Leadership Development CISPES-style:? Summer Camp 2008


by Rebecca Mintz, CISPES?National Organizer

     During the weekend of August 21-24, 30 CISPES members and staff from around the country gathered for our bi-annual Summer Camp. For four days, veterans and newer activists alike nestled into a cabin on cozy Blakely Island, off the coast of Washington State. The serene surroundings helped us focus on our task: reflect on the current state of CISPES, and learn as much as possible to strengthen our work.
     CISPES considers Summer Camp a crucial piece of our national organizational development we build skills, develop our political analysis, and learn from each others experiences. We found that getting away from our home cities gave us the space and perspective to better understand the political context we are in, as well as what we can be doing differently to best take advantage of our opportunities. Getting together allows us to share our collective wisdom and support each others growth.
     One of the highlights of any Summer Camp is the honored guest that comes from El Salvador to share knowledge and analysis. This year we were blessed with the  presence of our long-time friend and ally Roger Blandino Nerio, mayor of Mejicanos, one of the largest and most progressive municipalities in El Salvador. Blandino not only gave us invaluable advice on the future direction of our work; he also hung out with us, making time for personal relationships and conversation.
     Our program was packed full of incredible workshops, which our own organizers created and facilitated. Workshops addressed topics such as history and theory, organizing skills, media skills, and fundraising skills. Two members of the Boston committee gave a rocking workshop on the CISPES Organizational Development model, of which we are really proud. We also took time to have a Big Questions conversation, in which we discussed some of the broader questions of how CISPES does the work that we do. Though these conversations are critical for a healthy organization, such questions never have a deadline and therefore often stay on the back-burner. Therefore, Summer Camp was the perfect venue to taking time to have such weighty discussions. At the conclusion of our weekend, had a concluding conversation in which we thought about all that we had learned, and laid out specific plans for integrating our new knowledge into our upcoming work.
     In addition to the hard work, we also took the opportunity to have a lot of fun together.  One of our organizers taught a screen-printing workshop, so everyone walked away with a new CISPES t-shirt to add to her or his wardrobe. We also took time for an afternoon swim in the islands lake, as well as the all-important dance party on the last night. All in all, it was wonderful to spend time together in the beauty of the San Juan Islands.
    In the end, months of planning and logistical thinking paid off in a really successful weekend.  We all left feeling closer to each other personally, closer to the organization, more equipped to do our work, and more committed to the movement for social justice here in the US and, of course, in El Salvador. n

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