Celebrating Connecting California 2012 - Women's Foundation California
Aurea Montes-Rodriguez

“I didn’t realize that I needed a space like this, a space where I could meet other women working on social justice. I now feel that the transformation that must happen can be sustained.”

Aurea Montes
Community Coalition

What a wonderful ride! While our conference, Connecting California 2012, is over, we’re optimistic that the ideas that were shared and relationships that were made will continue to move through our work and lives. The Hotel Maya in Long Beach provided a lovely venue for discussions and rejuvenation. In the early evenings, we even saw pelicans dive for fish!

For three days, we discussed critical issues that affect our state. We talked about the California budget, the 21st century non-profit and the power of stories to bridge divides between people and issues.

We discussed civic engagement, leadership transitions, and even fabulous flops. Rinku Sen delivered an inspiring and rousing keynote. She told us to be explicit, even when it’s hard. “If you can’t say it, you can’t solve it,” she said. She also encouraged us to embrace the idea that real vision and real innovation come from crazy ideas. She called upon us to be brave, and willing to face resistance to our ideas.

In sessions on the 21st century non-profit, we explored the structures we use for our work, and left with many questions and areas we must explore. Will we embrace social enterprises? Will we encourage more volunteering? Will we share leadership in a different way?

When we talked about the California budget, a document that is more than numbers, but a living reflection of our values, we heard Betty Yee call for bold, innovative revenue solutions. (This video gives you some idea of the ideas she shared at our conference).

Maureen Ford, co-author of Life Moments for Women: 100+ Extraordinary California Women Share Turning Points in Their Lives, held a storytelling workshop that moved participants to the core. People laughed and cried as they wrote and shared stories. “It was better than an Oprah Winfrey marathon, and believe me, I watch them,” said Agnes Uboma, one of our staff.

Judy, our CEO, moved us with a call for transformation. She said if we want to create a California where all women and families are economically secure, we’ll have to take risks. Risks like being willing to abandon strategies that are no longer working; engage in conversations with people who are very different from us; face our shortcomings, which  might mean getting help, or fixing the problems.  And we’ll have to be willing to stay still. To take a very deep pause.

Mary Ignatius, with Parent Voices, talked about their organization’s work of bringing mothers together, helping them to build relationships, courage and self-esteem. They learn to advocate for themselves and their children. “These mothers are already leaders,” Mary said. We just need to help them tell themselves that . . .”

I think many of us left the conference refueled, eager to reach out and share both what we learned and re-conceived. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share more with you about the ideas and images that emerged from the conference.

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