Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Keeping the Motivation UP!

I had a tough run this week. 11 miles training for my RESULTS fundraising half-marathon run. The distance wasn't even what made it so hard. It was the fact that I had to get it done while my 9-yr-old was getting ready for school. It was broken up into chunks while I was multi-tasking. Here's what it looked like:

Starting back again at zero
miles is depressing after
running 6 already!

  • 5 miles on the treadmill before anyone got up
  • Wake daughter
  • 2 miles outside while husband was still home
  • Make sure kid's doing chores and eating breakfast. Goodbye to husband
  • 4 more miles on the treadmill
5+2+4=11. Whew.

Two miles outside made kept up my spirts
for the 9 miles on the treadmill
It's incredibly hard to keep focus on an exhausting task when you are interrupted and doing other things at the same time. Inertia can sometimes be your friend since an object in motion tends to stay in motion. But it can be your enemy since an object at rest tends to stay at rest. Getting back onto that treadmill was the hardest thing I've done all month.

This is not unlike what happens when you play the long game in activism, working on an issue like global vaccines. We fight and lobby for immunizations for children to secure funding for the GAVI, the vaccine alliance and fight diseases like polio, measles, and rotovirus. Sometimes we have big wins, but sometimes there are long distracting pauses in the legislative process during which life happens. Congress is in recess. Kids soccer games, choir performances, and scouting activities happen. School happens. We forget about what we were doing and when appropriations season (the time when Congress decides how much money to give in a year) or pledging time (the time when the President decides how much the U.S. should be giving) comes around, we have to fire up our engines all over again. But I do. Because this is important. Way more important than my run this morning.

It's so easy to think that we can let the issue go because vaccines are kind of a no-brainer in the fight for global health. They are a "best buy" when you think about the value of a low-cost vaccine that buys a child lifelong protection from disease. How do you even put a value on the precious life of a child? And the value on the dignity of a mother who was protected by immunizations as an infant so she can work to provide for her own kids free of illness?...priceless. With all the benefits to saving lifes and bolstering of world economy, you'd think that it would be automatic for Congress to pass adequate funding.

But it's not automatic. 

It's a fight. Every. Time.

One of my Twitter followers saw my updates urging people to tweet the White House to ask the administration to pledge $1 Billion over the next 4 years for GAVI. He did take the action, but said something insightful. He stands up for issues that are little known or publicized, like human trafficking - which is very admirable and I strive to do the same - but tweeted that he expects our elected officials to take care of those widely known issues without his input. 

I'm glad he voiced this. I understand that viewpoint and it's true that it's hard to stand up for all things all the time. Sadly, though, it's just not true that lawmakers do the moral and smart thing even if the benefits are well-known. I've been on the losing side of advocacy battles, too, when child health programs have been slashed on the state or federal level. 

This is why it's important to keep up the momentum and remember to strap on your shoes and get back in the race at those key moments for global this moment. Right now!

We are on the cusp of the pledging event where all the world's nations will send representation to Berlin to publicly say how much they will pledge to the GAVI Alliance. We want the U.S. to step up and pledge $1 billion over 4 years to the GAVI Alliance, which will have the effect of saving 6 million kids' lives.   

Will you join me in getting back in the game?

Three EASY ways you can join the fight for children's lives:

  1. Sign this petition from the ONE Campaign to the White House.
  2. Tweet the White House with this message: "Friends, PLEASE Retweet: @WhiteHouse save over 6M kids' lives by pledging $1B over 4 yrs to @GAVI #AYAAction #VaccinesWork"
  3. Call the White House by dialing 1-888-213-2881, which will connect you directly to the White House comment line. When the operator comes on the line, tell them: “I am asking President Obama to help save 6 million children’s lives by pledging 1 billion dollars over the next four years to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Thank you.” (If you're worried about this one, go see my past blog about how easy calling in really is.)

I hope you will join me in taking one or all of these actions. Even taking all of them would take less than 20 min, but have enormous impact on our planet while costing you no money...except for your taxes and you have every right to weigh in on what they are spent on. Help us keep up the motivation!

