I tried to think of several different ways to open up this post, but there really is no other way than to state a simple truth - I deal with depression. Yes, I deal with it. I don’t say, “I am depressed,” because I refuse to accept it as something I am, innately, in a constant state. Dealing with my depression sounds more what it feels like; a constant negotiation between emotions and my ability to respond to them in a healthy manner.
This post, however, isn’t about a simple confession, but rather to share one “tool” that has helped me combat it. In 2020 and beyond, I don’t think it’s all that strange to have someone say they battle with depression or any other form of mental health issue. Accepting our mental health issues continues to become less and less stigmatized and ever more present in a year that has brought on more challenges than many of us are prepared to deal with. It’s no surprise to see increased levels of depression, anxiety, isolation, and just overall degraded contentment. That is why I decided to share this post.
When navigating feelings of sadness and isolation, the one thing that I've found helpful is the ability to manufacturing joy for myself. Due to the pandemic, it has become increasingly difficult to find comfort and healing in our usual activities. It's not as easy to connect with friends and loved ones, or even just go and spend time outside. I’m going to share one psychological exercise that you can do from the comfort of your bedroom, or anywhere else you may feel the need that can help bring healthy emotions to you at any given moment.
It’s called the “Arsenal of Joy”. This isn’t something new and it isn’t something I invented. I wish I could remember what book I read this in since I would definitely recommend it because I have found it so helpful, but in reading up on it after-the-fact, the psychology behind it is real. It is exactly what it sounds like; a collection of weapons of joy that you can pull out from your mental repository when you need them. Here is how you go about creating and using your Arsenal of Joy.
STEP 1 - CREATE YOUR ARSENAL
Take out a journal, notebook, or anywhere you can write something down to reference later. Take a moment to think back on your favorite memories. All of us have at least one or (hopefully) more moments, however fleeting, where we felt genuinely and truly happy. They don’t have to be long, drawn-out memories. It could be literal seconds where you felt good in the world. Write them down.
As an example, I’ll share three of mine:
1. When a certain friend hugged me.
I won’t share his name here because it isn’t necessary for the purposes of this post, but I did when I wrote it down in my arsenal. You want to be specific when writing it down and include what you felt at that moment. My love language is touch, so the feeling in that moment, while not romantic in nature, was strong. This friend happened to be larger than me, so whenever he gave me a hug, being enveloped in his embrace felt warm, caring, and safe. I felt sheltered. I wrote all of that down.
2. When my kids showed genuine, unsolicited affection towards one another.
Thankfully, I had several occasions to choose from. Since the idea is to focus in on a specific moment, I picked a particularly strong memory of my oldest daughter making a snack for her little sister and then sitting down to help her with her homework. This memory was strong for me not only because seeing them love each other is beautiful, but also because I felt extremely grateful for her help with her little sister and it reminded me that it was okay to consider myself a success as a parent.
3. When I received praise from my boss on a particular project.
I have been extremely lucky during my career to have had a series of really great bosses. One of them in particular I will forever be grateful to because he always allowed me to explore, develop, and put into practice new skills even when there might not be an immediately obvious need for them. In that particular position, a lot of what I did was troubleshooting workflows. Figuring out how to make things better without a whole lot of direction or guidance. After implementing a new workflow that ended up helping alleviate a tension point, he was not only appreciative but was able to make my efforts feel genuinely worthwhile. It was a very proud moment where I felt valued.
You’ll notice that all three of these were different kinds of joy - safety, love, and pride. Write down as many or as few as you want, but try to identify what emotion was the strongest in the moment as well, so you can choose the right memory to pull out of your arsenal in the future.
STEP 2 -PRACTICE
Read each one of your moments, close your eyes, and try to put yourself in the moment again. Don’t just think about it, but actually remember what you felt in different parts of your body. What else do you recall from the moment? What did you hear, smell, touch? Remember the moment through all of your senses to the point where you can recreate the emotion physically in your body.
This might take some practice, but it is important to try to “feel” the memory in the present, not just remember what it felt like in the past if that makes sense. Practice doing this several times a week. Pull out the list if you need to, but if you do it often enough, at some point you won’t even need to read the list to recall what is in your arsenal.
