2013 What Works Conference Report

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Report on attending the Conference on “What Works”
Regional Meeting
Greeley, Colorado
May 22-24 2013

First of all I would like to thank Partners (Trinidad Chapter and Washington) for giving me the opportunity to attend the What Works conference in Greeley, Colorado. I considered it to be an excellent choice for my first international conference as it was going to address how the organization remained relevant and sustainable for forty nine years. As our Chapter embarks on a recruitment drive it was necessary to learn to tools that has kept the organization for this long and how it plans to remain sustainable for the future.

The conference was well organized special thanks to the Colorado-Minas Gerais Chapter who organized the conference and my home stay. My home stay hosts Bob and Laurie Guthmann took excellent care of me as I arrived a day before the conference started. I got a private tour of Greeley and went to the rail museum. They even went the extra distance to pass by during the conference to ensure that all was well.

The conference started with an informal meet and greets session. It provided an opportunity for the member partners to be introduced.   I must admit that I did not comprehend how large and connected Partners of the Americas were.

 

Presentations

 

Partners Connect by Mr Matt Clausen

Partners Connect focuses on connecting members beyond the established pairing.  Conceptually it is an intranet/internet site that pools the activities of nations so that support can be given to members who may be working on similar projects or for Chapters requiring guidance.

Matt also spoke about the need for a revamping of the user interface and updates to the site content that will allow the information presented to be easily received by visitors to the site.

Tools for Success:

The tools for success session allows for Chapter members to be divided into groups where topics were discussed.  I attended Leveraging Partners Financial & Volunteer Resources and Realizing Chapter Potential.

  1. Leveraging Partners Financial & Volunteer Resources

This was a video presentation that was done by an individual who shared his experience with the audience. His presentation focused on the challenges that one can experience while trying to accomplish a task or project and the need to persevere during the most arduous of times when the desired outcome may seem elusive.  While we all may have great ideas he reiterated, circumstances and situations don’t always make it easy.  You have to stick with it and one day you will enjoy the fruit of your labour.  I noted that even the smallest effort and diligence can yield high levels of return through success. This is the leveraging aspect of the heading.

 

  1. Realizing Chapter Potential

Working towards the improvement of the quality of life of individuals is the primary goal of Partners of Americas.  Through its member chapters and community of volunteers, we have seen tangible goals within neighbourhoods that have benefited from various creative and proactive strategies. Acknowledging and appreciating what was done before, this second group allowed members to discuss the question, what is it that you hope for your Chapter to accomplish?  While our responses were numerous and quite different, we were all able to use to a common template for responding to our answers.

  • What tools and resources were required?

  • How many volunteers were needed?

  • What were the financial requirements to achieve the goal?

Meeting Special Needs by Mr Steve Richards and Ms Alex Truesdell

 

Mr Richards belongs to the Kansas/Paraguay Chapter of Partners and Americas and he spoke about how his chapter aids in emergency preparedness. They gather fire fighting equipment including first aid kits and they are shipped to Paraguay.  The Paraguay chapter is responsible for learning to use and disseminating the equipment for distribution to other parts of the country. This to me showed how connected Kansas and Paraguay and I wondered how this could be achieved in my own Chapter.

Ms Truesdell‘s presentation focused on Adaptive Designs.  This technique is used to ensure that children with disabilities or special needs receive the customized adaptations they need to achieve their full developmental, social, and academic potential. Ms Truesdell and her team use domestic products such as paper, flour and water to create chairs and tables etc.  They focus on designing customised items that is needed to make children with special needs a little bit more comfortable.

 

Youth Engagement Panel Discussion

 

This was a discussion that highlighted projects worked on by selected member chapters.  This was a team effort as different Chapters that were involved with youth activities and initiatives gave account.

Ms Binka LeBreton of Colorado/Minas Gerais spoke about Citizen Scientist.  It is a program named Junior Scientist and it is an applied field of science offered to selected students in rural areas in Brasil.  It provides the opportunity for students to gain knowledge about their diverse environment.

Ms Dorly Piske of Wyoming/Goias her presentation was about getting university students to volunteer with making jewelry using Brazilian seed/beads that can be sold to purchase a mammogram machine for their sister Chapter as part of early detection in the fight against breast cancer.

Ms Jhani Laupus presented on Youth Ambassadors. She dealt with the exchanges where a small group of teens ages 15to 18 years are immersed language and culture of the US.

 

Bridging Cultures

This was another break out session discussing formal and informal partnerships and strategic alliances. The former looked at the relationship with Ms Iliana Diaz of the Texas/Mexico/Peru Chapter.  Ms Diaz and her team developed new relationships with agencies out of the partnership to create new alliances to achieve there objectives. Her video presentation was intense however due to time constraints it could not be completed. The later dealt with financial sustainability, this was a brain storming exercise where we stated what projects can be implemented in our Chapters. Once again we ran out of time.

 

Partners Fifty –Year Legacy

This was a video presentation on how the organization was founded. This is the link for further information. http://vimeo.com/1475375

 

Conclusion

Partners of America is truly an organisation with global reach.  Its diverse membership creates an environment of fresh ideas and can provide solutions to problems that exist today.  Through collaboration and with a common vision, miscommunication and conflicts can be reduced.  The conference strengthens this belief.  It was worthwhile and in this instance, I was able to achieve my objectives as I have gained an overview of different aspects of Partners of the Americas. I have also had useful discussions and have established a network with key persons in the organization in the area of youth development and sustainability that can be accesses when we implemented by our local Chapter.  I once again thank you for the opportunity to attend the conference.

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