When she signed up for the intensive course in Creative Leadership for Social Change, three full days of training sounded like a long time to Lynette Gomez, Community Development Program Manager of SATIIM. To her pleasant surprise, the sessions were highly interactive and filled with useful exercises for creatively engaging the communities she works with. On the last day of the workshop, Lynette told the group that she hopes to participate in the 12-day certificate course in the future.
What exactly took place in this recent workshop to make it so transformative for Lynette and the other 16 field and management staff from eight marine conservation organizations gathered in Punta Gorda, Belize? Through numerous creative processes facilitated by ArtCorps Alumnae Aryeh Shell and Cherine Badawi, participants explored their purpose, leadership styles, collective visioning and movement building. At the same time, they engaged in rich dialogue about the challenges they face in conservation: overfishing of their reefs, land grabs, plastic pollution, to name a few. Through skits, role play, sculpture building, mural making, music and illustrations, the participants one by one let down their guard, and began to look at things anew, challenging assumptions and seeking fresh ways to build collective action.
The experiential nature of the curriculum called for many to step right to the very edge of their comfort zones–and it was this willingness to take risks and jump into something new that was astounding to witness. By the end of the workshop, each participant shared their plans for creative community projects to help advance their causes. One organization decided to work with the school system to collect trash from the reefs, from which they will create giant recycled sculptures of manatees that raise awareness about the size of this problem.
Christina Garcia, Executive Director, Ya’axche Conservation Trust says, “It is the first time I have participated in such a training and would really recommend for leaders of conservation organizations. I really enjoyed every moment of it!”
Christina and the other participants emerged from the experience empowered to implement the new strategies they had learned. To sum it up, Danny Hun from the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment stated, “WE are the solutions to our problems.” Yes, they are, and after the workshop, they are also better equipped to realize their initiatives.
This workshop was sponsored by the New England BioLabs Foundation.
The handbooks for this workshop were produced with generous support from Zeno Design in Newburyport, MA.