Last November, Shanai & I found ourselves on a plane to Detroit as part of the Minnesota delegation to PolicyLink’s Equity Summit 2011. Our delegation of 150+ Minnesotan equity workers and advocates was the largest in attendance at the summit and we were there, in part, to learn how Works Progress can be of service to their work.
We were also there to help tell their story. How do you sum up the burning questions, deep knowledge, and incredible passion of 150 Minnesotans? Well, we still don’t know that, but we think this video is a start. More on that in a bit. Going into this project, we wanted to not only document the delegation & summit, but create situations where stories and connections could emerge between MN delegates and also among our colleagues back home via the web.
Creating connections and telling stories
One of the important outcomes of this project were the connections that it instigated. Nearly everyone from the MN delegation (and a few lucky people from other states) were given “EquityNowMN” buttons to wear - a fun way to identify & connect with one another face to face over the course of the 4 day summit. New and unexpected conversations were sparked between MN delegates this way, as well as with curious people from other states. In fact, there were so many MN delegates, and they were so visible, that there was a bit of a MN buzz going on throughout the summit.
In addition to encouraging new connections, we also tried to capture stories from the delegation in a variety of ways. We gathered stories by hand, through video interviews, on Facebook, and with Twitter. This is the kind of sentiment we heard again and again:
“I tend to subconsciously feel like I’m out there doing my own thing. Coming here, and even just at the plenary, you get filled-up with the sense of thousands of other people doing this work in so many ways. I’m not alone. I don’t have to figure it out myself.” - Mihailo Temali, Neighborhood Development Center
Storytelling, in person and on video
On the last day of the summit, attendees were treated to a performance from Rha Goddess, a spoken word artist who has been telling the stories of everyday people through her art for years. Before launching into an amazing performance of her piece “Advocates’ Anthem,” she told the audience what inspires her creative practice:
“What separates people who feel isolated and hopeless from those who feel they can make change is the ability to tap into the stories of others, and to find humanity in their own lives.” - Rha Goddess
Storytelling is something we think about a lot around here. Many of our public programs have storytelling at their core, even if that wasn’t always our intention. Telling stories through video feels like a natural extension of the face-to-face storytelling that happens at Salon Saloon, Give & Take or A Public Thing and we’re excited to have been given some great opportunities to explore this type of work in 2012. (More on that later!)
The video above is more of a prologue than anything else. Equity Summit 2011 was more than a summit, it was a catalyst for hundreds of Minnesotans with shared values and goals to come together and imagine a new way of working together. In fact, if you share this passion for a more equitable Minnesota, this is your call to get involved!
After one post-summit gathering, the delegation is opening up their meetings to those who weren’t able to attend the summit in Detroit. The first open gathering is this Thursday and Shanai and I will be there. We’re especially interested in finding other artists, designers, and story-tellers who want to get involved in messaging and communications efforts. Details below:
Thursday, January 26 from 2 to 5pm
Urban Research Outreach and Engagement Center
2001 Plymouth Ave North
Four main themes have emerged from previous gatherings: Messaging & Communications, Policy, Philanthropy and Sustainability, Civic Engagement. We’d love for you to join us as this work continues!
Video produced by Works Progresss. With Support from Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, Nexus Community Partners, Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing, and The McKnight Foundation. Writing by Maura Brown, Neeraj Mehta, Tracy Nordquist Babler, Ebony Adedayo, Colin Kloecker, and Shanai Matteson. Narration by Yolanda Cotterall. Videography and editing by Colin Kloecker. Music is "Something Elated" by Broke for Free.