The W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s (WKKF) New Orleans grantees gathered on Dec. 12-13, 2011 for a convening entitled “Strengthening Partnerships For Our Children, Families and City.” The event encouraged grantees to get to know each other and begin building a collective, city-wide vision and plan of engagement for healthy kids, educated kids and secure families.
Day one of the convening began with a live, Skype welcome from Kellogg Foundation President & CEO Sterling Speirn and Vice President – Program Strategy Gail Christopher. Together they expressed appreciation for the work grantees and partners are doing on behalf of vulnerable children in New Orleans and asserted the foundation’s commitment to the city for at least a generation.
From there, WKKF organizers set the tone for the two-day gathering, followed by participants of several grantee programs sharing personal stories of struggle, redemption and progress as a result of their involvement in those programs.
Two young men from the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) shared stories of moving from high school failure and prison to new paths towards high school completion, college possibilities and responsible citizenship as a result of the support and encouragement they received from caring adults in the YEP program. A participant of the Latino Farmer’s Cooperative of Louisiana shared her story of immigration and successful integration into American society as a result of her experience with that organization. Another young participant in the Renaissance Project read a heart-felt expression of his frustrations, dreams, accomplishments and ultimate belief in himself and his peers. These expressions set the scene for the first part of the convening experience which involved grantees sharing personal and organizational stories, and actively listening for points of connection and possible collaboration among them.
Later that day and throughout the convening, participants shared their reflections of key takeaways and “a-ha” moments in a video booth, which was set up to capture the grantees’ immediate reactions. Many reflected on their appreciation for the afternoon session in which presenters shared specific approaches and concrete steps to more thoughtful collaborations that create lasting impact.
By day two, grantees were ready to contemplate a collective vision and ways they could effectively collaborate as part of a larger movement to support New Orleans’ children and families. Participants discussed WKKF’s focus areas of Food, Health and Well-Being, Education & Learning, and Family Economic Security. They identified new challenges to achieving the desired outcomes and contemplated strategies to address those challenges. Participants talked candidly about barriers to effective collaboration and specific steps to overcome them. With new relationships established and old ones strengthened, grantees and partners left with commitments to each other, New Orleans’ children and families, and a city-wide vision for the way forward.