Part 2: Connecting with the Team
On Friday evening and through Saturday, I had the great good fortune to spend quality time with our committed and tireless staff. A relatively small group of people working extraordinary hours with energy the origins of which are hard to trace, all to make sure this work of getting citizens to Capitol Hill can be accomplished. Sorting through handouts, filling folders, making name tags, coordinating the calendar of events, and facing the merciless but vital chore of getting volunteers’ schedules for Hill meetings worked out, so we can maximize our impact, were the work of those last hours.
At the first annual pre-conference “staff retreat”, we shared personal stories and the deep emotional significance of being able to do this work and be part of this team. It was the first of many moments throughout the week that would make clear that this effort is being pulled together by a real family of friends, not just a group of co-workers and volunteers.
By Saturday afternoon, volunteers began arriving. By evening, they started to pour in, making various informal gatherings and dinners possible. People who had worked together across a continent, often not having previously met in person, were in the same space, and energized to be with the people they have come to know as their team, and as friends. Volunteers joined the staff in the preparation of materials.
It is not a small thing to see the passion with which people want to get down to work, even doing the most mundane tasks related to bringing this historic effort together. Never before have so many citizens come together for the purpose of building relationships with members of Congress and their staff, around the climate-smart legislation.
By Sunday morning, everything was the welcoming of eager newcomers and the emotional embrace of old friends. Group leaders joined together in a meeting to focus on both the psychology and the practical stresses of organizing volunteers, and the staff and interns made final preparations for the afternoon’s big events: the largest ever Citizens’ Climate Lobby Group Start Training Workshop, with Mark Reynolds, and the 3-hour State Strategy Sessions, where group leaders and key volunteers worked to coordinate their activities state by state.
For those of us who have been to all five conferences, Sunday evening’s dinner hour was a special treat: it was possible to see old friends and talk to people who are newly inspired by their commitment to Citizens’ Climate Lobby. With nearly 600 people already present, each dinner at one of the many restaurants across the street was an established team, a new social circle, a group of citizens toasting to the opportunity to work together for such an important cause. For me, the opportunity to greet, embrace and catch up with so many friends, all in one place, was the best birthday gift I could have asked for.
That we don’t have to do this work alone—struggling against the overpowering tides of doubt, misinformation and ideological division—that we can work with this vast team, provides an emotional energy that is ultimately what makes the whole project possible.
As we began the work of honing our organizational strategy, building new project teams and state strategies, it was this sense of an irrepressible collaborative energy that, for me, defined the day and set the stage for the rest of our work throughout the week.
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Reclaiming Citizenship on Capitol Hill
2014 CCL Conference Diary
- Part 1: The Road to Citizen Empowerment
- Part 2: Connecting with the Team
- Part 3: 7,200 Hours of Education for Principled Civics
- Part 4: 600 Citizen Volunteers on Capitol Hill
- Part 5: The Full Week and Takeaways
More about the 2014 Citizens’ Climate Lobby Conference