By: LeaAnn Kutz
The Member Outreach Committee (MOC) was created in the 2009-2010 league year to ensure Junior League of Washington (JLW) members are provided with the types of events and training they need to successfully volunteer within the community and to provide opportunities to better serve JLW members through engagement and feedback. For the 2020-2021 league year, a greater focus was placed not only on virtual membership engagement and member recognition, but also on launching several new program initiatives, including mentorship and discussion groups.
While the formal Mentorship Program will launch in the future, the MOC has successfully launched its Discussion Groups program – Delving Deeper on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – in partnership with JLW’s Innovation & Incubation Task Force. The goals of Discussion Groups are to help members feel connected to the League community by facilitating opportunities to connect in smaller groups, provide opportunities for members to learn from and with other members and develop as leaders and professionals, and to facilitate conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Discussion Groups are one-hour facilitated discussions that take place virtually, utilizing breakout rooms to enable small group conversations. Topics are meant to build on each other, but are also structured as stand-alone sessions.
The topic for the first Delving Deeper Discussion Group, hosted on January 27, 2021, focused on white privilege and intersectionality. Some of the discussion questions included:
- In what ways do you exhibit privilege and in what ways do you experience marginalization?
- How does that affect your day-to-day life and interactions?
- How are issues like education, healthcare, poverty, housing, and economic status related to white privilege?
- How can we take an understanding of white privilege into our work with the community and what ways may this make you a different volunteer?
There were 57 members in attendance, and the feedback from attendees was positive both on format and content.
In addition to the positive turnout and feedback on the Discussion Groups program, there has been a noticeable increase in turnout in other areas of membership outreach. “Even with our existing programs, we have been finding ways to help members connect to the League and each other in the virtual world,” said Amelia Whitman Weisbuch, MOC 2020-2021 Chair. “Our General Membership Meetings and Bubbly with the Board help create connections with the League and what is going on, so the increase in turnout is very encouraging.” For the fall 2019 General Membership Meeting (GMM) there were 131 people in attendance, compared to 457 who participated in fall 2020. There were 299 who attended the winter 2020 GMM, which was the highest ever in the League’s history, until winter 2021 when 327 attended. 275 attended the spring 2021 GMM.
Additionally, the MOC added social time before GMMs and Bubbly with the Board sessions, as well as hosting book clubs which facilitate small group discussions amongst members. Members who joined social times commented that they appreciated the opportunity to connect in smaller groups and the ability to still socialize despite everything being virtual.
In a time of adapting to an ever-changing world, the MOC is constantly looking to promote creative ways to bring members together to share information, connect socially, and inspire hope and positive change.