Fabulous ELP!

I just spent a fabulous weekend with my new Environmental Leadership Program Fellows! This is a national organization based in DC supporting environmental professionals. I am lucky to have been selected to the program and I’m thankful for the opportunity to contribute. Here’s a link to a video about the ELP

This is the crew from Vermont – Jenn, Amber, Mieko, Greg, Amy and Bart. The retreat was for the 15 fellows of the New England Regional Network of ELP. This year there are also 20 from the NYC-based Eastern Network. So far, in the past 10 years, 501 people have become ELP Fellows. The network is designed to foster professional support and leadership development across various types of organizations involved in environmental and social justice. The workshop this weekend was to orient each other to the program, practice skills in communication and multiculturalism, and begin a process to each create a Personal Leadership Plan. I’ll be working on my Rapid Sustainability Integration project.

Throughout the four-day retreat, we gathered in the “Big Room” at Friendly Crossways, the hostel in Harvard, MA which hosted us. Great old barn converted into a multi-purpose facility. Dorm rooms, a few doubles, secret passages, 9 bathrooms, and a couple of big spaces to gather our group. Great kitchen and dining hall too! Thanks Mary Helen and Marissa for cooking for us!

The group of Fellows bonded really well through our sharing exercises and other activities. I am really psyched to be a part of this great group! I enjoyed meeting everyone: Rouwenna, Greg, Ravi, Mieko (in photo below) and Amber, Amy, Sarah, Aladdine, Steve, Bart, Lydia, Jenn, Ari, and Jesse. More information about this cohort, and the other “senior fellows” (from prior years) is at the ELP website.

Most of the days were filled with a series of workshops on communication, leadership, multiculturalism, perception patterns, and problem solving. We had a wonderful facilitator: Barb Kistler, from Ft. Collins, CO. Unfortunately I did not get any pictures of her. She was so loving and learned, and really great at facilitating learning around cultural differences and communication patterns. I gained a lot from her guidance, and from her example. Thanks Barb!

The other ringleader was Errol Mazursky, the ELP ED, who organized the whole thing and kept us on our schedule. A well-pruned schedule, with plenty of time for reflection, socializing and emerging contributions. Errol enabled the whole group to co-facilitate the weekend, and fostered a great vibe for sharing, caring, and co-creating a great experience! Thanks Errol!

Also, we had a special guest – Bryan Connolly – a senior fellow from the NERN cohort of 2008. He and I actually lived together at Slade Hall at UVM 17 years ago. Hard to believe but great to cross paths again in ELP. I have seen him at NOFA conferences over the years and recall working on the Slade garden, back in the day. He started an orchard on the lawn at Slade (the eco-coop dorm at the University of Vermont). He is the Massachusetts State Botanist now. He took us on a nature walk out back of the hostel, though it rained and we cut it short. But as usual, he is a walking nature guidebook. Great to see you Bryan! Thanks!

Evening Primrose. The picture above above is Bryan holding some St. John’s Wort…

Later, on another evening, I took a walk by myself out another direction and, scared off a few deer at the edge of an old farm field. I found a cool little pond and this cute little guy (perhaps gal) – a painted turtle. Neat colors, not quick but not endangered, wasn’t expecting company probably. I like the end-of-day nature walk.

After the dinners, we didn’t have any scheduled programming so the conversations just rolled into various forms of debate and pontification. What was your point here, Steve? I think Bart was saying “Ja, ja, ja…”

Then we got into some intense Jenga…Here we have the two community development specialists, Jesse and Amy, getting serious on how to design a high-rise structure…

Yeah, that’s me pulling a backhand sideswipe!

Yes this is a 36-level SuperJenga! We combined a three-bit with a four-bit set. It was crazy! look at that double single layer, twisting, defying gravity and logic!

The ELP NERN 2011 Orientation Weekend Retreat was a really lovely balance of intense learning and leadership training, with ample fun and bonding. Unfortunately, again, I did not have my camera out at the campfire for the singing, s’mores, and smoke. Also, when the weather did get excellent and we were playing frisbee and even some football, the camera was just chilling in a pile of papers and exercise sheets. [when I get a link to photos other people took, I’ll put that here]

I was glad to not be on the email most of the duration. A retreat weekend is a great thing once in a while, and this was even better. I gained a lot from meeting this excellent cohort and hearing so many stories about life as an environmentalist, eco-entrepreneur, teacher, or social change advocate. Really wonderful to be “in my tribe!” Thanks everyone for so much sharing! I look forward to working together into the future with the ELP.

On our final morning of workshop, to start our Personal Leadership Plan process, we had a couple of fun games. Here we have Errol, Jenn and Rouwenna in the finals of Buzz-tec…it was wild.

Then we were off, heading back to our work. Here’s the Camberville crew, Rouwenna, Grey and Aladdine. Thanks everyone for a great weekend!

2 comments

  1. Thanks for this post Grey. It’s a great overview of our experience. Just one correction: Brian Connolly is from NERN ’08.

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