All weekend I've been in a training session run by the Alliance for Biking and Walking aimed at learning how to be a better advocate. Since I've kind of fallen into advocacy work as a volunteer and in essentially a reactive role, it's interesting to step back think formally about the steps involved in successful advocacy, and learning to balance strategy with tactical operations.
It was a weekend full of stimulating conversations about the ways our cities could better serve people, with a group of very smart, very thoughtful, very informed people who are as passionate about making the city a better place for people not in cars as I am. In some ways the issue we chose to take through the process of the workshop was poorly suited for the structure of the event- too big and too complicated to parse using arbitrary guidelines. The struggle brought home for me that concrete ideas and actions are so much easier for me to get my head around than abstract strategy issues.
By turns I was exhilarated by the possibilities for positive change, terrified by the potential for lost opportunities, and overwhelmed by what seems like a insurmountable list of challenges that advocates face, each one seeming like a monumental struggle.
Mostly though, I'm intellectually exhausted. Two and a half days of non-stop focus and incredible conversations with bright, dedicated people who are totally on your wavelength is exciting, but left me feeling drained,-like I have no words left. The training was not only a chance to meet advocates from different organizations, but for the large group from Livable Streets to really get to know each other better. I have often been thankful that it's such a congenial group of people, and it was great to spend so much time bouncing ideas off each other and engaging in intellectual debate.
I think tonight (and perhaps for a couple of days) the agenda is to decompress with something fun to read and a glass of wine. I've been reading Wrestling with Moses about Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, but I think that's too intense after this weekend's laser focus. Swamplandia is in my pile, and sounds like a welcome diversion. I'm going to let some of the issues from the weekend digest, and hope that in the coming days they'll become fully incorporated in the way I think about advocacy issues.