As an added bonus - and this is where some of the psychological tricks come in as well - while you are doing this, for each memory decide on a touch and implement the touch as you practice recreating the feeling. For example, for my first memory, I placed my right hand on my left shoulder while I remembered it. For the second, I squeezed my right earlobe between my fingers, and for the last, I would place my left hand on my right forearm. The reason you would add in this touch to your memory exercise is that our brains actually begin to correlate this trigger with the memory itself, and if you practice it enough, using the trigger will bring back the emotions of the memory itself without having to concentrate on recalling all of the details.
The point is to get so good at re-feeling what you felt at that moment, that you can pull out this memory at any given time to give yourself those feelings of happiness, well-being, and joy whenever you need them. You have now created your Arsenal of Joy.
STEP 3 - USE YOUR ARSENAL
Use your arsenal. It may seem silly and possibly even unhelpful at first, but if you stick to it, it can truly work once you get past the doubt. The next time you feel alone, pull out a memory where you felt surrounded by love and caring. If you feel anxious, remember a moment of peace and calm, and so on. Recreate the feeling in your body by concentrating on the specifics of the memory. Use the associated touch to cement that memory to that trigger. The more often you use it, the more effective it becomes.
Also, don’t be afraid to update your arsenal as you continue to have joyful moments. The more present a memory is, the easier it is to add it to your arsenal.
I hope that this exercise will be as helpful to some as it has been to me and that we can find the courage to find ways to help ourselves out of unhealthy mental states. Recognize them as such - just mental states - they do not define us and can only cage us if we don’t seek out healing. I’m wishing everyone health and happiness!
Iconico is proud to announce the creation of our first podcast series: IconicoXchange! In a world of pandemics, online organizing, and remote work, we wanted provide a space for connecting with incredible leaders who work at creating change in the world.
Our official launch will be the first week of September 2020 for this labor of love, where our founder, Luis Avila has a candid conversation with organizational and inspirational leaders about what the work means in this new world, how they're dealing with trying to create change when old tactics aren't as effective as they used to be, and what they see for the future change-makers.
Here are the first episodes coming up:
Iconico has been engaged in the work to cultivate capacity with organizations for the last four years. Although our team has collaborated with numerous partners during this time, the origin of our organization and the motivation behind it isn’t something we often share. In a year where there is so much upheaval within our communities - sociopolitical unrest brought to a fever-pitch because of the continuing issue of police brutality, a global pandemic that has devastated the globe, and even close encounters with murder hornets, asteroids on paths of impact with the planet, and toying with the idea of World War III - a lot of us are taking the time to reflect on where we’ve been so we can understand where it is we want to get to in the work that we do.
As the newest member of Iconico, I of course recently went through our on-boarding process where I was walked through our organization’s mission and a brief history of our genesis and our “north star” - to build advocacy capacity within communities so that they can effect the change they want to see, but I wanted to learn more. I took this blog post as an opportunity to dive more in depth with our founder, Luis Avila, about his vision for the organization, his motivations for creating it, and where he would hope to see us going in the future. What I was left with after our discussion was a renewed faith in the resilience of our community, and the belief that we’ve already lived through decades of battles against some of the cruelest injustices and attempts to maintain the current power structure that keeps those most privileged at the top of the so-called food chain; 2020 was not going to be the year that brought us down. I realized that our work has only just begun.
Even though I would have preferred to conduct my interview of Luis in person so I could have an opportunity to really feel his presence, his humor, and his vision that so many of my coworkers and partners have told me about, but because of COVID, I was limited to trying to gather all of that through the bright screen that separated us. As I pulled out my notebook with my predetermined list of questions, I looked at the man sitting on the other side of the glow. In this moment, at least in my eyes, Luis didn’t embody what the vision you normally concoct in your head when you think about the founder of an organization that helped strategize some of the most effective campaigns for local to federal candidates as well as some of the largest advocacy organizations in the country and the globe. He was the average guy on the street, someone you wouldn’t pick out in a crowd, in a slightly worn, light gray T-shirt and hair that was a few weeks overdue for a cut.
