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“Convergence” Unites Local, National Change-makers

Activism & Community, Education & Schools, Green, Misc., Local Politics

June 16th, 2011

“Convergence” Unites Local, National Change-makers

“What can we create together?” So sums up the spirit of the “Convergence,” a unique convening of change-makers in New Orleans June 22 through 26.

The 5-day gathering is less a conference and more an intensive retreat, combining workshops, site visits, and dialogue between national activists and New Orleans community organizers.

The Convergence is also an annual reunion of students, educators, and organizers who make up the Educational Network for Global and Grassroots Exchange (ENGAGE). And, local organizations are partnering with ENGAGE to  design the program.

“Organizing this event has built community among active local groups,” says David Ferris, local liaison for ENGAGE. ”We’ve planned experiential and locally-rooted short courses, opportunities for members in the network to learn more about community, food and education through collective process.”

The planning process has included groups like Good Food, LLC, New Orleans Liberation Academy, and Delta Action Working Group, as well as individual practitioners working for change in the food and education systems. ENGAGE University, an alternative study program that immerses college students in a variety of community development initiatives across America, is also partnering with ENGAGE and participating in the Convergence.

In addition to engaging local and national associations, Convergence organizers approached local businesses to help with the logistics.

Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Center, located on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, usually opens at night to show independent films, many focusing on justice and social movements. Zeitgeist will open its doors early to host most of the Convergence activities during the day.

Eiffel Society, a prestigious glass-walled event venue, is donating the use of its kitchen as a commissary for the 5-day event. Eiffel Society, largely unused during the day and full of light, decided to donate the use of its space during the day on Sunday, the last day of the Convergence.

To feed guests through the weekend, ENGAGE is working with Hollygrove Market and Farm and Crescent City Farmers Market to procure as much locally and sustainably grown food as possible.

ENGAGE has partnered with United Saints Recovery Project to house Convergence attendees – except for the first night, which invites local residents to host attendees for a “homestay,” to “allow for an true experience of New Orleans through intimate human connection,” as one flier says.

“At the local level, we’re working to support multicultural, transformational networks by providing spaces for people and organizations working for change to meet, network, and collaborate,” says Ferris. “And at the national level, ENGAGE is creating grassroots opportunities for students and young activists to learn more about community organizing, alternative education, and social change through internships, exchanges, and trainings. It only made sense to bring these streams of work together.”

For further information about the Convergence or to give a donation, see or call 504.383.3636. So long as they RSVP, New Orleans residents and organizations can participate in Convergence workshops and activities for free, and are invited to join in meals for a sliding scale donation.

Tags: local, food, education, organizing, community, workshop, training, movement, convergence, zeitgeist, eiffel, united saints,