of Solutions programs around the nation. The purpose of the gathering was to bring local Summer of Solutions program planners together to strategize at the national level on how to make our programs effective, how to connect with the communities we live in and train participants.

Participants in Grand Aspirations’ Summer of Solutions program have created businesses around cooperative energy, held community forums called “barn raisings” to raise awareness about energy issues, and have enhanced the power of their own organizations, such as the Northwest Institute for Community Energy. Last summer also saw a huge growth in community gardening and local food projects, listening projects to bring communities together around development issues, and general education and awareness raising.

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Bringing our aspirations within reach

Its the end of the summer, and I have a lot of reflecting to do.  The Summer of Solutions (SoS) has been a wild learning experience for me from the moment I joined on in spring 2008.  However, rather than share some of my reflections in this post, I’m gonna clue y’all in on how to build on your reflections

This program is at a huge turning point.  Last summer, the first SoS gave us some insights on how to do local solutionary organizing (and how not to do it).  This past summer gave us some ideas about how to do it on a national scale (and, well, how not to do it).  As we begin to prepare for our third year, we can take all those lessons and figure out how to make solutions the next big thing – and we want you to be a part of it.

Apply to join a Grand Aspirations working group here by Monday, August 17.

Many folks involved in the Summer of Solutions have had national conversations about how to move forward into the fall while increasing our capabilities.  The strategy we identified will be to create working groups of leaders to handle everything from organizational development to building SoS programs for next summer.  This will be the temporary structure that will move us towards more formality, better communication, better funding, and better programs.

The work we are doing with Grand Aspirations is solutionary – at once revolutionary and, at the same time, just common sense.  We’re building community development solutions that are sustainable, long-term and replicable. We are not shooting for one-time fixes – we are building the conditions for accelerating and ever-expanding change to occur.  We can’t get the future we want without implementing local solutions that everyone, everywhere, can plug into.  In order to get those built, we will need to rapidly coordinate in places across the country.

Our success in this stage will rely on the innovation and energy of volunteers who are willing to seriously build this – and we need that to include you. You can be a part of it all by joining a working group by August 17th

It has been an incredible experience this summer to work with young folks all over the country who strove to make their summer solutionary.  I’m constantly blown away by all your capabilities and I am really hoping to work with many of you through the year.  Keep blogging your successes and thoughts as the year continues!

Looking into the Future: A Fireside Chat with Timothy and Matt

Over the past two weeks, I’ve gotten particularly excited about looking ahead to where we’re going. My eyes are always both here in now and endlessly on horizons. The past few weeks for me have been about thinking bigger about where we’re going, and about exploring how to share this moment of possibility with everyone …

Fellow national coordinator Matt Kazinka and I pulled together this firesdie chat on Thursday night with the help of camera-woman Abbie Plouff and editor Ruby Levine. Its basically an explanation of some of the things going on in the bigger national picture and an invitation to start the process of dreaming with us as we go forward.

Part 1: Welcome, what’s up, and why we’re talking:

Part 2: The big things happening, and next steps on collaboration:

We’ll be checking in, first with Summer of Solutions program planners, and then with partners, participants, and other supporters over the coming weeks.

Keep up the solutions!