Luis is the guy that it seems like everyone knows. Not just in our home-base of Arizona, but literally everywhere he goes. I had heard it so many times from people around me. My colleague, Monica, who is currently the most senior member of Iconico’s staff after Luis himself, had shared the number of times people would walk up to greet him, no matter where in the country they would be travelling. But at the same time, he’s never been the frontman. In all of the work he’s done, he has always been mostly behind-the-scenes, helping others take on the leadership roles they find themselves in either intentionally or by circumstance.
I wondered what would motivate an average Joe like Luis, with no desire to be recognized, or lauded, or incessant need to increase his own personal wealth to become the leader he was to everyone who surrounds him. How much did those leaders know about him? About his motivations? It made me excited to find out.
Luis is an immigrant who grew up in Mexico. When he came to the U.S. over eighteen years ago, some of his first experiences were confronting the thinly veiled racism of a large portion of the population in Arizona. Having had a few experiences in Mexico of riling up students to demand changes of their schools and even initiating a pirate radio station, Luis was not one to easily back down from a good (political) fight. As he grew more confident that the organizing skills he had inadvertently picked in Mexico still applied in this new country he now called home, as is Luis’ nature, he began riling up people here when he wanted to create change for his community.
Luis’s work in advocacy and electoral campaigns began in 2001. Since then, he has been a part of numerous initiatives and has coached hundreds of organizers throughout the world. Through his work he began to see a glaring issue regarding consultancy firms and their interactions with clients. The ultimate goal of the contracts he saw from other advocacy consulting firms was to create a dependency on the consultant so that the contract would continuously be renewed and prolonged, instead of being centered around what he believed a consulting firm should really be focused on; adding more capacity in the client’s work. This reality is what laid the foundation for Luis to launch what is now known as Iconico Campaigns.
People of color, and those most affected by the impacts of social inequity, have historically not been included in campaign leadership, regardless of whether it was electoral and/or advocacy-focused, and this was also seen in the leadership of existing consulting firms. So in 2016, Luis, knowing he had the ability to change this culture that leaves these valuable communities out and the know how of how to move communities to push for the change they need, he began to do so through Iconico. The mission, simple: build capacity within organizations to fulfill their missions, effectively working Iconico out of the job by eliminating any dependencies in the shortest time frame possible. All of this while imparting the knowledge, skills and attitudes for organizational leaders so that they can not only continue doing the work without Iconico, but build new leaders of their own. He felt it was also paramount that his firm provide excellent services to partners that aligned with his values, so that the entire team could feel proud of being a part of the organization.
“I wanted to create an anti-consultancy consulting firm,” Luis said to me, “and I knew I could do it. I knew we could do it. Our community has seen so many challenges, and not just recently. We’re talking about decades of organizing, marching, protesting, registering voters, and training new leaders. If you look at everything that our community has fought for and won in a vacuum, it’s hard to grasp just how resilient we have been and how far we’ve come. I had to recognize that I had been a part of the fighting back and I was no one special. I had the ability to teach others how to fight back as well. No one needs a savior to swoop in and save them. We have the answers within ourselves. We can call upon our community to support us. What, historically, we’ve been denied and pushed out of is power. I wanted to create an organization that would teach people to take it for themselves instead of waiting to have power granted to them.”
At first, the resources were simply not present to expand the team, so Luis began his work at Iconico solely. But that changed quickly as more clients began to seek out the consulting firm. The growth of the team commenced as soon as Luis saw that he could sustain himself, the members of Iconico, and the company itself in responsible and supportive ways.
This growth would not stay contained exclusively within Iconico. Eventually, in 2017, what began as a project to assess Arizona’s viability as a battleground state contributed to the creation of another entity. That summer, a series of training sessions were offered to organizations within the state; the turnout and interest far exceeded expectations. This led the Iconico team to see that there was an opportunity to establish a permanent resource. Thus, Instituto was designed and launched to be a nonprofit accelerator and incubator dedicated to cultivating capacity wholly within Arizona-based organizations.
