“Getting back together…for real this time”
It’s been over two years since our network was able to gather in person, but we are stoked to report that this year’s Cascadia Conference was a huge success. In non-pandemic times, the conference is a widely anticipated gathering of staff and chapter leaders in the Pacific Northwest. Last year’s conference was virtual due to pandemic related safety concerns, so this year’s tagline was “Getting back together…for real this time,” and our network did just that, convening in Newport, Oregon for a weekend of coastal conversations and good vibes. Below is a description of what went down, but you can check out our conference agenda for more details.
In addition to the usual goal of providing mission-centric learning opportunities and a platform for chapters leaders to connect and collaborate with each other and staff, the theme of this year’s conference was resilience – at the individual, chapter, and organizational levels. How can we as individuals remain resilient in the face of so many challenges? How can we ensure our chapter network continues to grow and succeed? How is Surfrider Foundation planning to meet the challenges of tomorrow?
We kicked off the conference with our keynote speaker, Dr. Jen Darnell, a psychiatrist and member of the Climate Psychiatry Alliance, who presented on mental health in the climate change movement. Then our CEO, Dr. Chad Nelson, provided a high level overview of where Surfrider is, where we’re going, and how we plan to get there, touching on our 2022 Strategic Plan to ‘build expertise, influence, and power to set the national agenda on climate and coasts.’ This was followed by chapter intros, with volunteers from each chapter giving their high level overview of the programs and campaigns their chapters engage with. We finished off the morning with staff initiative leads providing an overview of each of our five initiatives, followed by chapter volunteers sharing examples of what those initiatives look like on the ground.
After a break for sandwiches and sunshine, we did a deep dive on volunteer recruitment and retention, with an emphasis on how the pandemic has changed the volunteer landscape and ways chapters can adapt to this cray new world. Following that, we transitioned into an overview of our digital transformation efforts. Our amazing IT team provided insight on how to leverage our shiny new tools to assist in the aforementioned challenges with volunteer management. Then it was time for the Share Fair, where volunteers got the chance to chat with staff one on one or in small groups, asking questions and providing feedback.
After a full day of learning and sharing, it was time to get outside and enjoy a perfect fall afternoon on the beach, full of sunshine and surf and an amazing spread of local food grilled fresh behind the dunes. Once the sun set, it was time to gather around the campfire for s’mores and snake farm singalongs.
Sunday morning at Surfrider conferences always comes too early, but we kicked it off the morning in style with more policy piñata smashing and a robust discussion about how chapters’ work on the ground can be leveraged towards large scale policy changes. We finished the conference off with a reflective session on prioritizing mental health. Former Surfrider staff Rachael Coccia walked us through a guided visualization and lessons in resilience as we move forward in our work. Many of us stuck around for an optional yoga sesh to stretch it out after a long weekend of learnage.
We all left feeling stoked to be part of this organization and energized from connecting with so many of the amazing humans that make up the Surfrider fam! Looking forward to what the next year of coastal activism brings!