Emily Kaler, Katelyn GravesBrad Godwin along with Samaritan Community Center friends Debbie RamboJen Boyle travelled to Los Angles to participate in the !deation Conference.  We asked for some thoughts and take-aways from their time there.

From Emily…

So what is !deation?

Technically, it is a non-profit conference, but after experiencing it I would better describe it as a safe place to be inspired. And even though I have never been to a non-profit conference, I could tell upon arriving this was like no other non-profit conference before.

The creative experience was very unique; the catwalk stage, the couches in the main conference room, the art and interactive networking areas. It was warm and impressive at the same time. I was intrigued by the size of the group (200 people), large enough to bring energy but small enough to have a chance to meet anyone. Let me tell you that I am a stay at home mom with no experience in the non-profit world except for helping start and oversee Cobblestone Project the last two years.

The only experience I bring to the table is from this relatively limited experience. Little did I know I was in the room with some of the biggest and brightest founders and organizations in the country. But it took me a while to figure that out. Why? Because of the massive humility that comes with these heroes. Everyone took notes on everything. Speakers stayed for the entire conference, they didn’t just dash in and leave. Everyone was a student, everyone wanted to learn, and everyone wanted to share. There wasn’t a feeling of competition among the group, but rather encouragement and inspiration.

The sessions and breakouts were thought provoking and inspiring. If I tried to recap everything you would give up on reading this because it would be so long, so I will list the speakers and highlight the ones that made a strong connection to me personally and ones I think might be a connection to us in NWA. I would encourage anyone to follow these people on twitter!

The following ideas are things I think we could easily adapt right into NWA…

  • Jeff Shinabarger, GiftCardGiver.com – Mail in gift cards and he will calculate your amount given and then send you a gift card for that amount for the store wanted by your cause. Consider hosting a “card” party!
  • Lee Fox, koodooz.com – Caused based social networking for youth. A program designed to adapt into schools. Youth pick a cause and use social media and a website to spread the word of their cause and track hours and gain credit acknowledged by the white house.
  • Marc Payan – expert in marriage and relationship skill training. Curriculum designed for integrating into public school system.

It goes without saying my head felt like it was going to explode after Day 1 (in a good way ☺). The !deation team was so wise to present a fun activity to keep it not only creative, but also fun. That night, a professional fashion show was presented to everyone attending the conference. It was showcasing Jedidiah clothing line. The music and models on the runway was just plain cool. And that is what was much needed after a long day of “!deating”!

In closing, I am honored to have been a part of this great group of people. My heart is lifted to keep up the fight in doing good. I’ve been inspired to dig deeper into ideas, make more connections and dream big.

I believe NW Arkansas is a place with great needs, amazing amount of resources and wonderful people who want to do good.

So, let’s get busy making some ideas become real solutions. It can be done!

Emily Kaler, Cobblestone Project Founding Member

From Katelyn…

The !ideation conference left me sincerely overwhelmed with the challenges in front of us, but inspired that we are capable of creating change in our community and our world. The people we met there oozed of mercy and humility.

This is something that was immediately evident when we walked in the room. We were all there together, to encourage, collaborate, and learn.

We met wonderful people and were truly blessed by all that Charles Lee and the !deation team taught us. After having time to think about the week, I put together a few takeaways that stood out to me:

  • Collaborating is key: we should be working together as individuals and agencies to end the issues of justice and mercy in our communities.
  • Take a breather: Evaluate how are we doing in accomplishing our goals of creating “A Community Without Need“?
  • Heart check: Why are we doing this? How is my heart? We should never ask people to do something we are not willing to do ourselves. Servant leadership: the key is humility and being willing to sacrifice
  • We need to find like-hearted people vs. like-minded people to join with us on our mission
  • Story-telling is key: We need to be able to communicate what we are doing in a way that engages others and motivates change.
  • Importance of engaging students in our area: came up with a few ideas… to be discussed shortly.

We had the great opportunity to hear Andy Bales from the Union Rescue Mission share is heart for L.A. and encouraged us in some ways to change homelessness in our area:

  1. Heart change: we need to change the way we talk and think about people who are homeless. (how quickly we categorize people by one facet of their lives: that they are without homes)
  2. We should never make excuses for inaction based on myths.
  3. Solutions to homelessness should be regionalized each city, suburb, and region of South CA (or NWA) should provide services for their own neighbors.

This is just a small part of what we learned this past week. If nothing else, we were able to meet incredible people, doing incredible things and all left us with the same message — Love human. Do good.

Katelyn Graves, Cobblestone Project Operations