In the time since Luis founded each entity, Iconico has worked with a multitude of folks and organizations, locally and internationally, with this objective in mind. As the world continues to grapple with the ever-present threat of COVID-19, the Iconico team acknowledges that now is a pivotal moment for organizations working within the community organizing sector; a significant amount of change is occurring every moment in all aspects of life due to presence of the virus and lack of government response to safeguard our communities. Despite this, Iconico is ready to provide support and capacity to organizations stepping into a nebulous future, just as it has been doing since the beginning.
When I asked about what Luis sees for the future of Iconico, he responded, “Advocacy and elections are changing as we speak. We need to stay on top of that, basing the recommendations we make and the support we offer in real-world evidence. That’s why being affiliated with Instituto is critical. It allows us to experiment with what works and what doesn’t. And we can see the impact almost immediately because we work so closely with partner organizations that have created such a close relationship with us and our efforts.”
“Even the way we talk about power has changed just since Iconico’s inception. But organizations are so deeply embedded in the work itself, in building relationships, in collecting signatures, and the million other things that we have to do on a daily basis that it leaves them with little to no time to sit back and think about 10, 15, or 20 years into the future. I want to help create and facilitate spaces for that. To work with forward thinkers. The people they come to when they know the need to step back and look ahead. And I want us to be prepared to offer the resources and tools they need.
“The work is never going to end. Even when things change, there is always someone else trying to oppress, or take advantage of, or even abuse communities. But the way we build power with those most impacted by injustice will always change because we are able to change consciousness. We are currently seeing a mind shift with Gen Z. They are more politically involved, they are more informed, and they are more angered at the future that has been laid before them. I am excited to learn and participate in shaping that passion into a brighter future for everyone."
When we used to think of the concept of working from home (#WFH), we used to associate it as an exciting occasional opportunity that allowed us to be comfortable and take a break from the chaos of the office. However, now with the threat of COVID-19, many are shifting to working from home for the foreseeable future, until the worse part of this pandemic passes. But this switch isn't as simple for everyone as it may seen, especially for those who have no prior experience with the new habits, workflows, and challenges it brings. Adjusting to the work-from-home life and managing the anxieties begins with acknowledging the following: Being able to work from home is a privilege, especially during a time period where others are losing their jobs, but it comes with it's own set of hurdles. Communication with team members and managers often changes from being able to get quick or immediate answers to waiting for email or text replies. The workday itself blends in with the rest of the day, often making it difficult to keep a separation between work and personal time. On top of that, it takes a whole new level of self-discipline to stay on task when normal home duties and entertainment beckon us at every moment. Fortunately, this shift in work structure is likely temporary, and it will be uncomfortable, but it's a necessary hurdle that will also help ensure the safety of our coworkers and their families as we try to decrease the rate at which many are getting infected by COVID-19. This is important to internalize because reminding ourselves of the purpose of this change can help make the challenges a little more bearable.
Ultimately, working from home will be different for every individual. For some it's easier than for others to deal with working in isolation, especially when even in our down time we don't have the luxury of getting out to clear our mind. Even without the isolation, there's the matter of staying productive that can be challenging depending on what the work consists of. Regardless of who is going through it, there are a few things that can help anyone adjust a little more easily.
For some, the biggest issue isn't necessarily working from home. Instead, it's actually not being able to leave the home that causes the greatest amount of stress. Here are some tips that might come in handy to make it manageable.
Even with all of these suggestions, working from home will still be a challenge for many of us, but the important thing to remember is to not just check-in on others, but ourselves as well. Take some time to self-reflect on how you're feeling and what is really vital for your mental and emotional health and stability and don't be afraid to ask for help and support from others to get it.
If you have any other suggestions on how to deal with #wfh, please share them with others in the comments below!
In the Spring of 2019, Iconico Campaigns partners with Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD) to design and implement a family and community engagement model that would be able to work better for both the schools and the communities they are meant to serve. Our work included interviews with administration and staff, focus groups with parents and staff, and a survey to parents and guardians of students enrolled in the District.
Traditionally, family engagement has been measured by an individual’s (usually a parent, and more specifically, mother) attendance or presence at school functions or events. This narrow definition excludes the many configurations of households that public school students find or experience. Our approach was an expansive and inclusive idea of family and community engagement to capture as many families as possible and allow for many modes of communication.
