Building Momentum Part 2: Action Plan

After in-person and online consultation (see Part 1), we are moving forward in 2019 and into 2020 with a few key strategies to build momentum with Broad Conversations.

This post summarizes a few key elements including some relevant rationale and musings. At the bottom of the post, you can find a visual representation of our current plan for the next phase of Broad Convos.

Monthly Gatherings

This is the main shift for Broad Convos going forward. We have set dates for a monthly gathering for the rest of 2019 and all of 2020. We’ll meet at Workers’ Arts and Heritage Centre at 51 Stuart Street in Hamilton, alternating a weeknight one month and a weekend afternoon the next to accommodate folks’ varying schedules.

Each gathering will feature a speaker who will share insights and experiences on a facet of feminist organizing and activism. We see this as a way to feature and elevate the work of folks already doing the work (and pay them!) and the organizations they work with, towards our goal of building partnerships. This shared learning is in pursuit of a shared goal to build knowledge and skills to pursue feminist work - the liberation and empowerment of women and non-binary folks - safely and successfully in our community.

The second part of each gathering will be a flexible time for working groups to plan actions, engage in more targeted learning, and work on specific projects. The hope is that the actions we undertake will be aligned with and guided by the work of guest speakers and partner organizations in the city who are already doing solid feminist work that can be amplified or bolstered by our shared resources and energy.

This format can evolve; the hope is that that folks who show up each month will build these events over time so they are most valuable to the group. We can have food or not; we can build in time to get to know each other; we can consider ways to keep each other accountable; we can adjust as we go.

To start, we’ll meet in June and July with folks interested in volunteering to support weeknight or weekend gatherings. We’ll talk about how to make this happen: working out solutions for childcare, carpooling or transit subsidies, speaker ideas, advertising, food, fundraising, and/or how to process for accepting working groups. If you’re on Facebook you can RSVP and share the series. We’ve also listed the dates on Eventbrite. If you’d like to get reminders about upcoming gatherings you can sign up for our newsletter.

Board and working groups

Our goals, including shared education and planned actions to support feminist work in our community, need leadership to happen. As a registered non-profit, Broad Conversations has a board and we are looking to expand our current slate (express your interest here).

The other opportunity for folks who want to be more involved is to strike a working group and use our monthly meetings as space to gather and work with other broads on a shared goal. Perhaps you want to undertake intentional learning about racism in our community and plan an action to support a partner organization doing anti-racism work. It could be that you’re keen to build support for an upcoming motion at City Hall and you want to strategize ways to get loud about it. Maybe you’re pissed about cuts in this province and you want to talk about tactical responses and research other groups doing work to protest. There are so many examples of possible working groups to strike. We’ll be talking about how we manage the formation of groups fairly at our first few monthly gatherings.

Podcast

Acknowledging that not everyone can attend events, for many reasons, and that there are so many knowledgeable and sublime feminists in our community, the relaunch of our community radio show as a podcast is a critical piece of the next phase of Broad Convos. The hope is that the podcast can serve as a complement to our monthly speakers - delving into similar or tangential issues to build out our shared education in feminist activism. The podcast can also help us to build awareness of Broad Convos and to foster partnerships. We also see this as a shared project; if you are interested in supporting or participating please let us know.

Funding

Many participants in our consultations on the future of Broad Convos acknowledged this key fact: we will need funding to succeed in many of our goals. We are committed to paying speakers and other contributors, we want to find a way to offer childcare, we have to pay for space rental, we need to spend money to promote our gatherings, and so on. There are several possibilities and models we are pursuing, including a formal or informal membership model and the eventual application to grants. If you are experienced in this area or interested in helping please consider joining the board or just dropping us a line.

The overall picture

We built out this graphic to show that this work is going to happen on different fronts at varying pace and involving a variety of folks.

Broad Conversations (2).jpg

This is going to be a balancing act. We want to open up space for listening and learning but also for taking action. We want to build a community that provides comfort but also challenges us to be better. We want to find power in our shared experiences but also build knowledge about how power separates and privileges us. We want to build resources toward our shared goals without taking resources away from folks already doing this work. We are going to fail and we are going to learn from it and do better.

