Director Dispatch: Virtual Road Trip!

Director Dispatch: Virtual Road Trip!

I-96 Grand Rapids to Detroit, May 2012 (photo credit: Trish Tchume)

I remember being an undergrad and asking Dan Doughterty, one of the directors of our campus social justice center, why he always took the bus.  I knew where he lived, I knew he had a car, and I knew that it took him an extra 45 minutes to get to campus every day each way because he chose to ride the bus instead of taking his car.  I think I expected something about environmental impact or gas prices in response.  Instead he said, “Well, when you do the sort of work we’re trying to do here, I just think it’s important to start every morning standing in community.”

Over the years, the people whose practice I’ve most admired have always been people who’ve lived into this philosophy in some form or another.  Whether it was my boss at the Building Movement Project, Frances, who would literally get itchy if she spent more than three straight weeks researching and writing about social movements rather than being “on the ground;” or fierce Sister Gene from my high school who ran around Latin America every summer  to various demonstrations where she thought the presence of an American might lower the chances of (but not necessarily guarantee against) a massacre.

Fortunately, I’ve never had a job that required me to stand so directly in the line of fire, but the importance of actually touching the people and communities that you’re working “for” has been deeply, thankfully ingrained in me over the years.

So in 2012 during my first year as Director of YNPN, I knew that I wanted to spend as much time as I could with our chapters and our chapter leaders - that I would learn the most in that space about what our network was truly contributing to building a more just and equitable world and the direction I needed to set in order to help our chapters do this even more effectively.

While I didn’t have a chance to visit with every one of our 34 chapters (though at some point I do remember believing that this was actually possible.  Yeah, not sure what I was thinking there...) I did have a chance to visit with 12 of our chapters over the course of the year - Chicago, Phoenix, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Twin Cities, New York City, DC, Boston, Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Southwest Michigan.  On each of these trips, I was consistently reminded of everything that kept Dan and Frances and Sister Gene on the bus and on the ground and in solidarity.

On each of these trips, I was reminded of how vibrant, creative, values-driven, strategic, diverse, and vital to communities our chapters are.  It was during these trips that the first projects of YNPN 3.0 took shape and the YNPN LaunchPad Fellowship became an obvious solution for expanding our capacity.  I would get on the plane humbled and energized and return to my desk clearer, more full of possibilities, and driven to do what needed to be done to support the network.

We have much to be proud as a network from the past year - both in terms of National recognition and in terms of all the amazing programming provided by our chapters.  Knowing, however, how much more network infrastructure we still have to build to become THE platform for developing and moving diverse talent throughout the nonprofit sector, I thought it was critical to start the year by “getting back on the bus” - virtually for now.  For the month of January, our new Field Coordinator/LaunchPad Fellow Ashley and I will be hosting calls and google hangouts with every single established chapter in the YNPN Network, starting with Atlanta and ending in Las Vegas. 

We’ll be posting and tweeting along the way so be sure to like us on Facebook and follow the #ynpnvrt13 on twitter to learn fun facts about the chapters we’re “visiting.”  The goal will be to expand on what we learned from spending time with 12 chapters in 2012 and use it to set a bold strategic vision in 2013.

Mostly, it will be an opportunity to start our year standing in community.

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