Everyone’s a nerd about something, right? Well here at Bread we have our fair share of nerds, both clients and staff. For the staff in our Advocacy and Community Engagement Department, one of our positive obsessions is building power.

Advocacy’s a new department started out of the realization that though our services are stellar, they could never alone end poverty. To really accomplish our anti-poverty goals we had to find ways to directly address the justice issues at the root of poverty. To do this we need to build power among the people affected most by the problem. Our formula for building power among clients and their communities is relationships + skills building. Our relationship building is the foundation on which we connect clients to the skills and resources they need to be engaged members of the justice seeking community. Though doing relationship building work alongside organizing for social change may make the work go slower, there are real measurable payoffs. We believe our clients living in poverty are the experts on the problem and should be involved in developing the solution.

BFC Advocates Off to Allied Media Conference

To that end, we are constantly looking for skills-building experiences with a clear social justice mission. That’s why, for the second year in a row, Bread for the City staff and community members hit the road to the 14th Annual Allied Media Conference in Detroit, Michigan.

The AMC: Media Skills for Social Justice Nerds

“An empowering, amazing, and unforgettable time.” Rosa Burbridge

There couldn’t be a more fitting experience for a group of folks with varied interests at the heart of social justice than the Allied Media Conference (AMC). The AMC is a large and diverse gathering, offering hands-on trainings in a wide range of media practices, from breakdancing to video-blogging to building radio transmitters to wireless mesh networks. The AMC’s objective is to equip people with the media and communications tools they need to make change happen.

The AMC helps us expose clients and staff to new uses for media and technology that might help us run a campaign, analyze research that is being done in or about our communities, take an informed stance on a policy, or come up with some phenomenal solution to a complex community issue.

This is already happening at Bread. Leaders within our client community are conducting research on our services and client engagement strategy with the objective of making recommendations that will make it work better. Participatory action research, or PAR, is a grassroots media and research tool Joni Podschun, Advocacy Coordinator, learned about at AMC 2011.

“Very healing!” – Farasha
“I felt like part of the family.” – Valencia Rutledge

All of the clients who went are doing significant work to help our community thrive. They’ve volunteered lots of time in the past and have committed to bringing some of what they learned back. There are already brilliant ideas a-bubbling.

Going to Detroit also connected us to justice minded media makers back home who are down to collaborate on projects that amplify our mission here at Bread.

“I met more people from DC working on stuff I’m interested in in Detroit that I could never have met right here.” – Judith Hawkins

DiscoTech 2011

Funny how that happens but, through the Allied Media Conference, we’ve been able to meet more folks from DC interested in contributing to Bread’s work. Take, for example, the many staff of the Open Technology Institute. Last year, some Bread staff and clients met OTI folks at the AMC and, since then, they’ve been able to collaborate on a few Discovering Technology Fairs where hundreds of people have been able to learn tech skills and understand the digital divide in DC and what they can do about it.

“DiscoTech was a phenomena! Greg, Andrew, Adrianne, Jessie, and the other presenters were excellent in conveying valuable concepts which will help promote our mission in being a media platform for our communities in a way that will cause social change.” Donald Monroe

This year, because they kept in touch with the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, those same folks presented their work so far at the AMC as a fully formed workshop and practice session to teach other folks how to stage discotechs in their community. Our staff and clients are even featured prominently in the How-to Guide on Disotechs just released by the DDJC.  Neato!

“I wish the AMC would come to DC. It was a great learning experience.” – Judy Hawkins

Connect * Create * Transform
That was this year’s theme. We hope to transform our relationship to information sharing in DC. There’s no reason to keep all this goodness to ourselves. We’d like to bring a little of the AMC to you as we reflect on our journey in multiple ways. Consider this part of a multi-media reportback on the conference, what we learned and where we’re making connections.

As a teaser, our resident video editing nerds Judy Hawkins and Valencia Rutledge put together this little video. Check it out and stay tuned for more updates about what inspired us.

During the conference, Bread staff and clients were tweeting. Follow hashtag #amc2012 and staff feeds @zorganizrcurtis and @joni_pod. As we plan for next year, we’ll update you on a hashtag created just for folks interested in Bread — #breadamc.

If you’re interested in learning more about the AMC or in helping more clients get the skills they need to organize for social change, email us at advocacy@breadforthecity.org. All nerds are welcome, you’ll be among friends.