What’s in a Peace Talk?

26 11 2012

At a Peace Talk this fall, one of our grantee speakers wanted to know what our criteria was for a successful event.  Would it be the number attending?  Donations to PDF as a result?

No, we told him.  It is not the number of attendees, because at PDF’s Peace and Justice Center in Amherst, we can’t hold hundreds of people.  If there are 15 to 20 gathered in our living room, that is a perfect size for a discussion.

No, it is not the donations PDF would receive, we continued.  We don’t use the Peace Talks to buttonhole people into giving.  Our donors are loyal, and we dare say they would give to PDF’s work even if there wasn’t a Peace Talk on the event schedule.

But a Peace Talk is an opportunity to publicize the work of our grantees and engage our audience in the ongoing work of organizing.  That is how we measure success.

Anyone who comes to a Peace Talk can hear directly from our grantees about the challenging and inspiring work they do.  It is also an opportunity to network with others working for progressive social change, be they grantees, donors or students from the local colleges.  Not a Peace Talk ends before we hear folks exchanging ideas and email addresses.  And the grantees say they couldn’t do that—get out of their daily routine and the silos that build up around them—without someone from PDF inviting them to a Peace Talk.

Grantees also say, and we never have to ask them to do so, that they couldn’t do what they do without PDF’s early support.  “You supported us when we didn’t know if we could stay working or close,” said Anne Richmond from Gardening the Community.  “You kept us going.”

“You were our very first grant,” said Josie Shagwert of Fuerza Laboral.  “That was a huge vote of confidence in us.”

At Peace Talks we talk about victories and losses, the 99 percent and the one percent, the stories we know and the ones nobody writes about.  We talk about how to move forward and how to keep going.  As Jaclyn Friedman of Women, Action and the Media said at our last Peace Talk, “I have to remind myself that the partial wins are still wins.”  We need to keep reminding ourselves of that too, as we define success.

“Each of us takes the piece of the work that we can do,” says Jaclyn.  For PDF, it is providing the space for organizing.

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