We proposed this concept to the Family and Community Engagement Committee of the District. With the approval of the committee, Iconico worked directly with District staff to develop a series of survey questions and focus groups to capture a wide range of experiences by families and staff. Iconico Campaigns also engaged administrators and community members in one-on-one interviews to understand their needs and experiences with community engagement.
Using input from Phoenix Union High School District staff and reviewing academic literature we prepared an 18-question survey for families of students in the District — we received 127 responses.
Our findings and insights come from reviewing survey data, conversations during focus groups, interviews, and reviewing the available research into family engagement in the education sector.
Based on the research, survey data, and focus groups we recommended Phoenix Union High School District examine and address the following: Communications, Measuring Engagement and Building a Culture of Engagement.
Iconico Campaigns found that families’ preferred method of communication were text to email, and email to every other method of communication. However, we recommended that PUHSD create a tracking system to be able to ensure optimum engagement with every family in the district. Figuring out what percentage of families fall into each of the profiles will allow us to differentiate what levels of engagement each campus has, where they need to focus their efforts, and what are their strengths.
Creating a shift in culture starts with measuring, tracking and reporting data on the different profiles, having opportunities for families to communicate, and get messages that are relevant and evocative, meeting families where they are.
For the culture to adapt and to ensure a culture of engagement and connection with the district, there has to be an effort to share the value of engagement in student’s academic achievement both internally and externally. Finally, we suggested that members of PUHSD receive professional development on the benefits of engagement, strategies, and to be connected with the families who are considered “active”, so they can serve as partners and potential trainers for others.
November 27th, 2018 is #GivingTuesday - the Tuesday after Thanksgiving turned into a national charitable giving day. If you're not sure what organization to donate to, here are just a few of the amazing organizations we here at Iconico like to support.
This list is in no particular order, so just choose the cause that sits closely to your heart:
NOW GET TO GIVING!
Event planning in your local area can be a daunting and time-consuming task. Having to coordinate events in other cities presents a whole new set of challenges. That's why we wanted to share our experience with you and hopefully save you some time and headaches.
In February of this year, Iconico was hired to work on the Voto Chilango campaign, which came out of the Instituto Electoral de la Ciudad de México (Mexico City’s Electoral Institute). The purpose of the campaign was to raise awareness amongst people from Mexico City and Mexico in general about the opportunity to participate in the country’s elections from abroad. The campaign had different phases:
According to the Migration Policy Institute, in 2014, there were close to 12 million people from Mexico living in the U.S. The participation of at least a fraction of them in Mexico’s elections would surely sway the results.
As a part of our campaign efforts, we were tasked with organizing events in three different cities to promote voter registration. We chose Phoenix, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Anyone who has ever planned events knows that three events in one month is no easy task, especially when those events have to be held in different cities. However, it can be done with a bit of creativity and help from the people you know. Here is what we learned:
Going Where People Are
The first event we organized was in Phoenix. We called it Chilango Brunch and we partnered with a local restaurant that serves food from Mexico City (including a Torta de El Chavo) to host it. If we were looking for Chilangos, what better place to find them than a Chilango restaurant? Aside from leveraging the restaurant’s clientele, we also invited people to come learn how to register to vote in Mexico’s July 1 elections and if they had trouble registering, we offered help onsite.
We blew up an image of a Credencial de Elector, Mexico’s voter I.D., and had every person present take a picture with their face in it. We poked fun at the men taking pictures because the blown up card had the name “Margarita” on it. We even used the hashtag #TodosSomosMargarita (we are all Margarita).
Tap into existing events
The second event was in Vegas. We got very lucky because there was an event already being organized that could let us have an information booth. Of course finding that out took a lot of communicating with the local community and figuring out collectively what we could do. We contacted friends we knew in Planned Parenthood and they in turn put us in touch with Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLANevada) who were willing to help organize the event themselves to help this important cause. In the end we found out about the Cesar Chavez Celebration and decided to participate in that.
