Report date
November 2022
Learning Log

These 18 months within the Fellowship have been a gift in so many ways.

At the beginning of this journey, I talked and wrote often about the transformational effect of receiving an unprecedented amount of agency over my time and attention that the Fellowship allowed. With the award, I took a leave from my full-time work as an organizer and enrolled in the Master of Public Affairs program at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School. The applied design of the program meant new tools and frameworks with which to understand and pursue change-making.

Through my Adaptive Leadership and Qualitative Research Methods coursework, I built new skills on my ten-year foundation of training and work in community organizing and collective action. Space from the day-to-day work provided new perspectives from which I assessed my experiences and roles with/in the institutions and networks I engaged. These assessments helped me to craft narratives which helped me to communicate with those in my community that which I felt we could try differently.

What I proposed was related to some of my core values as a leader: hospitality, intentionality, training and orientation, trust, and connection. I shared a vision of creating a recruitment and training program to help new organizers learn about and integrate into the system of progressive change-making while encouraging agency over tactics, informed by their unique lived experiences. The proposal was received with enthusiasm, and I set to work building a new program and raising money to fund it. By identifying what was not working, creating a vision for change, and sharing it with those in positions of influence, a new role developed adjacent to the originating system. It became an opportunity to synthesize all the information and lessons learned in the preceding ten years and to design a solution distinctively suited to the needs of my community.

I tried on new roles – “director,” “teacher,” “manager” – and learned much about myself and what each role requires. I designed a training to endow a cohort of new organizers with what I considered to be the necessary knowledge and tools to engage in the work. I led the program with the values that inspired it centering communication, trust, and encouragement to try things differently. In it’s inaugural year, the program was a success and continues to make returns for those who believed and invested in the vision.

Building this program, I tested the limits of my social capital. While I was confident in my perspectives and abilities, I was delightfully surprised to learn how many others were, as well. And it absolutely took a village to create, and I found great joy in collaboration. While perhaps circumstantial as it was the pilot year, an important thing I learned about my leadership is that I can default to going it alone. I am in awe of the ways people willingly and generously stepped in to support the work when I expressed need, and I want to practice inviting people in to help before points of intense challenge.

Eight weeks ago, I took a leap. After 31 years (the entirety of my life) of living in North Dakota I made a move to Minneapolis to complete my MPA coursework in person at the Humphrey School. This has been a long-held dream. To no longer allow the fear of the unknown nor commitment to the known keep me from making this investment in my personal and professional growth is significant. Even though one of my dominant characteristics is my love of learning, to prioritize this much time, energy, attention, and monetary resources on continuing my education felt indulgent. Rather, it is necessary and expansive.

I’ve left my comfort zone and entered a new growth zone. This new environment (domestic, geographic, professional, emotional, educational, etc.) provides ample opportunity to examine patterns of thought and behavior and welcome in new ways of thinking and being. I am evolving. I am learning about myself, the systems in which I live, and the people with whom I am in all types of relationship. I am grateful for this chance to grow, the opportunities to lead and learn, and these chances to reflect on the journey.

Thank you to the Bush Foundation and all my best to our fellow Fellows.