Rev. Jen Bailey: Connecting at Upswell to Help Bridge Divides
// By Brandon Carey
Last November, when Reverend Jen Bailey came to Chicago from Nashville, Tennessee to attend Upswell, she expected to meet up with old colleagues, and learn from leaders that she’d long followed as executive director of Faith Matters Network. She also works with the Greater Good Science Center on how changemakers can bridge differences, and is a Bridging Fellow – part of a program launched in partnership by Independent Sector and GGSC. Stepping into the convening, she knew that she wanted to connect with people working to bridge some of the deepest differences in the country. But for changemakers like Jen who work in the faith-based field, the chance to work with other leaders doing similar kinds of work in a government, private sector, or secular space isn’t often available. Upswell gave her that opportunity.
IS staffer Brandon Carey talked with her about her Upswell experience.
BC: If you hadn’t previously attended Upswell, what were you looking forward to?
JB: This was my first time at Upswell and I was most looking forward to connecting with old colleagues and learning from leaders that I have long admired. Upswell has such a stellar reputation and I felt grateful to be entering into such a dynamic community.
BC: Did you have any experiences at the event that “anchored” you?
JB: I had the distinct honor of being a National Bridging Fellow during the gathering, which afforded me the unique and truly special opportunity to connect with other people from around the country who have been at the forefront of healing ruptures and bridging some of the deepest divides in our country right now – in particular, divides around race and politics. I feel grateful to the Greater Good Science Center for convening us both for a workshop and in quiet, informal ways throughout our time in Chicago. I walked away with more new connections and ideas that I could count.
BC: What kinds of connections did you make?
JB: The connections I made were both personal and professional. It was so wonderful to engage in meaningful conversation with others who are doing work to heal the ruptures in our democracy. The work can be incredibly lonely so knowing that I have a crew of new colleagues that I can call when things get tough means the world to me.
Plans are underway for Upswell 2020 in Pittsburgh, October 14-16. Join the wave and fellow changemakers in the “City of Bridges” as we build bridges and create connections between people – and across differences – to forge a world where all can thrive.