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Spokane Alliance Leader’s Retreat: What We Talked About

March 2017 -- 38 Spokane Alliance leaders from 15 institutions gathered on Feb 24 & 25 to discuss the future of the Alliance, its role in the current post-election political landscape, and reflect on individual leadership journeys. Here are some highlights of the rich discussions by Mary Lou Johnson & Karen Dorn Steele, Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane.

March 2017

 

By Mary Lou Johnson & Karen Dorn Steele, Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane

 

38 Spokane Alliance leaders from 15 institutions gathered on Feb 24 & 25 to discuss the future of the Alliance, its role in the current post-election political landscape, and reflect on individual leadership journeys.

 

Here are the highlights:

  • Karen Dorn-Steele gave a well-received historical context to our current socio-political situation based on American Amnesia, How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper, by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson.

  • Small groups discussed:
    • Individual and institutional challenges and desired growth direction
    • Who the Alliance currently is, and who else is strategically important to engage as members and allies (we currently have 29 institutional members)
    • How we can strengthen our institutions using IAF tools – especially one to one meetings
    • Where we want the Alliance to be in 3-5 years
    • Our values (among others: respect, power, accountability)

 

Small Group Discussions at Spokane Alliance Retreat

 

  • Leaders reviewed three important articles they had read before the retreat:  What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class; Building the Institutions for Revolt; and Back of the Yards, Lessons from a Community Organizer on Building Political Power (a good review and history of IAF and our organizing practices). Some very brief ideas from the articles:
    • Corporations have immense influence. Civic institutions are in significant decline and must be rebuilt
    • One key factor to our success will be if we can “attract unlike members and forge alliances between conservatives, moderates, and liberals.”  (Back of the Yards)
    • Key Quote about Leaders: “I asked Gecan what characteristics he looks for in identifying leaders. “Anger,” he shot back. “It’s not hot anger. It’s not rhetorical anger. It’s not the ability to give a speech. It’s deep anger that comes from grief. People in the community who look at their children, look at their schools, look at their blocks, and they grieve. They feel the loss of that. Often, those people are not the best speaker or the best-known people in the community. But they’re very deep. They have great relationships with other people. And they can build trust with other people because they’re not self-promotional. They’re about what the issues are in the community. So we look for anger. We look for the pilot light of leadership. It’s always there. It’s always burning.” (Building Institutions for Revolt, emphasis added)

 

  • Important Take-Aways
    • When we go into a relationship we must suspend judgment
    • The Spokane Alliance is non-partisan
    • We have no permanent allies and no permanent enemies
    • We have to start where people are, and not approach them on issues
    • We have to be nimble – able to react quickly if needed on an issue (e.g. school bullying)
    • We must continue relationship building work through one to ones, and continue to grow leaders (get them to training)
    • With more understanding ourselves we can articulate what is going on in our own socio-economic life and create space for a lot of people to come together
    • One of our practices is the Iron Rule: “Never do for others what they can do for themselves.”

 

Group Discussion at Spokane Alliance Retreat

  • Leaders reviewed the Spokane Alliance structure and decision-making framework
    • The Admin Team (board) meets monthly
    • The Executive/Strategy Team meets monthly
    • The Decision-making group made up of representatives from each member institution (being renamed) meets quarterly

 

  • Important Dates
    • Listening Season: April – May 2017
    • Leadership Training: regularly every May on the 1st and 2nd Wednesdays; every November on the 1st and 2nd Saturdays
    • Regional Leadership Training: April 23-28 (6 days)
    • National LeadershipTraining: July 11-18 (7 days)

 

  • Current campaigns: Public Safety & Mental Health, All in For Washington, Bullying/Inclusion in Schools

 

See more photos of the retreat on Facebook

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