The online experience of an Affiliate Convening: Almost as if we were all together

UnidosUS’s 2020 Fall Affiliate Convening gathered our Affiliate Network in an online setting.

Whereas last November UnidosUS convened its Affiliates in El Paso, Texas, to share experiences and best practices, and to bring our issue experts to talk directly to our Network, this year, our Fall Affiliate Convening was quite different: the two-day in-person gathering turned into a two-day online meeting. What didn’t change was our Affiliates’ energy, camaraderie, and excitement—you’d forget we weren’t together in the same space. Their energy and hard work continues to show the power of our Affiliate Network.

By Beatriz Paniego-Béjar, Content Specialist, UnidosUS

On November 17 and 18, at 1 p.m. ET, Noon CT, 11 a.m. MT, and 10 a.m. PT, more than 160 participants from 94 Affiliates gathered in front of their computers to join our first online Fall Affiliate Convening. They were two fully-packed days to cover the pressing issues affecting our community this year and beyond.

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Just as in an in-person convening, we started the day by giving our Affiliates time to connect with each other: instead of gathering around the coffee machine, however, everyone brought their beverage of choice to their desks and were placed into different virtual lounges where they could chat, catch up, laugh, and share.

Sharing felt especially important this year, when our Affiliates have had to reinvent themselves to continue helping our communities as they’ve been disproportionally affected by COVID-19. As Karina Becerra, Coordinator at Project Vida in El Paso, Texas, puts it: “I really liked sharing in the break rooms the experiences of each one with the pandemic.”

UnidosUS’s Charles Kamasaki and Gads Hill Center Maricela Garcia spoke about Latino Leadership.

Coming together and hearing from each other was a boost, a reaffirmation that our Affiliates are not going through the difficulties this year has brought on alone, a confirmation that there are hundreds of community-based organizations doing the necessary work to support Latinos: “It was the recharge I needed,” Mayte Lopez, the Home Health Care Program Coordinator at Encuentro Nuevo Mexico, said. “I felt grateful to be in a network that is doing such amazing work, to remember that there are hundreds of us all over the country doing work for our communities.”

Mayur Chandriani, Prevention Specialist at the Latin American Community Center, expressed: “What I liked best about this year’s event was being able to convene so marvelously even in a virtual setting.” Also Nancy Maldonado, CEO of The Chicano Federation, said, “the chance to see everyone and hear more about the important work that so many Affiliates are doing,” was her favorite part.

Engaging sessions with our experts and Affiliate leaders

This year’s Fall Affiliate Convening focused its sessions on leadership, resiliency, the election results, and racial equity. We brought the voices of our experts and our Affiliates’ experience to provide in-depth analysis on health and policy priorities, on Latino leadership in this time of crisis, on our Affiliates adaptation to the new reality of COVID-19, and on Hispanic diversity to promote racial reconciliation. We also had the chance to gather our Affiliates by region (Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Far West, Texas, and California), so they could connect and work together to tackle the issues affecting their specific territories.

In the two-day convening, James Rudyk, Northwest Side Housing Center Executive Director and Chair of UnidosUS Affiliate Council, welcomed attendees, talked about the role of the Council, and guided the meeting.

Janet Murguía, Charles Kamasaki, Rita Carreón, Eric Rodríguez, and Susan Collins joined the convening from the UnidosUS team, to talk about our policies and priorities; how our Affiliate Network cannot just survive this crisis, but thrive in this new environment; and how to engage elected officials to advocate for our communities.

UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía shares with our Affiliate Network our priorities to continue supporting our communities.

Maricela García (Gads Hill Center), Rocío Rodarte (Mission Asset Fund), Juliana Ospina Cano (Conexión Américas), Abel Núñez (CARECEN), María Pinzón (Hispanic Services Council), Daniel Loftus (PODER), Nathan Teske (Bienestar), Florencia Velasco Fortner (The Concilio), Petra Falcón (Promise Arizona), and Josie Bacallao (Hispanic Unity of Florida) were the voices of our Affiliates that shared their experiences in those topics—and more related to the pandemic—with the broader Network.

Even though the covening was virtual, critical conversations, raffles, quizzes, and catching up with colleagues happened just as they would have in a face-to-face meeting, and a sense of togetherness was felt beyond any physical distance. “To feel unity and the power of the collective” is how Julia Cusatis, Director of Development at Encuentro Nuevo Mexico, so beautifully described UnidosUS’s 2020 Fall Affiliate Convening, concluding: “We are in this together!”

If you want to be part of these enriching gatherings, consider joining the UnidosUS’s Affiliate Network. You can learn more about it here.

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