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Discussion #1 Message #2


To: shlomo_m890@hotmail.com, first-network@libertynet.org
From: Michelle Ratcliff
Date: Thu, 27 Aug 1998 16:08:46
Subject: Re: NDD Set-up

Well it sure has taken me a long time to respond to this e-mail...many many apologies. I was out of town for a week attending training (not a vacation as Meredith might like to believe) and then you all know what its like to get back in the swing of things. SO I haven't ignored this discussion, I've just had it on "pause".

My responses to Shlomo's questions will be in all CAPS. And I have edited down the message.

>>> "Shlomo_m890 ..." 08/06 4:31 PM >>> Thanks Michelle! Great info! .... Anyway, things are straightened out now and it's good to finally have a chance to respond to your excellent email.

Let me first of all say that your event sounds like it was really great. WE WERE VERY PROUD OF THE RESULTS IN ST. LOUIS. You really got a cross-section of different civic groups. Outstanding. It sounds like you really took the idea and did the best with the different resources which are available in that area. It's nice to hear that we now have a presence out there! Totally fantastic. THANKS Also, about your idea to involve them in the planning, that sounds pretty good. First, as you say, it helps to make them feel a sense of ownership and wanting it to succeed. Also, bear in mind that we are still an organization "in flux" or at least in evolution. I feel that there is still a lot of flexibility for us to define the core values and principles which define us as a group, and the issues which most define what matters to us.

Finding that definition and pursuing that process can best be done in the planning stages of the NDD event. So the planning for that event, and the creation of the agenda, is just as much a part of the dialogue and even just as important as the event itself. In other words, the discussions and issues which come up in the planning may be just as significant or even more so than those in the event itself. SIMPLY STATED, YES. Again, I think the event sounds great. You really established a presence for FIRST out there. I'd like to ask you about some of the things I was hoping could be done with NDD, and maybe use some of the specific details from your event to help think concretely about how we can make some these things happen. Some of the aspects of your event sound like the most usable techniques to get a FIRST chapter started.

I'M PROBABLY GOING TO SOUND HYPOCRITICAL WHEN I SAY THIS...BUT IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO HAVE A "RECOGNIZED" FIRST CHAPTER IN YOUR AREA TO HOLD NDD. WHAT I MEAN IS...TO GET PEOPLE TO JOIN YET ANOTHER ORGANIZATION WHEN WE ARE ALREADY PRESSED FOR TIME AND ARE STRIVING FOR BALANCE IS NOT WHAT MY FOCUS IS...I FEEL THE SUCCESS OF THE GENERATIONAL ACTION PLAN IS GOING TO BE BASED ON THE STRENGTH OF THE DELIBERATIONS, THE QUALITY OF THE INFORMATION, THE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN INVOLVED-FORMALLY AND INFORMALLY- NOT BASED ON THE NUMBER OF FIRST CHAPTERS THAT HAVE BEEN STARTED. AND BESIDES MOST OF THE GUIDELINES FOR STARTING A FIRST CHAPTER HAVE TO DO WITH A UNIVERSITY ACTIVITIES OFFICE...NOT EVERY GEN X'ER IS STILL IN SCHOOL OR IN SCHOOL AT ALL. SO HOW DOES FIRST REACH OUT TO THE OTHER GEN X'ERS WHETHER THEY ARE PROFESSIONALS, WHITE COLLAR, BLUE COLLAR, ACADEMICS, PRACTITIONERS? I BELIEVE THEY DO THIS THROUGH THE DELIBERATIONS. AND THE SUCCESS OF NDD'S, RESTS ON THE VISION AND COMMUNICATION SKILLS OF THE ORGANIZERS OF THAT TOWN'S EVENT. ANYWAY I DIGRESS....

Contacting civic organizations--such as the ones you mentioned like Young Republicans, Young Democrats, St Louis 2004--is probably one of the most effective ways to start; involving those groups which represent a broad range of ordinary citizens... ... What I thought might be good is to get those groups which are on the "front lines" of the issues;

YOU MOST CERTAINLY WOULD WANT TO TARGET GROUPS WHO CAN ADD SIGNIFICANT INPUT TO WHATEVER TOPIC YOU'VE CHOSEN AS WELL AS TARGET GROUPS WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM SUCH EDUCATION...

