Pro-noia: the belief that the world is conspiring towards your success
- As defined by Jeff Pinzino, Closing Keynote speaker
On February 25th, Northwestern students, GES staff and alumni, and community members gathered for GES Day 2012, a miniature version of the April summit. This all-day event incorporated four hands-on workshops on different aspect of social change, a lunchtime photo exhibit from Open Shutter, and a closing keynote address on “”Integrating Social Change Into Your Life” with Brooke Estin of InSTEDD and Jeff Pinzino of Fresh Moves. Conceived as a world-wide celebration of Global Engagement Summit values, the day allowed staff and students to apply tangible skills, such as working with legislators, writing techniques, and design, to real-world problems and their own careers – while giving a preview experience of the summit itself. The lunchtime Open Shutter show, “The Campaign,” responded to recent campus events with photos designed to expose and challenge Northwestern stereotypes of race, culture, religion, gender, and beyond.
Read on for short recaps of the four workshops and closing keynote. More photos of the event can be found at our flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/theges/
The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword: Writing for Social Change
Facilitated by: Reginald Gibbons, Poet and Professor at Northwestern
In the workshop, Professor Gibbons explored how creative writing and social justice intersect, sharing some of his poetry and prose. A veteran writer of creative fiction, Gibbons offered aspiring writers advice on how to best approach the challenge of writing with a social goal in mind, especially since social justice writing often involves non-fiction and testimonials. He encouraged participants to move beyond that, incorporating their stories and ideas in every medium possible, emphasizing drama, poetry, and short stories. However, he conceded writing for social change has its limits, encouraging creativity with this realistic attitude: “I never expected to change anything besides people’s minds.”
One Small Voice, One Big Impact: Lobbying for Your Cause
Facilitated by: Jennifer Walling, Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council
As an experienced player and lobbyist in the world of state and local government, Jennifer Walling offered insights and techniques in how to advance social justice causes through the Illinois state legislature. The workshop covered the organization and timelines of the Illinois legislature, how best to contact legislators, and how to increase your impact as a student and advocate of a social justice cause. She emphasized that “real power comes through people,” stressing the importance of people power and direct contact from constituents to senators and representatives.
Innovative Answers to Complex Problems: Design for Social Change
Facilitated by: Sarah Malin, Designer at Cannon Design & Design For America Directors
The workshop began with pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, and a challenge from Design for America (DFA), an NU-based student group, to solve a social change problem. With this hands-on challenge, small groups of participants used the physical materials to brainstorm tangible solutions to help the homeless stay dry in the rain, allow elderly people to reach fallen objects, or encourage people to more regularly tell their loved ones that they care. This alternate approach to dealing with the world’s problems underlies DFA’s mission of local and social impact through design. Sarah Malin, a DFA alumna, then spoke about her work with Cannon Design, focusing on a project intended to improve private and public education through architectural design. The session emphasized the importance of open-mindedness and diversity of thought, encouraging people of all disciplines to consider these approaches and careers in their social change futures.
Dropping Beats, Making Change: How Hip Hop and Social Justice Combine
Facilitated by: Amina Norman-Hawkins, Executive Director of the Chicago Hip-Hop Initiative
Local Chicagoan Amina Norman-Hawkins lives and breathes hip hop – not for the fame and fortune, but as a way to communicate with the masses and facilitate social change. During the workshop, she spoke about her desire from childhood to help less-fortunate people, her discovery of hip hop as a means to do so, and recent work both as a Chicago activist and in the Ivory Coast with youth to combat the impact of war in the studio, not streets. She encouraged each participant to find their own method of communication and means to make a difference, whether it be hip hop or another discipline. Hip hop, she said, is not just one thing, but a combination of multiple elements, from emceeing to dancing to graffiti, where a group of multi-talented people come together to jive and enter a dialogue about the things they appreciate.
Closing Keynote: Integrating Social Innovation Into Your Life
Brooke Estin, Director of Communications at InSTEDD
Jeff Pinzino of Fresh Moves
Synthesizing a day of tangible skill-building and exploration of new approaches to social change, Brooke Estin and Jeff Pinzino spoke about their individual career trajectories in the world of social justice and engaged the audience in conversation about ways for students to move forward. Brooke, Skyping in from San Francisco, emphasized finding a balance between a career that agreed with her values and maintaining her own health and lifestyle, and spoke of her beginnings growing up in Bangkok to her work with Kiva Microfunds and InSTEDD. Jeff Pinzino, a community organizer, fundraiser, and food lover, shared his experiences with Fresh Moves, a mobile produce market in Chicago, and work as Development Director for National People’s Action, a national community organizing network. He promised his audience that “Yes, you can make a living with social change,” but – like Brooke – emphasized that the causes you may be most passionate about may not be the ones that give you a paycheck. However, he said, do not be afraid to make those smart sacrifices and trust your ideas and others; believe in “pro-noia,” which he defined as the belief that the world is conspiring towards your success.