New Mexico grantees convene for networking, skill-building and storytelling

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation convened grantee partners from its priority state of New Mexico from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, 2011. More than 170 people gathered at the Tamaya Resort on the Santa Ana Pueblo, 25 miles north of Albuquerque, for workshops, networking, storytelling and more.

Under the banner of “Connecting for New Mexico’s Children,” the convening presented opportunities to share ideas and build relationships; to gain new skills, resources and tools; and to learn more about the Kellogg Foundation’s strategy in New Mexico and how it intersects with the work of local community organizations.

“It’s really about helping families and strengthening families by strengthening the neighborhood and engaging in community led development,” said Daniel Gutierrez, project director with The Barelas Community Coalition.

The convening opened with an invocation from Gov. Lawrence Montoya of the Santa Ana Pueblo. Workshops that followed explored the foundation’s programing strategies in New Mexico, applying racial and cultural equity lenses to community building, strategic communications, mission-driven investments, advocacy and lobbying rules and other topics.

One of the highlight sessions focused on the art of storytelling, led by writer Michelle Otero. Otero also serves as creative director at Valle Encantado, which promotes sustainable development of Albuquerque’s historic Atrisco district.

Participants learned how to think creatively about their roots, outside of geography. “I am from chicos” (dried corn), offered one participant; “I am from coyotes, owls and eagles,” wrote another. Groups then discussed ways to bring this poetry and creative thinking into their community-building. “This is a different way to express the way we work, a new way to report to the world on what we’re doing,” said Renee Villarreal of the New Mexico Community Foundation.

Meanwhile, grantees used an “open space” session to host spontaneous meetings on food shed development, school board trainings, healthcare reform, racial equity, youth organizing and several other topics.

Alvin Warren – a member of Santa Clara Pueblo, partner and executive vice president at Blue Stone Strategy Group and former Cabinet Secretary of Indian Affairs under New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson – delivered the convening’s keynote address (watch a video here). With humor and poignancy, Warren implored community leaders to have the courage to form unexpected alliances.

“We can’t afford to work in silos anymore,” Warren said. “The scale and intractability of problems facing vulnerable children and families are too daunting.”

Time and again throughout the convening, participants brought discussions back to a central question: “How does our work improve the lives of children in our state?”

“We all have a vision that we’re going towards,” said Corrine Sanchez, executive director of Tewa Women United, which supports indigenous women working for social change. “We may take different paths to reach that vision in different ways, but we all need each other. And we’re all of value in that process, to that goal of creating healthy children, healthy environments.”

For more information on the Kellogg Foundation’s work in New Mexico, click here.

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“Empleen el dinero del modo en que crean conveniente, siempre y cuando promueva la salud, la felicidad y el bienestar de los niños.” - Will Keith Kellogg

“Sèvi ak lajan an jan w vle depi se sante timoun, byennèt timoun ak kè kontan pou timoun w ap ankouraje.” - W.K. Kelòg