Making time for Learning Opportunities

As I leave sunny San Francisco after several days of conferencing, I can’t help but reflect on the high-energy, jam-packed days just behind me. I spent a day last week with the Craigslist Foundation at their Boot Camp held on the campus of UC Berkeley and then attended the National Conference on Volunteering and Service.

I want to focus on Boot Camp though. The best way to describe Boot camp? Young, cutting-edge and completely relevant – especially to the young nonprofit professional. I was worried as I hiked up the (very steep) hill to the MLK Student Union that this would be like every other conference. I would mildly enjoy a speaker or two and yawn as all of the sessions used beginner language like I just enrolled in my first 403(b). Craigslist, as you know, is the ubiquitous web portal allowing you to sell your old couch, give away used moving boxes or meet that special someone who you know has to be “out there” somewhere! They basically want to connect people to other people for what they need.

Their Foundation does something similar, it helps people connect to other people to help those in need. The conference featured all-stars including Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post, Randi Zuckerberg of Facebook and Craig Newmark, the Craig of Craig’s List, himself. Yet, the power in the conference wasn’t necessarily in the heavy-hitters; it was the top-notch quality of the workshops. I listened to representatives from the leading technology companies, including YouTube, talk about the newest initiatives in nonprofit technology – open source content management systems with contact management abilities, take action links on uploaded video and ways to drive people to mobilize based on issues written about in a blog! I couldn’t write fast enough. Ironically, I felt like I should have been typing, texting or tweeting instead of putting pen to paper in my trusty notebook! The second session was led by none other than Shirley Sagawa, the “mother of AmeriCorps” talking about charismatic organizations. She recently co-wrote a book with Deborah Jospin (who was also presenting) aptly named The Charismatic Organization. This wasn’t just my second session, it was like a second birth. I found myself whispering “YES” to the odd stares of my fellow attendees.
The Charismatic Organization
On my agenda for when I return home is to purchase The Charismatic Organization – maybe on iTunes so I can redeem myself for the old-school notebook faux-pas. Looking toward the future of implementing all the great ideas I had learned so far, I made sure to choose as my last session of the day a workshop on personal burnout! Sylvia Warren from Simply the Best Coaching took us through breathing exercises, daily time management and personal philosophy. Not being a “touchy-feely” person, I immediately cringed…until I didn’t. What she said made sense and her presentation style didn’t allow for doubters in the room. She dared me to contradict her, to roll my eyes, to scoff – the typical immature response to something new and outside the box. Instead, I wrote down every word she said and intend to put them into action when I return to my desk. Perhaps I had matured! Wrapping up the day was a panel presentation focusing on service, technology and activism with experts from the field. I know…yawn, right? Hands down, this was the best panel I’ve ever sat through! In fact, it was recorded and you can listen to it at your desk while you work once they post it. Honestly, it’s worth it.

Being responsible for training for Campus Compact in Michigan, I take very seriously the financial hardships that are facing our higher education institutions and nonprofits in the state – especially around professional development dollars. With that in mind, I wholeheartedly encourage you to find your way to the next Craigslist Foundation Boot camp. If you can find one of their events that is closer to home than I did, you can rest easy knowing the registration fee is a mere $75.

As my colleague and I looked for the nearest cable car for the ride home, I let out a deep breath and asked her if we could have Rice-a-Roni for dinner. Hey, I didn’t say I’d stay mature for long.
Note: This post is authored by guest blogger Ryan Fewins Ryan has served as Assistant Director for Training and Technical Assistance at Michigan Campus Compact since 2006. Prior to joining the Campus Compact team, Ryan served as an advocate of service at Saginaw Valley State University’s Student Life Center as Assistant Director and at Central Michigan University’s Volunteer Center as the Graduate Assistant. Hailing from northern Michigan, Ryan received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Central Michigan University in Integrative Public Relations and Educational Administration and Community Leadership respectively.

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4 Responses

  1. Some good thoughts here, Ryan! Like you, I cringe at “touchy-feely” approaches, but Ms. Warren’s session sounds like it was more introspective than anything. It’s so important — both as a professional AND as a human being — to pause daily and think about who we are, who we’re serving, etc. … and just take a little breather. It can really heighten your self-awareness and reaffirm your commitment to your job and your stakeholders while also helping you care for yourself mentally, spiritually and, as a result, physically as well.

  2. Thanks Lindsay. I just started following Sylvia on Twitter and encourage others to do the same. Check her out at!

  3. Ryan, thanks for sharing your thoughts and reflections from Bootcamp – was glad to meet you there last week. I think in addition to all of the “heavy hitters” that you mention, there is real value in providing space for open conversations between participants. Craigslist Foundation does a great job of making this conference accessible to all.

    • Kari – you are so right! Thanks for adding that. The connections were great. Meeting many of the “regular folk” whom I follow on Twitter was fun too.

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