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Connecting for Change

In the mythology of many of the native peoples on Earth, there is a prophesy that when the Earth is most in peril, a spider woman will weave a web connecting people with one another in order for them to do what has to be done to save the world.

I cannot say whether these are the Earth’s most perilous times, and I have no special insight into the wisdom of native peoples, but the power of people connecting to create positive change in the world is something I get to see every day.

My name is Desa VanLaarhoven, and this is my first time writing here. I am the Executive Director of the Marion Institute. Through the programs I get to support, I see people around the world using their creativity, their faith, and their passion to create a sustainable, just and rich world for us all. And on the 22nd-24th of October, many of those people will gather in New Bedford, Massachusetts to connect with each other and share their strategies, ideas, and passion for change.

The Connecting for Change conference is a unique and powerful experience. Whether you are someone who is committed to living in a way that does no harm to people and the environment, or someone who is just beginning to learn about the difference you can make in the world, I hope you’ll join us this year.

We have an incredible group of speakers and a world-changing schedule of workshops. Some of them like Greg Mortenson, Van Jones, and Annie Leonard, need no introduction, but others who are equally as inspiring are less known.

Anya Kamenetz will make a keynote address at Connecting for Change and is a staff writer for Fast Company magazine. DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs and the Coming Transformation of HIgher Education, her new book, was called a "thoughtful" "methodical" "bombshell" by Publisher’s Weekly, and Naomi Wolf said "Anya Kamenetz shows a way to shake up education to release more potential at every level." The Village Voice nominated her for a Pulitzer Prize for contributions to the feature series Generation Debt, which became a book in 2006. If you care about the cost of education and the economics of growing up in America today, Anya is a must-see.

"Homesteading" is a time-honored American countercultural tradition, and Philip and Erin Ackerman-Leist pursued the standard back-to-the-land approach to homesteading by living for seven years in a small cabin with no electricity or running water before building a more comfortable off-grid home deep in the hills of Vermont. In the process of their fourteen year venture, Philip has been teaching a popular college course entitled "A Homesteader’s Ecology." His students’ challenges to the rural back-to-the-land version of homesteading pushed Philip to reconsider what elements might best constitute "modern homesteading." If you have a kitchen herb garden, you are part homesteader – and there are incredible things to learn.

And at the other extreme of growing your own food and the macro benefits that can come from it, Nikki Henderson, the Executive Director of People’s Grocery in West Oakland, CA. will also deliver a keynote address at Connecting for Change. Under Nikki’s leadership, the organization has launched a new campaign to revitalize the economy of West Oakland through all aspects of the food system, from production to distribution, and leveraging the power of local nutrition education and major health institutions to reduce obesity, diabetes, and other major health ailments in West Oakland. Her address will teach us all the power of something as simple as food.

And speaking of teachers – we often overlook the many wonderful teachers that cross our paths. Through guided meditations and group sharing in the Animals as Sacred Teachers workshop, we will deepen our awareness of the animals in our world and open to the divine wisdom and love they bring to us. We will strengthen our connection to the animals, the wild ones and family members, who share our journey. Together we can create a world that honors and respects the animals who grace our lives as we embrace the interconnectedness of all life.

A full list of the speakers and workshops at Connecting for Change can be found here. If you have read this far, you belong there. Get your ticket today, and help us spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.

By no single method and by no silver bullet will the critical difference be made, but by the combination of all of our ideas and talents (connecting for change), can we meet each of the challenges we face and overcome them.

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