Please, come on out and help us build Broad Conversations.

Building Momentum Part 1: Consultation

In this first part of a two-part post, we’re sharing the results of consultation we did at our last meeting on April 23 and through our online survey. For the purpose of full transparency, you can see what input we’ve received here, and then see how we’ve used that input in our planning for 2019-20 in part two of this post.

Our board presented a draft plan for building momentum within Broad Conversations and then asked questions to prompt interested folks to share their thoughts.

At our April 23 gathering, we split into groups to have this discussion, and the notes are collated below. Online, folks could respond to the same set of questions, and those responses are copied below.

Groups discuss the future of Broad Conversations at our April 23 gathering.

Groups discuss the future of Broad Conversations at our April 23 gathering.

PARTNERSHIPS

We asked…

What are some qualities you would expect in an organization Broad Conversations would partner with? Are there any specific organizations - in Hamilton, Ontario, or beyond - on your radar that you would like to see Broad Conversations partner with? To what end? What actions or outcomes would you like to see Broad Conversations pursue through partnerships with other organizations? Is there anything you would NOT want us to do regarding partnerships?

You answered…

  • Inclusive, welcoming, financially honest, accountable, equity-driven

  • Organizations outside of the usual, easy options, many different groups, common goals

  • SACHA, YWCA, university women’s groups or other women’s non-traditional owned, women’s professional organizations

  • Rural women’s organizations, CivicAction, Women Legal Action Fund

  • Progressive, feminist organizations,

  • Inclusive

  • COBRA

  • Women’s March / Me Too

  • YMCA - getting involved in politics

  • WAHC - worker’s rights and women workers

  • Queer and trans organizations ie speqtrum

  • GoodBodyFeel - self-work, community building

  • Community hubs

  • Environment Hamilton, Cycle Hamilton

  • HPL

  • To be determined based on actions

  • Disability Justice Network of Ontario

  • How do we help? What kind of help to people want?

  • Broad Convos as a point of access for community issues

  • We’re interested in ways to support indigenous women

  • Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion - starting point for forming networks

  • Labour Council

  • Funding opportunity - youth opportunities fund

  • Female headed companies/businesses; preferably local businesses

  • feminist -non-binary (trans friendly)

  • Respectful to indigenous communities

  • Supportive of survivors

  • Ready to combat hatred and bigotry

  • Solidarity with unions

  • Native Women's Centre

  • Good Shepherd, Women's Services

  • Hamilton Interval House (https://intervalhousehamilton.org/womenscentre)

  • I think Partnerships would be a good focus, rather than taking on new struggles or initiatives. Broad Convos crew could offer their services to fill gaps (e.g. marketing, social media, help at events) and exhausted labour to help enact priorities of groups, or leverage their power/privilege to bring these groups interests in to different spheres of influence. The key would be relationship building and also taking stock of available skills/ connections. BC could focus on a different area at a time, or choose a couple of priority areas to be helping out with simultaneously (or more fluid - could try different approaches).

  • Arts organizations ie Woman's Art Association


MONTHLY GATHERINGS

We asked…

Given we pursue a monthly gathering at a consistent day and time:How would you recommend we go about determining that day and time? What are “must haves” of a monthly gathering? (Food? Childcare? Holistic accessibility? Anything else you want to identify?) We have discussed the idea of having a speaker and then time for working groups to meet and use the space to further projects and actions - does this appeal to you? Do any specific possibilities spring to mind? How do you want to feel upon leaving such a gathering? (Revved up? Heard? Educated? Calm?) Are there any examples you’ve encountered of community gatherings like this that we should be emulating or avoiding?

You answered…

  • Food

  • “Lean coffee” - use post-its to anonymously propose topics of interest, similar topics grouped together, group voting to identify most interesting topics

  • Concerns: childcare and accessibility of meeting (time / venue)

  • Women’s history month event

  • Five minute talks by members

  • Reusable name with pronoun buttons

  • Reading list ahead of time

  • Certain months not to have eg summer

  • If not monthly, hard to maintain momentum

  • How do we measure success of this choice e.g. who shows up? are people fulfilled / not too onerous to show up?

