Embracing a Shared Vision: Insights from the COO All-Partner Convening with Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer

Communities of Opportunity (COO) is excited to share some of the highlights from the COO All-Partner Convening held on May 10, 2023. This event brought together individuals and organizations driven by a shared commitment to equity, justice, collaboration and positive change. With the presence of Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, plant ecologist and author of Braiding Sweetgrass, the gathering focused on bridging and building healthy relationships – with ourselves, with others, within our communities and with all living things in our environments.  

At its core, the COO All-Partner Convening aimed to nurture the spirit of relationship, care and collaboration among all present, recognizing the vital role of collective efforts in tackling complex challenges and the value inherent in bringing community together. Partnerships that bridge diverse sectors and perspectives hold immense potential for generating innovative solutions that can strengthen community power, self-determination and ultimately, community health and well-being. In her keynote, Dr. Kimmerer emphasized the importance of kinship with nature, Indigenous wisdom, and acknowledging and acting within a reciprocal and interdependent relationship with all living beings.

Afternoon conversations uplifted common themes for COO action and partnership:

  1. Importance of intentionally fostering connections: Participants stressed the significance of bringing organizations together, despite the challenges of busy schedules and email overload. It was recognized that sharing learnings and perspectives and creating spaces for formal and informal gathering are essential for cultivating genuine connections. Attendees emphasized that creating connections with organizations are just as important as financial support, underscoring the need for dedicated time and space to foster meaningful relationships.
  2. Wellness and self-care: The discussions focused on the holistic nature of wellness, highlighting the importance of doing the work within a supportive community and enabling communities to thrive. Participants acknowledged the tendency to neglect personal well-being, which ultimately leads to exhaustion. They emphasized the need to celebrate successful partnerships and share stories of collaborative efforts. Participants urged a collective responsibility for self-care, emphasizing that it extends beyond individuals to encompass the community as a whole.
  3. Uplifting and aligning the work: Attendees expressed the desire for COO to uplift their collective work and foster greater alignment and strategy. The work of individual organizations contributes to shared goals, but there is often a lack of coordinated strategy. Participants called for increased support from funders to facilitate connections and alignment, particularly in advocacy work. They envisioned funder briefings where they could share their work, foster connections, and access additional resources. Participants also stressed the need for funders to recognize the importance of community-led initiatives and adopt innovative and creative approaches to funding that mitigate application barriers and increase alignment between financial resources and the work happening ‘on-the-ground’.
  4. Reclaiming community-led initiatives: The discussions highlighted COO’s role in reclaiming and supporting community-led efforts. Attendees expressed concern over the dilution of equity-related concepts and emphasized the necessity for genuine collaboration and a commitment to learning from past experiences. They urged COO to embrace innovative and creative approaches in designing funding opportunities, allowing organizations to utilize funds in ways that align with their unique work. Additionally, participants urged COO to actively listen and find ways to amplify the voices, dynamics and successes of community(ies) when engaging with funders.

A summary of convening themes can be found here and below.

COO believes that strengthening and supporting the work to advance equity requires more than just making grants – it requires building and nourishing a diverse, interconnected, and multigenerational community that learns from and builds deep relationship with one another. This is of course much harder to do than to say. We intend to build on this event and conversations to provide more opportunities for gathering, relationship and reflection, more support for community-led innovations, and more opportunities to think deeply about what it means to be in relationship with one another and the land, about what we can learn or remember about the importance of reciprocity and gratitude, what repair and healing can look like in community, and the wisdom that is found in looking to our elders and young ones (not just people but all living creatures).

COO staff and leadership are thankful to all who contributed to the COO All-Partner Convening and leaned into the spirit of the day. As COO continues to deepen its’ capacity building work, including events like this one, we look forward to continuing to embrace a shared vision that uplifts the work and creates spaces for innovation, creativity, and meaningful impact. Together, we can create a future where all communities thrive.

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