Regional Conference from a RESULTS Partner’s Perspective

November 3, 2009
by Deanna Roberts-Blair, Indiana RESULTS Partner

The story of the regional conference began during June’s International Conference and became a reality in Indianapolis on October 24. It was great to see our partners at the International Conference as several activists lamented absent friends and fellow activists and batted around ideas about how we can improve our efforts. The idea of having a conference closer to home in the hopes of enabling others to come emerged and everyone agreed and went right to work.

We began the conference on Friday night at Donatos Pizza with a session on storytelling by local minister Wyatt Watkins. He went through several elements of storytelling, and told us compelling and powerful stories. Specifically, he focused on the story of Mark Kwadwo (as told by Jane Daley Gamble) as an example of a powerful story which illustrated one of our successful campaigns. He also told us a story of his own which brought the tragedy of HIV/AIDS close to home.

The next morning, more activists arrived from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Wisconsin and met at Starbuck’s Coffee where hugs and pictures were exchanged. Keith Wilhelmi from Louisville’s Health Care Canoe was an instant hit! From there, we moved to Trinity Church where Justin Ohlemiller from Representative Carson’s office discussed successful ways of getting our messages to elected officials. Robby Gelhausen Slaughter gave a presentation during lunch at Union Jack’s Pub about online social networking and how it can be used to pass along our stories. He was able to offer advice to everyone from the most seasoned cyberspace pro to those of us who are new to the social networking scene (I must sheepishly raise my hand on that last one).

We returned to the church where and board members like Chicago activist Cindy Changyit Levin led a workshop on role-playing scenarios with elected officials. We worked through several situations that might occur with congressional staff. Skills were practiced and laughter rang through the church. Our friends Lucy Clarke and Walter Martiny from Fort Wayne were totally and completely awesome and rocked the house!

Kevin Morgan from the Indianapolis Star newspaper facilitated a discussion on working with print media. He reiterated that our policy of “polite persistence” with the media is truly the best way to reach out to media staff and editors. His talk eased some of my personal frustrations with reaching out to certain media outlets on issues that aren’t considered popular right now in the media community.

We ended by telling our own stories of work, frustrations and triumphs. We were all moved and energized by the enthusiasm of our fellow activists. I personally was amazed at what some were able to achieve with a small group of partners. It helped me vow to stop whining and start working!

We bounced around ideas for another conference next year as we cleaned up and said our goodbyes. Thus the story continues.

If you have a story or an experience you would like to share, please feel free to tell us by leaving us a comment!

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