Event number three took place in Oxnard, California. Our original plan was to have it in Los Angeles but we found a friend who worked for a union in Oxnard and could could help us host it. He had connections with the community of Mixtecos in the city and that was very attractive to us. So we headed to Oxnard, bought some coffee and Pan Dulce and had the event at the Downtown Main Library.
Take time to strategize
Even though it might seem like you need to get moving on planning right away because you only have a month, it’s worth it to spend a couple of days strategizing. It’s important to just sit and think, what is the most effective way we can do this? Can we get more creative? What contacts do we have in each place and how can we leverage them? The prep work will go a long way.
Divide up the work and delegate
If there is a team (meaning more than one person), it’s beneficial if one person focuses on everything related to event one, while the other is thinking through events two and three instead of the whole team focusing on one event at a time. This way, by the time event one is done, the strategy for two and three are also done and the execution can begin. It’s much more time-efficient.
Networks are key
The importance of a wide network was once again reiterated to us. We might not have had contacts in each city we chose but we certainly knew people who did and that went a long way. Our network delivered big time during this work, making email introductions, sharing facebook posts, asking around in their community. It was amazing and we don’t speak in hyperbole. We really couldn’t have pulled it off without all the people that mobilized for us.
Ask a woman
If you need something done fast, ask a woman. Vegas was the clearest example of that this time around. We realized we had a girlfriend with contacts in Vegas, she made an introduction who then made another one and we had an event planned in a matter of 5 hours. That was gold.
While not a comprehensive list of everything you need to consider when planning events outside your city, focusing on these areas should help make the task a little easier.
Economic inequities have always been an issue, not just in the U.S. but in many countries, and make breaking out of generational poverty next to impossible. Iconico wants to confront some of the systemic and political drivers of imposed poverty. For that purpose, we are launching the inaugural Monsoon Fellowship program during the summer of 2018. The focus of the fellowship will be to research and strategize ways to alleviate the disproportionate balance of representation, support, and resources for communities of color, both domestic and foreign. Fellows will engage community members, decision makers, advocates, and politicians as well as conduct extensive research to establish a network of supporters that will assist in completing project goals.
The Monsoon Fellowship will provide training, support, and work experience to empower college students in creating self-sustaining advocacy networks, strategic planning, and analytical research of economic injustice in education and/or politics. While desired outcomes and benchmarks will be outlined along with Iconico leadership, each fellow will be wholly responsible for the success of the project. Chosen fellows will work independently while being be supported and guided by the Iconico team to complete the established work plan for the duration of the fellowship.
Click the button below to learn more about the fellowship and how to apply:
One of the important benefits of the relationship with Iconico has been how they’ve challenged me to think differently about the engagement and advocacy we are doing with partners and members, thinking of new, more effective avenues and creative solutions to put more power into the work that we do.”
The California Immigration Policy Center (CIPC) is an advocacy organization that works to improve the lives of immigrants across that state of California. Founded in 1996, in the aftermath of Proposition 187 (and other harsh federal copycats), it has become the premiere immigrant rights policy institution in the state. CIPC seeks to improve the lives of all Californians by promoting and protecting safety, health, and public benefits. They also offer a multitude of integration programs for immigrants.
CIPC’s success comes from their legislative and policy advocacy, using strategic communications, institutional organizing, and capacity building to engage policymakers and advocates all across California. CIPC focuses on building partnerships and coalitions with multiple groups, pushing for policy changes at the state and local level. With 85 member organizations, and nine regional coalition partners, CIPC has played a critical role in advancing progressive immigrant justice policies, including but not limited to:
CIPC was looking to redesign an engagement and membership model that helped them maximize their partners’ mobilization efforts, coordination, and communication. Comprised mostly of member organizations, CIPC also wanted to find a clear path for non-organization members have more intentional engagement with CIPC’s efforts.
The first step was a series of challenging discussions that helped us identify their engagement model, and how it could be structured to move supporters to a higher level of involvement. By way of weekly one-on-one coaching sessions that allowed for analysis of their internal communication channels and supports needed, a new engagement model began to emerge. Brainstorming new ideas and developing new tools for event planning, organizing, goal setting, and internal communication processes, Iconico was able to help CIPC build capacity to help attain desired outcomes.
