Switzer Fellows 2015 retreats and leadership trainings

Switzer Fellows 2015 retreats and leadership trainings

Posted by Lissa Widoff on Tuesday, November 17 2015


Lissa Widoff

The annual fall Switzer Fellows retreats concluded in early October and were enriching experiences for the new 2015 Fellows and alumni who participated. We are pleased that the ongoing relationship with Rockwood Leadership Institute continues to attract Fellow alums to the retreats, enhancing the experience for new Fellows and keeping Network connections across Fellowship years alive.  We held our New England retreat at the Warren Center in Ashland, MA, and had several alumni join for the workshop on Saturday and others join on Sunday for a hike with esteemed forest ecologist (and former Switzer Foundation Trustee and Antioch New England professor) Tom Wessels to “read the forested landscape”. In both New England and California, it was great to have many alumni attend and help us kick off this 30th anniversary year with special activities including the family-friendly Sunday hikes.

In California, our popular venue at NatureBridge in Marin Headlands (formerly called Headlands institute) allowed for beach and hillside hikes when we weren’t immersed in our trainings or networking. In addition to a reprise of the Rockwood Leadership Institute one-day Leadership training, we also held a concurrent training on race and privilege in leadership for alumni. For this, we partnered with Visions, Inc., a training group dedicated to helping organizations and individuals build awareness about systemic oppression and how to reflect on our language, thought processes and assumptions that all contribute, often unconsciously, to systemic bias and oppression. Simply put, those of us who operate within the system of white privilege often don’t notice how that very privilege can blind us to the real experience of people of color, different sexual orientation and ethnicity. Our group surfaced assumptions in our mostly “white” group and began the difficult conversations that hopefully build trust – first among ourselves and then the communities within which we work and the personal relationships we foster.  It is important work and I would love to see Switzer Fellows working across our own differences to learn and practice together.

We plan to offer this same training in Boston on Friday, March 25, 2016, and remain open to how we can further this important conversation within the Switzer Fellowship Network.  While we have many Fellows whose work embodies fighting for social and environmental justice, we ALL have a responsibility to recognize the oppressive forces that exist within our social and political systems that can be a barrier to change, as well as our own assumptions about the experiences of others. I hope that many of you can join us in March and let us know if you would like to see particular trainings or formats to move this dialogue forward within the Foundation. 


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