On February 15-17, 2008, thirty-three young activists and organizers ranging in age from 18 to 34 came to Highlander for Transitions: A Young Adult Leadership Gathering, which focused on leadership transition issues in Appalachia and the South. Participants explored the question of transition on three related levels:
- Individual transitions – including the many personal and professional changes that people go through in their 20s and early 30s.
- Leadership transitions – including how people can best move from youth to young adult to adult roles in their organizations and communities, finding good mentors, being a good mentor, dealing with elders who can’t or won’t share power and authority, developing leadership teams and working more communally/relationally, and how to handle leadership transitions in a more sustainable way.
- Movement transitions – including such questions as how movements develop, what being in a movement means, how movement work can be made more sustainable for both individuals and organizations, and what alternatives there are to traditional non-profit structures.
Transitions also provided an important opportunity for participants to network with other activists in the region. The gathering was racially and geographically diverse and included people with a wide range of experience and very different positions in their organizations. Still, participants found that they faced many of the same problems and that their work overlapped in significant ways – particularly around issues such as education, the criminalization of youth, and environmental justice.
Transitions was the first in what will be a series of local and regional gatherings to support young adults involved in social change in the region. Highlander will hold a second gathering for young adult activists in the fall, and staff members are currently documenting the Transitions curriculum for use in other gatherings on transition issues. Participants are also getting together locally and setting up a “circle” on the Building Leadership/Organizing Communities website (www.mybloc.net) so they can continue supporting each other and sharing ideas and strategies.
5/22/08 – To view pictures from the gathering, click here.