  • Carpooling / transit costs

  • Speaker or panel

  • Consistent day and time

  • Childcare

  • Access to transit

  • Inclusion

  • Prioritizing relationships - what does this look like at an event

  • I love the idea of having a speaker come to educate/inform and then breakout time to discuss how the content could be applied or relevant to everyday life or bigger projects on the go.

  • If the gathering is in the evening, I would prefer to leave feeling educated, inspired and united with the women who were present.

  • Speakers + discussion is excellent

  • I want to feel like I have the support and emotional resources to safely continue smashing patriarchy

  • I love S.A.C.H.A.'s organisational model for decision-making: consensus building, non-hierarchical

  • Speaker and breakout model sounds good. I think people will want to enter an action phase eventually, so maybe a series of talks and discussions and then a more project-oriented outcome would be good. So, say BC were to identify a priority being Indigenous civic inclusion & cultural spaces in Hamilton - there could be several speakers approaching this from different angles and discussions (including some 101 stuff at the beginning so that BC folks have a shared, Indigenous-taught framework), and then gaps and needs identified (maybe speakers participate in discussions to contribute to this understanding) and partnerships struck where BC folks identify where they can assist in organization/ support of advocacy efforts.

  • Refreshments would be good, as people may attend as part of going from one thing to the next so to speak, possibly alternate between weekend daytime or weeknight meetings but hopefully some way for everyone interested to get together less frequently, would like to leave feeling educated, calm and resolved to next steps (internally, not necessarily for whole group)

  • Two further thoughts 1. It's not feasible without adequate funding to have every event happen in a space which is comfortable for the most vulnerable, with for example an additional quiet room. It is possible to seek out partners on a regular basis who already have adequate facilities and take the conversation to that space. 2. I am getting tired of talking heads, expert panels and presentations from the podium. If I'm familiar with the basic concepts I'd much rather be in a sharing circle with the speaker at the same physical level and a part of the circle.


GROWTH/OUTREACH

We asked…

Looking at the communities listed in our goals document, what are some tactics we should be using to reach new folks and engage broads in solidarity actions? How do you like to hear about gatherings like Broad Conversations? Where would you recommend we be louder in promotions? What should we be cognizant of as we grow? What are you concerned about from an equity standpoint?

  • Strategic partnerships ie YWCA for specific political involvement workshop

  • How to make Broad Convos accessible: to make sure everyone is included

  • How to go to folks we want included

  • Online

  • Community hubs, boards at shelters, community spaces

  • Is there a niche for each person to fit into?

  • What are the needs/wants of group members

  • Is this a doers group or social community

  • Should we look at going into different communities?

  • We mostly learn about the meetings through facebook - alternative?

  • I love the emails and Instagram account and think these should be the focus for communication.

  • Definitely keep using social media to broadcast feminist concerns -keep trying to reach out to lower income communities

  • Please try to reach out to sex workers in Hamilton (I feel like they really need the support of local feminist groups)

  • I'm most concerned about women feeling like they have someone to rely on when dealing with violence

  • By partnering with the many social services, equity, cultural advocacy orgs, etc. in Hamilton we reach new audiences, and become more legitimized/ familiar to them.

  • Can market up the wazoo, but for this kind of work in particular, people need to trust to engage. Continue to email as social media stuff can get lost in the noise.

  • I generally hear about events via facebook, instagram or direct email


FINAL THOUGHT

We asked…

What is it about Broad Conversations that interests you?

You answered…

  • Becoming more involved in feminist activism in my city and meeting kick ass, like-minded women in the process.

  • Maintain an on-going discussion regarding feminist issues

  • A space to find allies in enacting meaningful community service. A rare space IRL (post-school) where thoughtful dialogue can happen. Looking forward to seeing it grow! xo

  • Coming together with like minded people but looking to expand/understand community; not top down/formal

A report from Broad Convos 3

I'm sharing this report for two reasons. One, to keep me accountable to follow up on all the wonderful ideas that were shared. And two, because I would love the participation of folks who weren't able to attend on Feb 20. Please jump in, to whatever degree you're comfortable, as we continue to coalesce this experiment into something meaningful for our feminist community in Hamilton. 

