Our June gathering focused on difficult conversations about race, police brutality and systemic inequity, and talking about it on three levels of our world - with ourselves, with our team/staff members and with young people. Why all three? Because the largest level - our society, our world, will always be a reflection of the small ways in which we do things, not the other way around.
After this first section and breakout group on how you’ve been preparing yourself to have difficult conversations (and sustaining yourself through the toll that they take), MSN folks shared some concrete takeaways:
When talking about difficult conversations on our teams who run programs, we had folks think about what effective strategies they’ve seen their own supervisors use to signal that difficult conversations are not just ok, but welcome:
And when thinking about young people, we broke out into groups to see how the Four Developmental Needs of Middle School could help us plan for better conversations with young people - how can we center conversations on their specific needs at this time of their lives?
We started the meeting sharing our moments of success from earlier in the year. It felt great to hear folks straighten up and talk about their work with pride, in a world that now feels so difficult for so many reasons.
We heard about new communities of young people coming together, families coming to program events in increasing numbers, student-led girls groups in school, partnerships that allowed young people to go new places and “feel like themselves there”, and programs settling in to themselves, and new spaces. There is a lot to be proud of in this network, even before our world was upended, and many new efforts that have challenged our adaptability but made us stronger overall.
Folks shared updates for young people, from across the network:
We ended much as we began, by lifting each other up through sending an appreciation in the chat to one other person in the meeting. Melinda Maxwell from Gately Youth Center put it best, when Youth Connector Dami Oluwole asked her earlier in the meeting “when you’re not feeling supported, what helps?” Her simple, universal and profound answer: just hearing someone say “I see you, I see what you’re doing right now” can go a long way. Hearing some praise really helps.
And with that, we close out the ‘school year’ of MSN meetings, although we are exploring doing some shorter, informal Peer Shares this summer. Two topics came up big in the poll we did at the meeting: troubleshooting virtual programming and taking more about race and equity. Stay tuned, and if you want to be part of setting up these Peer Share conversations (and making sure they are useful to our network) please get in touch! Stay safe, friends.