In early November, Amira Resnick told us that while the allure of being a changemaker energizes and invigorates her, she worries that “we don’t spend enough time evaluating whether the changes we make are the best or most needed. Or even good at all.” Amira, who works at the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, has had about a month to let her Upswell LA experience sink in. Did Upswell encourage changemakers to take an honest, unvarnished look at where we can do better? Here are Amira’s thoughts.
Q: What most surprised you about Upswell?
AR: I was pleasantly surprised by the brutal honesty from speakers featured at Upswell, which reflects a dogged determination to do things better and continually raise the bar. It was a refreshing reminder that even “changemakers” need to avoid getting too comfortable with a status quo that keeps real transformation at bay. Discomfort and disgruntlement can even be indicators that we’re getting to the important stuff, and many of us know how a commitment to positive social change can feel gritty and exhausting, even for the most hopeful and optimistic among us. I was pleased and impressed to feel this charged energy at Upswell and experience the fierce side of compassion and love.
Q: What most excited you about Upswell?
AR: I was excited to interact with changemakers from across the country, while simultaneously learning more about Los Angeles communities near me and running into local acquaintances I had not caught up with in a while. Many of the issues we are facing in Los Angeles are similar to those confronted by other cities and regions, and it was exciting to be part of hosting a national dialogue to put the local work of my organization in context with what’s happening elsewhere. The opportunity to connect outside of a typical work schedule allowed for open conversation and idea sharing, relationship building, and honest confrontation with challenges of our daily work.
Q: If you participated in one of the community experiences outside of the hotel, what did you learn about how that community is addressing a challenge that your organization can apply to better serve your community?
AR: The LA Inside & Out community tours were the highlight of my Upswell experience! Multiple participants on my tour were surprised that I chose to participate in this learning opportunity even though I live in Los Angeles. The neighborhood we toured has a rich cultural history, but it is easy to miss landmarks and important sites if you’re unsure where to look.
A key challenge we learned about in this community is gentrification, specifically the displacement of residents and loss of cultural heritage that it can bring. I’d like to explore further how my organization can seek to partner with local community-based organizations that we visited here to strengthen leadership development and healthier practices that contribute to thriving kids and families. My organization can also pursue a more seamless conversation about the social determinants of health and the interconnections between the built environment and health disparities. We can start by stepping out of our siloes to show up for each other’s events and activities and demonstrate solidarity by getting active in community events and campaigns.
Q: What did you like most about the Public Square – for example, Main Stage talks, Spark Talks, Immersive Arcade, Changemaker Challenge, Focus Groups, and Science and Tech Demos?
AR: The Spark Talks were a hit! It was exciting to come across many topics being addressed as I wandered through the square, in addition to intentionally seeking out one panel in particular, and having the chance afterward to speak with the presenters on topics of common interest.
It was also valuable to lead a Focus Group as part of the Public Square experience. I was grateful for this opportunity to convene and network with others working on similar issues, and the conversations we initiated during the brief 30-minute time period organically continued afterward. All of this has provided me much food for thought and action in the weeks following the event.
Q: If you attended Upswell workshops, which did you like best, and why?
AR: I attended “Beyond Being an Ally” and was grateful for a full-length workshop opportunity on this topic, to effectively address diversity and inclusion in our organizational work, and delve beneath the surface of what it means to be an ally. This session impressed me by simultaneously discussing and modeling the content at hand in practical and inspiring ways. Panelists and participants alike shared thoughtfully with the group and demonstrated to me possibilities for trying on some improved approaches within my own organization.