Andrea Rowe speaking at Broad Convos 3

Andrea Rowe speaking at Broad Convos 3

To start the evening, we heard a fascinating talk about the role of dialogue in academia and the role of gender in innovation from Andrea Rowe of Feminuity who I really encourage you to check out. Then, because unfortunately our other two speakers were out with the flu (I hear they're feeling better by now!) I ended up reading a chapter from Ijeoma Oluo's So You Want to Talk About Race. The two conversation starters led us to a validating and supportive group chat about what it's like to speak up for someone or stand up for an idea in the moment when someone voices bigotry or ignorance in your vicinity. And then we started to talk about what Broad Convos can do to support each other and help ourselves to do better at this -- that's when I hit cloud nine, by the way. How lucky are we, to have a community of feminist folks around us who care so much that they'll take time on a rainy Tuesday to come and listen and talk it out. It's just the coolest.

So, here is what we discussed at BC3:

  • We are starting a Slack channel! The general consensus is that Facebook is sometimes too personal, or it's not something everyone has these days. Slack is anonymous and allows us to have a more robust and organized ongoing discussion through the use of channels of discussion. Don't know anything about Slack? This is a good primer. Want to join this Broad Convos Slack community? It's free and all you need is an email address. Send me an email to request the link to join!
     
  • We are starting a virtual resource library! Have you ever found yourself googling "why racism is real" or "misogyny stats" in order to prove a point in an argument or debate, online or in person? Me too, and it's really hard to do it in the moment! There was a great point at Broad Convos 3 that we could organize a virtual resource library by theme, so we have a list of informative, researched, and legitimate resources at our fingertips for easy sharing. Our Slack group has a #resources channel for sharing these and I have also created a page on the website so you can submit an article or resource to include, but feel free to also just email me your list of fave resources for countering bigotry!
     
  • We want to do some media training! Stay tuned for more details on a spring event with local journalists to help us learn how to write an op-ed or share our opinions in other creative, attention-grabbing ways. 
     
  • Wouldn't it be cool to do a feminist hackathon!? Another percolating idea, but what if we had a weekend with Hamilton feminists where, in teams, we took feminist advocacy and city-building projects from idea to execution? I think it would be just the best. If you do too, please send me a note! Or join the Slack channel for more details soon.

Ok, that's all my brain can remember from a week ago. If you were there at the last gathering and you're thinking, "what a scatterbrain, she totally forgot X" then please email me!

One more thing - we are about to reach March 1 when our first SECRET DISCOUNT for a local women-owned Hamilton business will be emailed to Broad Convos Collective Members, our Patreon community of supporters. Check it out and offer your support here! Join before March 1 to put your new adorable Amy Egerdeen-designed membership card to work getting the secret discount for March.

Thank you for your energy!

erin

Reflecting on Feminists & Fractals Week

In early spring, Broad Conversations opened a survey-based registration for its summer series: Feminists & Fractals week, August 14 to 20. The idea was to use the survey to assign small groups of women to one of a variety of activities to run during the week, culminating in a Sunday picnic where everyone could use their activity as an icebreaker when meeting others. You can read more about the impetus for the week - and the naming of it - here.

This post will do four things:

  1. Summarize some anonymous highlights from the survey.
  2. Report on outcomes of the week.
  3. Offer suggestions and learnings for next year or others who want to do something similar.
  4. Share next steps for Broad Conversations.- including new types of gatherings!

Survey Results

Everyone who registered for F&F week completed this survey - 135 women. Here are some charts summarizing a few key questions - for your interest but also to see if these answers change at all in future F&F weeks.

 

F&F Week Outcomes

During the week of August 14 to 20, more than 100 women participated in 20 activities:

Thank you to everyone who attended, spread the word, lead activities, and took photos! Here are some snaps collected and shared by participants throughout the week (ordered chronologically here) :

 

Reflections & Learnings

During F&F week and in the days since, I've thought a lot about the experience and how it might have been improved. I also want to make it as easy as possible for others to benefit from the ground work done in planning this event, so I've collected some thoughts here but also have put the survey questions in a Google Drive folder for anyone who wants to do something similar. 

