By Brian Rawson
Happy World Food Day! Oxfam Action Corps are planning many great activities to celebrate this moment (see previous post). For me, I'm still on a high from last Sunday morning when 40 San Francisco Bay Area Oxfam supporters assembled for a one-day training organized by the Oxfam Action Corps. Attendees participated in workshops on Oxfam, the Green Climate Fund, lobbying, public outreach and event organizing. They committed to further actions with Oxfam this year, including a lobby visit, a regional people’s climate march, and live-tweeting about the Green Climate Fund.
|These good folks #WillFightForFood|
Attendees came from a wonderfully broad range of ages and backgrounds, including, for example, an international human rights lawyer, a monitor of California's carbon market registry, and a former Peace Corps volunteer who served in the late 1960s in Nigeria. The former president of a teacher’s union, Betty, said “Now that I am retired I attend 4 or 5 concerts every week. This training was great! Now I’m excited to hold an Oxfam Jam.” (Photos: Brian Rawson)
The entire training was organized and run by Oxfam volunteers Chris Sanderson, Desiree Thayer, and Jessica Lettween. In their 'day jobs' they are a facilities manager for a major tech company, a cancer scientist, and a mom-activist, respectively. They have a combined total of 15 years volunteering with Oxfam America. The kicker? They managed to organize it entirely on donations. What about the delicious lunch of vegetarian lasagna, salad, and veggie wraps, the flip charts and supplies? Donated. The beautiful venue at St. Anthony Foundation, complete with technical support? Donated. Even their planning headquarters was Chris’ tech company’s office after hours in a prime location in downtown San Francisco.
|The agenda was based on a road-tested template developed by Community Engagement’s Oxfam Action Corps program.|
In Community Enagement our goal is to create Oxfam leaders, "brand ambassadors," who are committed to mobilizing their community to support Oxfam. At the training, Jessica spoke to why she remains a volunteer organizer with Oxfam “It speaks to my values. In Oxfam work I find a like-minded community.” Desiree spoke about why she, in her words, “keeps coming back” to volunteer with Oxfam. She noted that when her mother passed away in recent years, “I became aware of my own mortality and reflected on what really matters to me.”
Desiree convenes a planning session on alliances and formats for International Women's Day event in March 2016.
Jessica introduces herself as one of the 10 'inspiring moms' that Oxfam blogged about for International Women's Day 2015.
We are powered by people. Our local brand ambassadors and grassroots advocates multiply Oxfam's reach through face-to-face connections that set us apart from the crowded field of online causes. As for the new recruits attending the Oxfam training for the first time, the volunteer enthusiasm seemed to speak for itself. Said John, the returned Peace Corps volunteer: “I volunteer with a local organization, and I donate to Doctors Without Borders, but when I heard about this training I looked into Oxfam. On your website I saw that you do everything! So I decided to come to learn more.”
Rori, the carbon market monitor who also volunteers with Oxfam at concerts said “I keep trying to figure out how I can connect the work of my employer [a major foundation] to what Oxfam is doing. I’d like to talk more about how we can make that happen.”
Chris Sanderson of Action Corps (in Oxfam T) and Chris Mortweet, a CHANGE Leader (with beard) lead a breakout on lobbying Congress. “Oxfam is core to my being. It’s my go-to charity for prioritizing how to make the world a better place," explained Mortweet, a former state senate staffer and Oxfam CHANGE leader.
Concert outreach superstar Julie Gengo co-leads a breakout session on public outreach.
As extraordinary as this was for volunteers to lead a training based entirely on donations it's not uncommon. Constituent-driven action is the norm across Oxfam's community outreach programs. Nationwide, Oxfam Action Corps teams in 14 US cities hold hundreds of events, public outreach tables, and member planning meetings each year. In times of constrained resources we rely evermore on the creative resourcefulness of our most dedicated supporters. But even more importantly, we believe that face-to-face contact is among the most effective and powerful ways to energize and expand our base of support for global food and climate justice, and make Oxfam stand out among a crowded field of online causes. Our promise to our volunteers is that they get as much reward out of their involvement as they give to Oxfam.
Smart ideas. The power of people. Resourcefulness. And strategic action. It’s hard to imagine a better way to spend a sunny Sunday in San Francisco!