Monday, October 20, 2014

DC bound for the ONE Girls & Women AYA Summit

Young women I met in Uganda on a trip  with Shot@Life.
Seriously, don't they just look like leaders?
I'm off for another poverty-fighting DC adventure! This week I'll be joining a group of 75 girls and women from the US and Africa from October 22-24 for the ONE Girls + Women's AYA Summit. This year, the ONE Girls + Women has been a wonderful addition to the ONE Campaign. I've been fighting poverty with the ONE Campaign for many years, so it's thrilling to be on the ground floor of this new effort. The emotional mother in me yearns to help girls in developing nations who are so much like my own girls in every way that matters. The engineer in me knows that the most logical & effective way to break the cycle of poverty is to nurture and educate girls who are under-served and are the mothers of tomorrow. Empowering girls gets at the heart of so many problems!

I'll get a concentrated few days to focus on issues facing women and girls in the developing world with other go-getting grasstops-types in the audience. Through a series of talks, panels, visuals, and demonstrations, we'll learn what it means to be born female in Africa and what we - along WITH girls and women in Africa - can do to help people meet their full potential. The idea is to stimulate our thoughts and conversations by looking at more controversial topics from different points of view.

I think I have a lot to contribute to the conversation, looking at the list of topics:
Health...Child birth...Trade...Technology...Jobs....Food...Fashion...Water...School...Activism

(...okay, maybe not fashion. 
I have zero to say about that.)

I'm hopeful about this conference providing a unique experience because in the invitation, they told us that we'd have fun and plenty of time to spend with other participants, which will include panelists from both the U.S. and Africa. I'm a globally-minded mom who rarely ever travels, so I relish the opportunity to get to know other allies outside of North America. A few of my fellow World Moms Blog contributers will be there, too, including founder Jennifer Burden who happens to be a favorite BFF of mine. Poverty-fighting with friends. Nothin' better. :)

Another reason I'm excited is because of special guest speaker Nick Kristoff who will be there to share about his new book, "A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity," co-written with his wife Sheryl Wu Dunn. In fact, he's going to hold a book signing as well. I hear he dedicated about 2 1/2 pages in the book to a description of the work of RESULTS. Being a RESULTS board member, I want to personally thank him and encourage him to attend our RESULTS International Conference in July. 

I also anticipate watching Michael Gerson moderate a panel on Ebola and being re-united with Edith Jibunoh of the World Bank so soon after the World Bank's Civil Society Program and Annual Meetings. (she's one busy lady!)

So, to my fellow attendees...can't wait to meet up with you. For those at home, I'll be finding out more ways for all of us to be engaged in ways to help girls and women in Africa raise themselves up with dignity and strength. Stay tuned, true believers!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Inviting Others to Play

So, you've got a cause. You're inspired. You want to be part of a movement! You want to build the movement in your community!! You are a change maker!!! do you recruit people to come play with you? How do you even get people to an outreach event?

We don't know that girl in the bee costume, but she's
attracted to my crazy Belle Bride Princess. Who could resist that?
It's the classic conundrum. The first hurdle to building a movement is finding your followers. It all sounds so intimidating, but is it really so different than your children inviting others to play on the playground? When entering a new playground full of kids we haven't met, I have one daughter who simply runs through the area yelling and immediately has a flock behind her. I think most of us, however, empathize more with my other daughter who gets frozen in her own thoughts wondering if she should ask someone to play...if she'll be bothering them...if they'll think she's fun...if they will refuse. Even if we were the yelling child when we were six years old, life has a way of introducing fears and insecurities.

Building a movement is still a lot like asking people to play with you. Today, I offer you two thought experiments to help you think about your approach to finding your followers.

Video of Concert Dancers
Watch this TED talk by Derek Sivers called "How to start a movement" where you will see a movement begin and swell at an outdoor concert in less than 3 minutes. Here are some actual grownups demonstrating all the human characteristics of movement builders while essentially just playing.