My first conclusion from the week is that the outcome was absolutely worth the input. I would estimate that, in the weeks leading up to F&F, I put about 10 hours a week into the planning and execution, but it was a joyful experience. While I didn't get to meet all of the participants, I did get to read their survey responses, which were bursting with personality and feminist pride. Much of the related email correspondence was similarly illustrative of the generosity, enthusiasm, and humour of F&F participants. And then, to hear back about the connections made, the conversations had, and the way that many participants were nervous and then were happy they went to their activity -- totally worth it. 

My second conclusion is that events like F&F are filling a need. Many participants shared that this was one of the only community events they had attended where it was an explicit gathering of "feminists." Others said that they liked the opportunity to learn something new while meeting new people in the city. 

Some quotes from participants:

It was amazing how quickly we were able to become comfortable with each other during our activity.
This experience was a wonderful way to try something I never would have ordinarily done in a safe space with like - minded women. 
Being part of Feminist & Fractals has helped me to feel a greater connection with Hamilton's community of badass women.
I loved Feminists & Fractals! A mystery activity where I met awesome women--what's not to like? After the week, I felt a better sense of community in the city I live in and a stronger desire to connect with music thanks to the singing lesson I participated in. I left feeling I was less alone.
I run into so many feminists of all ages who feel isolated. Feminists and Fractals was an easy way to remove those barriers and have feminists break that bubble and have low key hang outs.
Feminist & Fractals was the perfect opportunity to do something I love, while meeting amazing women in my community. It was a fantastic evening full of joy, learning, and empowerment. This experience has set a standard for women's events in the Hamilton community - it was such a unique opportunity and I am thrilled to have been a part of it! 

My third conclusion is that this could and should be bigger and better next year. For me, the key area of improvement - especially if we'd like to scale it up - is the organizational component. Participants seemed to really enjoy the registration survey, but I think a few key questions could be added to help categorize interests in order to make groups and assign activities more efficiently. I would also start speaking with potential activity hosts well before the group and activity assignments were finalized. We missed out on a few really neat activity opportunities because there wasn't enough time. More hands to help is also something I will try to work on well ahead of time next year!

Another key area for improvement is in communication. The event was a bit unconventional and feedback showed that it could have been more carefully and fully explained. There was a trend of no-shows throughout the week, which is both completely understandable and possibly fixable with better communication.

Other feedback from participants:

There were some super cool activities that I think I would have liked even better if I had had a chance to choose.
Was sad to miss the picnic. So maybe offer a few different large/full group activities on the weekend?
Maybe something at the beginning to bring people together.
I hope I'll be able to follow up with the discussion at some point.
Contact each other by email before activity? Might be less intimidating to do intros before & perhaps attendance might be better.  

The last conclusion is that F&F could be better with funding. And on this point, I'll admit that I'm still working through possible solutions. There were some expenses that I took on (not many) and even more opportunities for activities I opted not to pursue because they were over the $20 maximum possible cost I set for participants. With the benefit of a sponsorship or perhaps a registration fee across all participants, we could have more flexibility to go for a really neat activity booking or do more outreach.

I'd love your opinion on all of this, feel free to get in touch! If you didn't get to offer your feedback yet, or have additional thoughts after reading this summary, the survey is still open here or you can email me. I'm also happy to speak with anyone hoping to run something similar in their own community.

Next Steps

There were a few folks at the Sunday picnic who liked the idea of a private Facebook group for Broad Conversations, so I have created one here. Based on their suggestions, I envision this as a place for ongoing conversation, camaraderie, and commiseration, with a healthy dose of cute animal pics.

The feedback from F&F week also illustrated how important social connection is to building a feminist movement. So, I am hoping to build more social gatherings into the upcoming year of Broad Convos programming, in addition to the original conversation-based gatherings, which will continue. As a test, I'm going to run two social gatherings this fall - a hike and a silent book club - and we'll see how they go. These will complement Broad Convos 3 (topic TBC). For dates and details, check out the gatherings page.

 

Thank you everyone for being so wonderfully supportive and willing to try something new. I hope that together we can build a community where we can fight oppression while addressing our own loneliness, where we can learn without feeling stupid, and where we can meet new friends and allies. This is something I've started, but I want Broad Convos to be something we own together. If this resonates with you and you'd like to be more involved, please get in touch