... all you would need to make the event informative for people from more mainstream civic groups, is just a few activists to describe their experiences working in their organization (although we'd be happy to have a lot of activists).

YOU'VE LOST ME ON THIS THOUGHT =)

That would be enough to create a real exchange of views between those with direct experience of the issues, and regular citizens who are civically involved but have less direct experience with most issues. So once you have civic groups involved, I was thinking we could invite groups such as those who do social work, or youth rehabilitation. Or we could invite groups such as community police workers, teachers etc. We could also invite certain business groups here in NY which are involved in starting up new small neighborhood businesses. ABSOLUTELY...RELATES TO MY COMMENT EARLIER ABOUT TARGETING GROUPS....

So let me ask you; which groups would you feel most comfortable with having there in order to provide a direct first-hand view of how the issues are affecting real people? THE QUESTION I ASK YOU IS...IS NDD ABOUT FEELING COMFORTABLE? YOU WANT A GOOD MIX OF PEOPLE BUT I WOULDN'T EXCLUDE OR INCLUDE BASED ON WHAT MY COMFORT LEVEL MIGHT BE. I THINK YOU'VE GOT TO TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT YOUR ISSUE/TOPIC AND BRAINSTORM FROM THERE.

Which groups would you most want to hear from? Which would be the most likely, judging from where you sit and the region you live in, to really add to the discussion and make it better?

WE TARGET ANY AND ALL GROUPS THAT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH YOUNG PEOPLE, BE IT THE DOWNTOWN KIWANIS, THE JAYCEE'S, THE YOUNG DEM'S OR REP'S, THE BACHELOR'S CLUB, THE YOUNG FRIENDS OF THE ART MUSEUM...WHOMEVER

Just to give you some picture of what we were thinking of, some the groups we have here in New York are Project Renewal, Partnership for the Homeless, Streetwork Project, New York Cares, City Volunteer Corps, Education Plus, and Mentoring USA. We also have something here called Business Improvement Districts which (in spite of the misleading name) are not just geographical regions, but are actual organizations with their own staff, each geared to a different neighborhood and to uniting businesses there to provide certain important services. We also have a program called Auxiliary Police, which gets different civilians who can work part-time to help the police.

As I say, those are the New York groups I was looking at. Bear in mind that, due to the kind of place I come from, I may lean a little too heavily towards urban service kind of organizations. Maybe groups out in your area lean towards a whole other set of issues and concerns, or towards a totally different type of organization. I THINK YOU'RE LIST IS GOOD...REMEMBER YOU ARE TRYING TO GATHER INFORMATION, THOUGHTS, IDEAS TO BE FED BACK TO PHILADELPHIA TO HELP FURTHER REFINE THE GENERATIONAL ACTION PLAN...SO YOU NEED TO HAVE A NATIONAL FOCUS AS WELL AS A LOCAL FOCUS...GET YOUR PARTICIPANTS TALKING ABOUT THE BIG PICTURE FOR SAY THE FIRST HALF OF THE EVENT, THEN ENGAGE THEM IN DISCUSSION ON THE LOCAL SIDE FOR THE SECOND HALF. THIS WORKED REAL WELL FOR US AND EVERYONE LEFT ENERGIZED READY TO WORK AT IMPROVING ST. LOUIS.

Anyway, that's about it from here. . It's good to hear about an event out there, because it really helps build the organization over here. Knowing that FIRST is building as an organization out in other regions helps us draw in people over here, which is how each of our individual local efforts can build on each other and lead to the kind of exponential growth which we need if we're going to really take off as an overall organization. AND MORE IMPORANTLY THAT WE FIND SOLIDARITY AS A GENERATION and THAT OUR ISSUES ARE HEARD. IT HAS BEEN A PLEASURE RESPONDING TO YOUR QUESTIONS. THIS IS WHAT A LIST SERV IS ALL ABOUT. I'M CURIOUS TO WHAT OTHERS' EXPERIENCES HAVE BEEN. AND I LOOK FORWARD TO DISCUSSING THIS EVEN FURTHER. HAVE A GREAT GREAT DAY!

-MICHELLE
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