In 2009 when Serbia on the Move was established, we were not quite oriented towards community organizing. In 2010 everything changed when our leadership team met Professor Marshall Ganz in his distance learning program at Harvard Executive Education. We were thirsty to gain knowledge on the community organizing framework and started practicing it in Serbia. Ever since, we have been implementing this model in our work.
When we started, community organizing in Serbia at that time was quite improbable. The concept was unknown, people were apathetic, and we were… well, early beginners. At that time I was sure the challenges we would face were unique for our Serbian culture, mentality, character, historical background among many other things. But we pushed ahead.
In 2012 we were invited to the first Global Learning Conference led by the Leading Change Network. This wasn’t like any conference I had ever participated in before. I was in a team responsible to develop a whole session on “challenges in organizing” basis of our knowledge and experience. That was the first time I had an opportunity to meet my fellow organizers, now dear friends, Nisreen from Palestine and Rawan from Jordan. We worked together for months on devising our session.
Arriving at the Leaning Conference in Cambridge, MA, I got to meet the global organizing crew face-to-face. I entered a big room for dinner, with my registration tag. It stated, Ana Babovic, Government of Serbia. Presenting myself, I realized that name and that title don’t go together.
During the following three days of the conference I met people who shared the same values, interests and passion, but the only difference is that they do it on the completely opposite sides of the globe. I met Jesse who works in South Africa, Shivani from India, Jake from Hawaii, Natalie who works in Kenya and many many others.
I was amazed to learn that they face the same challenges as we do. I realized that all of us struggle with how to engage people who feel apathy, inertia and fear. I learned that all of us face the challenge of having a bad apple in the team and that we are all concerned of how to deal with it. With sharing those campaign stories and through discussion about different challenges we learned from each other, I learned from them how they address those challenges and that helped me a lot to think about how to overcome ours. In addition to that, I felt I have a community of people from all around the globe whom I can contact for coaching and advice.
It was amazing to see how many changes in this world this great group of people made. And I recalled all the people in the government and how important they thought they were, and I remember clearly the feeling that I had about my work and how small it is compared to everything that these people do. Driven by that energy, I decided to quit my job in the Government and to start doing community organizing full time. Now, two years later I am happy that I have many friends around the world that I know through community organizing and Leading Change Network.
Informed that this year we will be having another global gathering, I didn’t wonder for a moment whether I should take the responsibility to shape this year’s Global Gathering. My inspiration comes from the fact that the Learning Conference in 2012 was a life-changing event for me, so I wanted to make this Global Gathering a similar experience for other people around the world.
Can you imagine more than 100 organizers, learners, researchers from all over the world meeting virtually to get to know each other personally, to share and listen about each other’s campaigns and to discuss challenges that they face? Can you imagine being paired with a coaching partner that works in the same field as you, but in a different country and context?
I had this experience, and I can say that I can’t wait for November 15th to come so you may experience the same thing I did! Join us.