Video from Derek Sivers' TED2010 talk
Did you see that? Most of the success of getting people on their feet is having the courage to do your thing and then empowering your first followers as equals!

The Chair Demo
At a ONE Campaign meeting last night, Sam Meyers of ONE's Washington DC staff facilitated a session on the topic of building a movement in our local community. She used a simple demonstration using two chairs to get us thinking about key concepts in getting folks to an outreach event. She pulled two chairs to the front of the room (not very close to where we were sitting), set them back to back, and asked for 2 volunteers to sit in the chairs with no explanation about why. I jokingly said, "I'm in if I can bring my wine with me!" and sauntered up with my wine glass. My friend Jennifer jumped up with her beer and took the second seat. To our surprise, Sam said "That's it! Thanks! You can go back to your seats now." With us back in our original seats, the real lesson about volunteering began.

"Why did you volunteer?" she asked me. Because I know how awkward it feels to be a facilitator with no volunteers. "Why did you volunteer?" she asked Jennifer. Because she was my friend, so she thought it would be fun to be with me. Plus, she'd be supportive of me taking the risk and thought that that if she didn't know the answer to something Sam asked, I might know it. Less risk for me, less for her. "Why didn't you volunteer?" she asked each of the other people. I don't remember all their answers, but here's a smattering:

  • I didn't know what was going to happen
  • It was kind of far and I was comfortable where I was
  • I felt intimidated
  • I might not know the answers (aka have the skills to do the activity)
  • I didn't want to look silly in front of others
  • I figured someone else would

All of those reasons not to volunteer sound like the very same barriers people you'll have to overcome to get people to your outreach event. They translate into: "It's not near to where I live", "I'm not sure I can do what you're asking me to do", "I don't want to rearrange my schedule for something I'm not sure will be fun or worthwhile" Even I - who was first to volunteer - made a joke that actually has bearing in the real world. I said I didn't want to go unless I could take my wine. Well...some people would rather go to an outreach event in a bar than in a church basement. If they are taking time out of their otherwise busy schedule, having relaxing drink in a nice place is appealing even if someone's not yet committed to your cause.

So, what do we learn from the chair activity?

#1 First Follower is a leader, too. Just like in the video, we see that the First Follower is a type of leader, too, so it might help to stack the deck a little and strategically choose who that First Follower will be. Is it someone like me who has led a group before and will be sympathetic to the difficulty of what you're trying to do? Is it someone like my extroverted daughter who unwittingly picks up followers wherever she goes? Is it someone already connected in your community who knows a lot of key players you'll need to know?

#2 Friendship is a powerful motivator Jennifer came because I went and it made her more comfortable to take the risk. You know this from watching your children:
Friends make everything less scary and more fun. 
Ugandan girls were not afraid to talk to me or take a selfie
with my phone because they felt safe with their friends!
Friendship certainly doesn't guarantee they will stick around and be part of your group for all time, but your friends are willing to take a bit of risk for you because they like you. If it's not their cup of tea, then maybe they know someone else who will join you based on their recommendation and friendship.

#3 We need to create outreach events while keeping the barriers in mind. Design your outreach event in a way that makes it as easy as possible for people to say yes. Without being overly negative, think about the main reasons people might say no and try to address them as best you can. Provide food. Have it in a drink-friendly place if your crowd is into that. Are you reaching out to moms? Hire a sitter to watch the kids while they play or watch a movie during your meeting. Are people from two different areas? Find a place 1/2 way between or in a place so cool that it's worth the drive or alternate your meetings between the locations. People don't know your organization? Put in the time to actually talk with your invitees to let them know about it and that what you expect of them is easy. Are there disabled individuals in your group? Make sure that your venue can accommodate them.

I can't tell you the magic incantation that will make your first outreach meeting a success. In fact, sometimes mine have been not-so-successful. (see my blog "Outreach: Failure and Persistence or 'OMG, What if No One Shows Up?") But with planning, persistence, and a little - or a lot - of help from your friends, I know you're gonna find some great people to play in your sandbox with you!