Organizational Partnerships & Organic Harmony

CL-LLJ Fellows and I, post rock climbing exercise.
CL-LLJ Fellows and I, after a rock climbing exercise.

Partnerships.
Quite organically this word has come to capture much of what I have observed and experienced throughout the month of October, living and working in Delhi.

Or,
Respectful Exchanges.
Perhaps this phrase is better since these experiences were not just about joining together for a particular mission. Some of these exchanges were simply acknowledging and sharing our common humanity.

Candid Moments of the DC-2
Candid Moments of the DC-2

Earlier in October I had the opportunity to prepare some presentations and participate in some partnership meetings for the Changelooms: Learning and Leadership Journey (CL-LLJ) program and the unManifesto campaign. CL-LLJ is a yearlong fellowship that trains and supports young social entrepreneurs. unManifesto is a national coalition amongst leading NGO to support youth in ongoing proactive political involvement, including the development of a manifesto to be presented to political leaders. In both of these meetings I was impressed with the relationships that preceded these partnerships.

So, what do these partnership meetings look like? Well, sometimes, it all starts in a conference room. Then, the tables and chairs are removed. Mats cover the floors and then seating cushions are placed. It becomes a very intentional relational space, a community of partners that includes many grassroots leaders from across the country. One-on-one conversations occur, small groups cluster – organically. Both personal relationships and formal organizations are being nurtured in these exchanges before the formal introductions and the presentation begin. Our team’s presentation is not followed by just an open Q & A session, but also contains a very inclusive roundtable, where everyone in attendance is asked to respond to some form of the question, “At this time, how will you engage in this common vision?” It may read as a qualitative exercise, but in a very organic and relational way, numbers are attached to the self-reports. One partner (organization) has committed to develop 5 youth facilitators in the coming year, while another partner plans to provide 8-10 recommendations for the next cohort of CL-LLJ Fellows. Discussions are held, as individuals need clarification on the roles, and individuals are assured, as needed, that they needn’t take a decision immediately.
This entire process, this meeting, reflects an excellent intersection of macro- and micro-level social justice practice.

Most recently I have been immersed in these ideas of partnership, respect and exchange via the CL-LLJ Development Center – 2 (DC-2) which is a four-day training and exploration for the CL-LLJ Fellows. The anchors (and co-anchors) of the 2013-2014 CL-LLJ Fellows gather to engage both self-awareness exercises and organizational development processes. Having read their applications and profiles in weeks past, I was already excited by their work; but the addition of meeting each of these youth in person added many more dimensions, and much more excitement.

Their passion, fueled by personal experiences, is a common thread in this diverse cohort of youth leaders. There is Yamini of Safe City Pledge, a Blank Noise initiative in New Delhi, who lights up a space with her resilient patience, reflective honesty, and creative presence. There is Sandeep of Bharat Calling, who is gifted in timely amusements and intelligent commentary. There is MiMi of InSIDE NorthEast who exudes a strength and determination that – without saying so explicitly – are likely garnered from her faith and her family. And, there are many more…and, through the session-packed days they – we – develop deeper bonds, both as colleagues and as friends.
I probably spoke one too many times about how inspired I was by the “Changeloomers”, because – more than once – I was asked if, or when, I would start my own initiative in the United States. I chuckle in response, re-steer the conversation, but I am challenged by this direct question…

 

Jamavda: Gender Mela
Jamaavda: Gender Mela

The day prior to the DC-2, the CL-LLJ Fellows (in partnership with Pravah and CYC) held an advocacy event: “Jamaavda: A Gender Mela”, where youth interests groups working on Gender Based Violence showcased their work & all attendees participated in a learning workshop and panel discussion. From the panel of Sanjay Srivastava (Professor of Sociology at Delhi University), Satish Kumar Singh (Centre for Health and Social Justice), and Pramada Menon (CREA), came deliberations such as (a) the prevalence of male-headed rural NGOs working on gender issues, but regard GBV as a task of the “women’s organizations” (b) the need to look at institutions and nut just individuals being involved in this work, as well as (c) how do we move from competition to collaboration, the normalizing of collaborative leadership between like-minded organizations.

 

Again, in this space, I was learning about the high necessity of respectful exchanges and partnerships. In these various gathering and meetings, sometimes the process has not been so linear, and sometimes the intensity of the communal decision-making and discussion frustrates my sense of independence and time.  However, I cannot help but to appreciate each of these assemblies, as it reminds me of the African Proverb:
“If you want to run fast, run alone. If you want to run far, run together.”

Rorujorona first developed a passion for educational justice as a high school student, desiring to develop better curriculums and programs in mathematics education. As an undergraduate student at Michigan, her interests evolved into international social justice, after multiple experiences abroad as a student researcher and volunteer in Austria, Peru, the UK, and India. Rorujorona was part of a research team in Chennai, studying the intersections and differences of the social justice narratives of race in the United States and India. In addition to meeting with and interviewing several local Dalit activists, she presented her narrative at a local conference in Chennai.



Upon return to the US, she worked in higher education administration, supporting students in public health and regional studies, while maintaining her commitment to urban communities as a mentor and a tutor. Three years later, she returned to India, where her service focused on engaging religious minorities in Uttar Pradesh via intergroup dialogues. Her interest in serving marginalized youth populations eventually led to her pursuit of an MSW at Penn. Her fieldwork placements included providing case management services for youth and families, as well as programming and administrative services for a cultural resource center. During her graduate coursework in Mathematics Education, Rorujorona focused her studies on educational justice and access, participated in local conferences on equity, and culminated her studies in a final project that addressed cultural competency in mathematics education. In the midst of her graduate studies, she further engaged her passion for service in India through intensive studies of Tamil and Hindi.



Since completing her graduate studies, Rorujorona has enjoyed serving local communities in the dual roles of educator and social worker, mentoring and advising many marginalized student populations, including those with learning differences, physical challenges and social tensions. During this past year, her time was divided between teaching and mentoring secondary students, aiding in local political campaigns, and serving the community as a member of the Los Angeles Urban League Young Professionals. Outside of the professional arena, Rorujorona enjoys event planning, bowling, socializing with friends, and volunteering.

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