We assisted CIPC in restructuring their engagement model to have a targeted pathway that moved both organization and non-organization members to have deeper connections and opportunities for engaging and mobilizing with CIPC’s regional coalitions, and campaign efforts.
Planning Meeting Facilitation:
A refined engagement model, including defined roles for members, was only one part of setting up CIPC for continued success. With members being engaged by multiple departments, and most departments working on separate campaign efforts, Iconico facilitated a conversation with leadership from across the organization to coordinate and streamline the new engagement model, aligning efforts with each department goals. This group was also able to develop a year-long timeline for both member communications and engagement efforts that the organization, which helped build on each other’s efforts and ensure successful integration.
What I really appreciate about Iconico is that they have been able to lead us in the direction of independence, making sure we are the ones leading, taking on the reigns of the work towards manifesting the vision we have created together.”
By: Luis Avila
One summer, I moved to the United States from Mexico to learn English. My mother was familiar to Arizona, she used to come up North to make money and support me and my siblings every few months, but I never thought we'd end up living here, my plan was to go back to Querétaro, and become an attorney. 16 years later, we are still in this country, I'm still learning English, but I'm doing something different from where I thought I'd be, and I'm loving it.
Community organizing has been my passion since friends and I started a youth publication at age 16. In a black and white magazine, we wrote about politics, culture, arts and other topics. We walked the streets of downtown and distributed them by hand, talking with other young people about their concerns and ideas, and getting in trouble with law enforcement for promoting youth voices and not asking for permission.
In these years, I realized the power of people coming together to accomplish something that they care about. We were teenagers in the age where digital communication wasn't a thing, most of our media platforms existed on paper form, TV and radio, and we lived in a country where things were changing. The economy was recovering from one of the worst financial crises in Mexican history, political parties were trying to break a one-party rule system, and an exciting social movement lead by indigenous people demanded respect and autonomy to make their own decisions, inspiring our generation to learn more about alternative economic and social structures, the role race, class and gender play in our societies, and the possibility of building a more equal and just world.
Moving to the United States was difficult. I had to learn a new language as an adult, experience a culture that I only knew from movies and television, and realizing new social dynamics: people who looked like me worked in service, people who looked like those I saw on TV signed our checks and owned the buildings. This always stuck with me.
In the first years in the US, I met many young people trying to get an education, frustrated by not having the means to accomplish that dream. I spoke to parents who endured the sacrifices of migration to offer their children a good education, only to learn that very few of them would actually make it. I saw other communities of color oppressed and discarded through institutional and overt racism. I also witnessed large segments of the population excluded from the civic process, not able to demand a better life for their communities. All of us, fighting our own fights as hard as we could, sometimes in silos, most times with limited resources and tools, every time with the desire and passion that fueled most of the social progress accomplished until now.
When I started Iconico, I wanted to help organizations build advocacy capacity, get an outside perspective on ways to grow, engage and mobilize communities, and better ways to support and manage campaigns and people. Partnering with national and local organizations has been a humbling experience. I've been able to learn from diverse leaders trying new approaches to social change, righting some of the most pervasive wrongs in our society, and identifying new tools to help organizations become more effective in their work.
While I'm proud of the experiences I've been privileged to gain in the last 14 years, I'm still figuring out how to improve efficiencies with Iconico. I'm excited to tackle challenges of knowledge management, and strengthening systems that help clients track the value we offer. There are easier things too: I'm still insecure about my English, especially my writing, that's why I'm looking for a partner to communicate in more accessible and efficient ways with organizations and people, producing documents that we feel proud of, that build true advocacy capacity in organizations in all corners of the US.
I'm taking a scary step and hiring Iconico's first full-time team member. I'm excited to be the best manager possible, learn from this person's perspective, and offer the best value we can to the organizations we partner with.
I decided that it was time to own my present, partner with community leaders, learn from people in working to determine our future. It's time to also be vulnerable, communicate our needs, and build the assets we need to continue the fight. It's our time, and I'm excited to partner with you!
Join the Iconico team, the application deadline is July 28th, 2017.