Joy, Culture, and Community Building With Your Chapter

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This training highlights how local groups can incorporate more fun, volunteer support, culture and community building into their group meetings and local activities with examples of what's worked for CCL chapters around the country.
TOC and Guide Section
The Importance Of Group Culture

This training is based on the second pillar of Transformational Organizing, which is a framework that we use within CCL:

Creating a group culture that inspires, nurtures and motivates people

This is what it’s all about in CCL - we want people to take action that moves us forward in life, closer to a livable world. When people feel nurtured, they tend to take action longer and it also feels nice! explore the meaning and importance of group culture. 

According to sociologists like Nicki Lisa Cole, Ph.D:

“culture consists of the values, beliefs, systems of language, communication, and practices that people share in common and that can be used to define them as a collective...It is important for shaping social relationships, maintaining and challenging social order, determining how we make sense of the world and our place in it, and in shaping our everyday actions and experiences in society...Culture is also what we do and how we behave and perform…” 

  • This means, in essence, that the culture that we create within CCL can help people make sense of their place and role in the larger climate movement and ultimately potentially shape who they are as a member of society.
  • This is a big role, and we attempt to create this overarching culture within our CCL chapters to support people in making sense of it all.  How we welcome people into our chapter, this process is part of our culture. How we listen to those with different opinions, how much we speak in a conversation, how we respond in the media to bills that aren’t ours - all of this is founded in the culture we strive to create as an organization. 

If we dip back into CCL in regards to the definition and meaning of culture, the second pillar of Transformational Organizing says that:

An organization’s culture is its identity.  Research has shown that organizations with a strong identity and culture have more motivated people in it, and that’s important to our success.

  • So, clearly, it’s in our best interest to be intentional about the culture we are building in our chapters, to take steps to integrate the CCL Way into what we do locally. 
  • It can make the difference between a thriving and a struggling chapter, an active chapter or one that’s still in progress, which ultimately translates to fewer opportunities for turning our MOCs into co-sponsors of our bill and reaching our overarching goal of a livable world. 
  • In addition, building a tightly knit culture, including joy and elements of play is not only fun, but it helps us be more effective at building resilience amidst so much challenging news and addressing climate change. People are wanting and needing more lightness in this work - which seems counterintuitive to what’s possible, but is quite the opposite. 
How CCL National Creates Culture

There are a few areas to look in order to incorporate the CCL Way and the culture of our organization. First of all, consider CCL's two part mission statement: 

  1. To create the political will for climate solutions (and on a bigger stage, a livable world)
  2. To empower individuals to have breakthroughs in their personal and political power
As is made clear in these two statements, at our foundation, we are solution focused. This is something we try to make very clear in our Climate Advocacy Training - we are for, not against.  In this way, we speak out when we like something - we publicize which aspects of the new climate bills we appreciate, and we pivot to why we support H.R. 763 through how it achieves our goal. We find the benefits in the actions that someone takes, or we choose to say nothing at all. And what this does, among other things, is to support us in having positive relationships with people and other organizations, and this, in turn, moves us closer to our mission.

In addition to our mission, we have seven core values that guide us in the CCL Way. These values guide us in our way of being while in action, conversation, or consideration:

  • Focus, Integrity, Optimism, Diversity, Personal Power, Relationships, Being Nonpartisan
The CCL Way

As highlighted in Transformational Organizing's Second Pillar, CCL groups are invited to help embrace our culture as deliberately as we teach them how to lobby or write a letter to the editor.  But how do we actually do this? 

When someone joins CCL, they have lots of questions, like when we meet and how our legislative proposal works, and how they can take action. At the same time, they learn how we work together —from the moment they first contact us, they discover the culture of our organization.  This is part of how they learn what our culture is, by watching and participating in how we do things. But it can also help to explore the depth of the CCL Way and then consider how that translates into action.

That national organization provides several ways to build culture:

  • The monthly call (and the concept of CCL's monthly meeting) not only provides information to volunteers but building a sense of community. 
    • listening to the live call can make it much easier to building a culture of inclusion, collaboration and hope. 
    • Being live with so many other people around the country adds a sense of spark that isn’t possible when you skip the call or listen to a recording. 
    • We come together monthly to do four things -educate ourselves, get inspired, practice, and take action
  • The Informational Session and the Climate Advocate Training use quotes and stories to convey our culture to new volunteers.
    • Every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and an inclination to savor it. This makes it hard to plan the day. But if we forget to savor the world, what possible reason do we have for saving it? In a way, the savoring must come first.
  • The CCL Blog uses stories to convey what’s important to us: 
    • Sam-Daley Harris speaks to the power of grassroots advocacy
    • Flood survivors join forces to change policy
Remind volunteers of these resources at your meetings, especially newcomers, by sharing your experience with them, or pointing them out on the New Supporter Welcome Handout
  • There are also some unspoken cultural aspects of CCL, like the importance of integrating joy and a sense of play into what we do, and the value of purpose, and how that drives us as humans. 
  • Sometimes it can be hard to figure out the specifics of one’s culture. But I find that it can often help to think of what we aren’t - to consider other organizations similar in nature but different in culture. That can help us highlight what we do, how we do it, and why that’s important to us as an organization. 

