Personal Reflection on IVAW/CivSol Convention 2012
IVAW/CivSol Convention 2012
The convention committee had a lot on their minds moving into this year’s process. Thanks to Bryan Reinholdt who (for a couple years now) has held it down for the convention committee and he’s given a lot to make our annual gatherings happen.
After delays and setbacks earlier in the summer we had to choose a convention time and space in a mindset that wasn’t ideal. We were under pressure, we were hurried, and we knew it had to happen before the holiday season and the end of the year. Conflicts with the Women’s Committee and Afghanistan Vet gatherings made planning even more difficult. With a lack of chapter capacity in most places and no clear group willing to take on convention planning, we had a lot to figure out.
Luckily, Anna and Sergio of CivSol-Baltimore made a proposal to bring the convention there and they also took on much of the work to make it happen. Yeah Sergio, Anna, and the rest of the folks who put in a lot of hours and hard work! Thanks to you we held a successful convention on a really tight budget despite some clear obstacles.
It’s important to mention, along with other struggles and barriers, that Hurricane Sandy took its toll. Stranding at least one member who intended to attend and holding up two crucial staff members, Jose and Selena, from being able to attend convention from the onset and causing other members to have to drive after cancelled flights. It was a heavy choice to go on with convention after such a serious storm and I send my thoughts to those who continue to struggle in the aftermath of Sandy. If you’ve been hit by the storm and are still reading this please share ways we as a community can help.
Along with the pressure to hold convention we have been in a tight financial situation for the past couple of years. With Amadee’s tireless work as the Development Director and appeals associated with Operation Recovery and the NATO action we have gone a long way towards keeping IVAW financially viable.
Unfortunately at this time it’s become overwhelmingly clear that our name Iraq Veterans Against the War is holding us back. By my estimates our name has hurt us the most in outreach to new members who respond by saying they didn’t serve in Iraq or ask what are we doing still since the war in Iraq is over. When our current name alienates a large portion of our intended constituency and members then it is a no-brainer that we need to come up with something better. Together.
Second, and nearly as important, our name IVAW has prevented us from gaining the financial support needed to grow as an organization with a variety of areas for members to get involved. A name that is fully open to all our members and one that does not alienate potential supporters will give us much more capacity and freedom to be the kind of community we seek to be and to do the kind of work that is meaningful to our members.
Some think that IVAW has fulfilled its greatest mission with Winter Soldier and other powerful work that occurred from 2005-2008. Some folks think IVAW should be allowed to wither and become a club of something that used to be. These people think that Afghanistan vets, drone vets, war resisters, and other GWOT vets and service members as well as those Iraq veterans who are still here working for social justice in the face of militarism¾we should create a new organization, outside of IVAW.
I say that I am IVAW. I have been here for 5 years working, and building, and struggling. I started stepping up as a chapter leader, then I joined the Operation Recovery campaign team, later I became the media messaging team leader¾all as a volunteer. I learned through my studies of social justice and my experience with IVAW that leadership development is the only way to grow, to build more power, and to be the kind of community we say we are¾ one that believes in collective liberation, collective knowledge, and one that works for justice.
For the past year and a half I have been honored and am grateful to make a modest living doing this work I believe in. I truly want to be a part of building us all up as powerful leaders who are able to take on the issues we seek to address in our society. I want to support with skill-shares, getting resources to local efforts, and helping with the planning and logistics of gathering that members can’t always do on their own.
I have no personal agenda except that I know we can do more together than we can ever hope to do individually and so I have a stake in bringing people, groups, and chapters together to work for a common cause, I have a stake in connecting with other organizations who can be our partners in social progress, and I have a stake in thinking strategically. I am excited to work on whatever issues our membership is inspired to work on and those issues that will make meaningful differences in our lives, whatever we decide those are.
At convention in Baltimore, a leader or an emerging-leader interviewed almost every member who attended. The 1 on 1 process was to find out what issues members think are most important, what barriers there are to our work, how members want to get involved, and what kind of support they need. Moving forward we will be building a volunteer member coordinator and organizer program for people who want to get more involved in a more in-depth way, giving 5 to 20 hours per week (set by the individuals themselves) to IVAW as a leader who helps organize local events, keeps communication between chapter and “national” staff/board, and brings forward the ideas of the local/chapter members to the strategy committee, staff, and planning groups.
Members who don’t have 5 hours per week or don’t want to organize or work in a leadership development framework are welcome to get involved in other ways such as: holding art and or healing spaces individually or in conjunction with other events, hosting retreats of any kind, organizing local or work area projects, writing blogs on the IVAW website, using the IVAW member forum and Facebook page for discussions, coordinating, and networking.
There is so much really incredible work that members are involved in across the country and using community spaces to share those projects is really valuable. Whether it is art, music, writing, organizing, farming, tattooing, or anything else, we prosper as a community by sharing those things with one another.
Moving forward from this powerful convention we have some decisions to make. What will we do with the information from the straw poll around the name change? 29 people at convention want to move forward with building a team who can 1. Develop a process to decide if we should change our name 2. Develop process on how we consider and vote on a final name. This is an important factor: our current name, IVAW, will be included in the potential names considered; yet 4 people want to block this process from going forward.
We will have to struggle to move through this and ensure that a small portion of the organization cannot stop the will of the majority of active membership. We should avoid, for the sake of this organization, being divisive, tearing each other down, and tearing this organization down. I have high hopes that we can come through this together valuing all the voices and the needs of the community and moving towards what is best for the future of our organization.
There is also the matter of the Values, Vision, and Mission. If those are to be the guiding principals of how we make strategic organizational decisions then it is important that we get it right. My hopes around this process are that those who have a hard time agreeing with what has been developed or trusting final edits to the strategy team, will join or continue to work with the team not only to make sure their individual voices are reflected but more importantly to make sure that those documents are a reflection of our collective values and will.
Finally, reflecting on the convention as a whole I feel inspired. To see new members who came out of Fort Hood, or from organizers who had seen Fort Hood as their training ground, to see new members from Colorado, and the Bay Area along with their kick-ass CivSol chapters, to ask for help with 1 on 1 interviews and have everyone we asked do more than we asked them to do, all of the people that I met and conversations I had at convention this year made me absolutely sure that we are not ready to be a dying organization.
We are not ready to stop holding organizer trainings in favor of reunions, we are not ready to give up on our big dreams for social change, we are not ready to stop working for the fear that some may become leaders while others choose not to come along. This community is the place where we will fulfill those dreams. IVAW has a big and mighty future still ahead and I am so proud to be moving forward with all of you sisters and brothers. IVAW/CivSol Convention 2012
PS. Anyone with an IVAW account can post a "blog" publicly on our website or a "discussion" privately in the member portion of our website. You can also post an "event" all by going under the "create" tab on our home page. You can share a blog or an event on a veriety of social networks including facebook and twitter. Discussions are private to IVAW member access. If you are a member without online access just click "Apply" as if you were becoming a new member. After you share your information (even if you are already a mamber) Selena and Bryan can approve you for online access. So please share your point of view! This was just mine.