6 "Learning Experiences" from the Uplift process
In any given room, Uplifters may not have the most academic degrees, years of experience, or published papers, but let’s get something straight: Our action is rooted in love for this place, sacred rage regarding the threats, and a need to protect our communities. We don’t know everything, but living here teaches us enough to start.
When I tell people about Uplift, often they’re interested in outcomes. They want to know: How many people did you reach? What have you accomplished? I cringe at the implication of "deliverables." Because as I’ve come to appreciate, the process is often one of the best parts.
Uplift began with little more than the idea of shaping conservation by “doing something” with young people. At the first Uplift planning retreat in fall of 2014, we took markers to oversized blank pages and combined our visions to put on the inaugural Uplift gathering in April 2015. Almost 100 people showed up! The discussion of conservation as it pertains to young desert dwellers on the Colorado Plateau impressed our sponsors enough to make them invest in Uplift again, and now we're honing in on climate change and the need for enhanced collaboration across the region. Uplift is growing!
But it's not always an easy ride. Along the way, our Uplift organizers (a dynamic and mostly volunteer team) have had some pretty hilarious moments. In the name of transparency, we want to share them with you.
Check out six moments we affectionately call "learning experiences" from the Uplift organizing process:
1. One of our team members has moved a grand total of 6 times since November. We're talking big, interstate moves. It's the perfect illustration of why our demographic is hard to organize. Young people are transient! Life happens. And we've got a lot of it unfolding.
When we’re moving around and working crazy hours at our day jobs, staying connected means…
2. Using Slack to stay in touch. So. Many. Messages. To be exact, we've sent 2.9K since November. Current emoji totals unknown.
3. We’re trying to get hip with the times and reach out to more people through social media. But sometimes, that doesn’t go so well…like when we had trouble getting Facebook to display the right time zone for an event.
4. We brought Uplift on the road! Which was a success overall, but some meetings looked like this for a while…which taught us we had to up our communication and collaboration with partners on the ground.
Community organizing happens by building relationships, one conversation at a time. Listen in on the conversation in Moab.
5. Conference calls. These can be productive. Or, they can be ridiculous. A favorite moment of mine was when Brooke and I were calling in from the BLM offices in Salt Lake City, another organizer from rural Maine, and one team member took the call from a noisy coffee shop in Flagstaff. Midway through giving an update on the program, she yelped “Biscotti! In my coffee! I just dropped my biscotti in my coffee!” Typical conference call. If you haven’t seen this spoof, watch it. It’s too real.
So, why is it worth it?
Growing Uplift to where it is now has taken years, sweat, and a few tears along the way. But we’re honoring the process of Uplift by sticking with it, even when things don’t turn out exactly perfect because we still believe that “doing something” is the best place to start. Take the first step by joining us this August 18-20 in Durango! Don't forget your sass.