Bloggin’ away, but nothing personal! What’s up with that?

This week is blessedly less busy than last week was. Granted, I’m still really busy with everything that’s going on, but it feels like a much more positive kind of busy.

A couple of really exciting things have been going down in my activist life! The first being that Grand Aspirations now has a new logo!

This is one of those moments when I get ridiculously proud of myself. Seriously? At 21 years of age I facilitated the graphic design process for a national non-profit and am in the throes of implementing the changes. I’m personally very happy with the logo. You can’t please everyone, but it’s a vast improvement on our old logo – which was done in microsoft paint in 2008 because “Oh shit guys! We really need a logo!”

That was a five-month process. The color changes should be pretty quick after this – I just have to get a workable file from our graphic designer, and the webmaster is all ready to do his magic.

Other really exciting thing: This week marks the official national launch of Summer of Solutions 2010! For me in media, this means that every week I will be featuring 1-2 different local programs in the hopes of gaining applicants for them. In other words: Every week, I get to interview amazing people around the country doing work that I’m passionate about, and help them get media attention. I’ll probably spam y’all with the posts, just because I’m really frickin’ proud of these posts.

The really exciting news? Within 24 hours of that first post about Twin Cities Summer of Solutions at both Solutionaries and It’s Getting Hot in Here, the story was picked up in some amazing places, like The Huffington Post, USA Today’s websiteWiretap MagazineTreehugger, and Tweetmeme.

The Huffington Post article is really cool – they’re featuring other programs that are designed to build youth momentum and train entrepreneurs, and the reference to us is really nice. They link directly to our website, where people can go to apply for different SoS programs. I don’t know how many people will reach that corner of USA Today’s website, but … it’s frickin’ USA Today, so I’m still happy. That’s definitely diversifying our audience.

Get this: None of these media hits were facilitated by me/the media team. It just happened intuitively. Now, let’s see what I can do to keep this momentum going. If people are hunting for our story, we’ve got to find a way to use that.

General feeling of the moment: Ridiculously qualified for any media job in the non-profit sector, without any formal training. Who’s going to get paid someday to do something she loves? OH THAT GIRL WOULD BE ME!

That’s most of the big news from this end. I think I’ve got my living situations for summer/post-India worked out (still, weirdly enough, working on the summer part), which feels nice.

But I’ve gotta run off to class – just thought I should send a quick update about life. I love you all, and I will be BACK more often with updates.

Reflections on the Grand Aspirations Leadership Gathering

Over the past ten days, youth activists involved in Grand Aspirations converged in St. Paul, MN for a leadership gathering to learn 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.

Gandhi once said that we must be the change we wish to see in the world. That is what this organization is all about – we must view the process through which we do things as integral to the outcomes of our initiatives.

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 an organization that plans programs around the nation to get youth climate activists into the community, to create and implement real plans for community development around energy, the economy, and environmental justice. The Purpose of the gathering was to bring Summer of Solutions program planners from around the nation 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.

From an organizational standpoint, this week has been absolutely imperative. From the beginning of the gathering, we’ve been tackling some serious issues about building an organization from the ground up, and building an organization in a grassroots manner.

What I’ve really noticed about the way we work is that it’s really transformative – both on a personal and a community level. At the individual level, we seek to support the person. At the organizational level, we attempt to create structures that are new within old structures of the non-profit that can speak more readily to the outcomes we seek. In building the non-profit that is Grand Aspirations, we are being very conscious of what has been done, and how we can do it differently/better.

The community focus of the Summer of Solutions program allows for activists and participants to learn by doing, and also to effect real change in their communities as they go along. Originally designed to keep the momentum of student activism going during the summer months, the program took student activists out of the setting of the campus and into the outside community. However, as is to be expected, this kind of activism is very different from on-campus activism. In the community, organizing is even more about connecting with structures of power that may not be expected.  For instance, to get more public transportation at the city level, it is important to contact city council boards on transportation issues, architects, community groups, etc. to pull together a collaboration that would result in the re-thinking, on a city scale, of car culture.

That is but one of many examples of the ways in which this kind of programming and organizational modeling can take student/youth activists out of their comfort zones, and place the youth climate movement on the map in local, regional, and national solutions-seeking and implementing.

Grand Aspirations is in a really interesting position. We aren’t working entirely outside of the system, as many activist groups strive to do, but we also aren’t entirely “in” with government and the system as it is. Through the Summer of Solutions program, and other programs that Solutionaries in Grand Aspirations are in the process of planning, we are transforming the ways in which young people interact with the systems we’ve inherited.

This past week, we’ve talked a lot about strategies we should use to make the solutions implemented and begun by our programs into realities. While the leadership gathering has focused on some national organization-building decisions, we have also had ample time to focus on our own programs, and share ideas from across the nation. After having met the amazing people dong this kind of work all over the country, I personally am very excited to keep up with them, and continue to learn about the wonderful work that’s going on, and how I can learn from their actions.

What I love about this model of doing things is that it connects the local solutions, which can be implemented on varying timelines, with national programs, basically facilitating an amazing idea-share so that our movement can grow and learn from successes on the local level. It’s a really beautiful movement that allows for personal growth as well as community growth.

This post is getting quite rambly, but there will be more to come. Hopefully soon we’ll have some videos to show for our work, so keep on the look out for some more news about what’s going on here.

Last chance to vote!

Today is the last day that voting is open for the NAU Grant for change!

Please, please, please register and vote Timothy 5 stars if you support the work that we have been doing together on the Summer of Solutions. Right now, we’re somewhere around 25th place, and need to be in the top five to get onto the next level of the grant.

So follow these quick instructions:

1. Go here.

2. Register at the top of the screen.

3. Find Timothy DenHerder Thomas again.

4. Click on the “rate/share” bar at the top of his page. Give him five stars.

Thanks in advance, this really means a lot to me and this is the easiest way we could earn $10,000. Today is the last day that voting is open, and so we really need as many people as possible to vote.