If we consider all of these concepts individually, you might notice that they, in some ways, guide us in how to be, and in other ways, on what to focus. This can be helpful as we return to the question of how do we actually integrate the CCL Way into our meetings?  

Building Culture & Joy In Your Meetings

Chapters around the country and larger world are empowered to create their own flavor of CCL's culture however fits best with your local group in building a strong community. 

  1. Give people a chance to talk about what they care about during an opening or closing exercise. Small groups can do that as a round robin, and larger groups can do it with a partner.
    • Start with questions that creates laughter and lightness:  What do you love that you want to save? Who inspires you? What gives you hope for humanity? Top three adjectives that describe your summer? Or close with questions like: What kind of person do you want to be this month? What are you “for” this week? What actions will you do this month?
    • There’s a mood that gets set as facilitator - a tone of action, focus, but also lightness and fun. Find ways to make jokes or try things that will help others laugh, making it comfortable for others to share, be human, and vulnerable. 
  2. Ask someone to briefly share something they did that models the CCL values (i.e. integrity, we start and end on time!)
  3. Ask someone to share a story from the group’s history or CCL’s history.
  4. Use quotes to say who we are, whether quotes you found or that you’ve heard through CCL.
  5. Convey your culture by integrating it into what your group does rather than telling people what to do or how to be.
  6. Celebrate successes as a group and report out on small group plans 
  7. Create opportunities for people to get to know each other better. 
    • Buddy systems and partner shares help volunteers feel more integrated, included, and grounded in how things work, where to find resources and support
  8. Invent a fun tradition for your group (for example, one group created commercials to demonstrate each value being lived out in their group). It’s okay to be silly!
  9. Consider that people have different personalities, learning styles, needs that support them in staying engaged, focused and hopeful.
  10. Break into smaller groups or partner communication groups, where people feel more comfortable contributing their own ideas 
    • This sends the message that their ideas and actions matter and that we want to support them in contributing those
  11. Community Building - listening for values, freeze frame for observing body language, This is an activity that I most recently used at our Regional Conference breakout session in June. I had people partner up, and while one partner was sharing something important to them, the other one was listening for values, or what seemed important to that other person. In the middle of the activity, I interrupted them group and asked them to freeze. I then walked around the room and pointed out what I noticed, the distinct body language that I was seeing that make it clear that people were listening to each other. What do you think I saw? 
Practicing Gratitude and Play
Including gratitude isn't just part of our values, it's a powerful transformational experience. Researchers have found practicing gratitude does four things:
  • Gratitude disconnects us from toxic, negative emotions and the ruminating that often accompanies them. Writing a letter “shifts our attention” so that our focus is on positive emotions.
  • Expressing gratitude helps us even if we don’t explicitly share it with someone. We’re happier and more satisfied with life because we completed the exercise.
  • The positive effects of gratitude writing compound like interest. You might not notice the benefit of a daily or weekly practice, but after several weeks and months, you will.
  • A gratitude practice trains the brain to be more in tune with experiencing gratitude — a positive plus a positive, equal more positives.

Much like we built out the importance of culture, we can emphasize the importance of play as well in our teams.  According to Primatologist Isabel Benchke Izquierdo, as quoted on the TED Radio Hour (27:07):

“Play increases creativity and resilience and is all about the generation of diversity. Diversity of interactions and connections...Play is our adaptive wild card. In order to adapt successfully to our changing world we need to play. In times when it may seem least appropriate to play, it might be the times when it’s most urgent.”

There are a number of things included in the myriad activities that CCL groups do that also succeeds with integrating joy and a sense of play into our chapter:

  • Bringing food and potluck lightens the mood, to combine social time with climate work
  • Many chapters host social mixers out in the community, open to neighboring chapters
  • Other chapters share in fun events from whale watching to roller skating parties
  • Consider trying out CCL’s Peer Support Action Team - a group supporting volunteers in building resilience around the work we do as climate advocates
  • Ask for ideas from your group to help enhance this training's list and share for others to learn from in the forums!
Press play to start the video (38m 09s)
Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Introductions & Agenda
(from beginning)

The Importance Of Group Culture

How CCL National Creates Culture

Building Culture & Joy In Your Meetings

Gratitude Practices

Additional Chapter Activities
  • Tamara Staton

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Press play to start the audio (38m 09s)
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Audio Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Introductions & Agenda
(from beginning)

The Importance Of Group Culture

How CCL National Creates Culture

Building Culture & Joy In Your Meetings

Gratitude Practices

Additional Chapter Activities
  • Tamara Staton
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