Recap: A Weekend at AJLI’s Organization Development Institute

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

By Sadie Cornelius, Graphic Design Committee Chair

The Organizational Development Institute (ODI) is an AJLI leadership development series  held three times a year to provide Junior League members with mission-based training in key areas critical to the healthy functioning of a League. At ODIs, delegates from across the country build organizational capacity by learning about:

  • Innovative approaches to developing Junior League members as effective volunteer leaders in their communities
  • Powerful ways to design community programs and partnerships that have significant impact
  • Strategies for sustainable and diversified fund development
  • Keys to building strong internal operational controls
  • New approaches that enable the League to be governed strategically and effectively
  • Ways to build relationships, engagement and understanding through marketing and communications
  • Leading the Junior League to be more diverse and inclusive

The Junior League of Washington (JLW) sent Colli McKiernan, Onika Williams, Deena Smith, and me to represent JLW at the 2019 Winter ODI held at the Hilton Bayfront in downtown St. Petersburg February 22-24, 2019.

The opening plenary started with remarks by Summer Jensen, president of Junior League of St. Petersburg followed by a general history of the League and an overview of resources available from AJLI by its Chief Learning Officer JuWon Choi, Ed.D. JuWon showed us a number of tools available on including a league-wide directory where you can see the breakdown of membership, dues and requirements and search for and find contact info for others in similar roles as you anywhere in the world (and even export data) as well as a library of templates, training materials and online learning (not to mention a new placement tool that’s been in the works).

Pictured Left to Right: Deena Smith (Community Affairs Council: Assistant Director)Sadie Cornelius (Graphic Design Committee: Chair), Colli McKiernan (Cultural CP Council: Director), Onika Williams (National Museum of Women in the Arts: Chair)




In the Diversity and Inclusion breakfast session, Dr. Johnny Lake, an international consultant, trainer and speaker, told personal anecdotes about how the people in our life shape our perspectives and emphasized the importance of building community. The “Celebrating Leadership” luncheon featured Keynote speaker Elise Minkoff who gave her personal story about why she joined and then went on to become the president of the St. Petersburg league and later serve on the AJLI board. Both were impactful and inspirational.

However, the most invaluable part of the conference was the interaction and exchanging of ideas among other leagues during the breakout sessions. The four, two-hour sessions focused on various tracks including Communications, Diversity and Inclusion, Governance and Membership and more. As the representative from JLW’s Graphic Design Committee, I participated in the Communications session while others from JLW also attended the session respective of their role in the League. Hearing and sharing our struggles and success in a more intimate setting sparked conversations and helped broaden perspectives for bringing creativity into our roles and committees.

An enlightening takeaway is that we are not alone – there are 140,000 women in 291 communities across the world all striving for the same noble mission. To help aid in this effort, there are dozens of private Facebook groupsto keep the dialogue going in between these semi-annual gatherings. In addition, all conference materials are available online(from not only ODI St. Petersburg, but all meetings from the past 10 years) so any League member can take advantage of these at anytime.







Attending the Marketing & Communications breakout session with Abby!





There was also a marketplace to shop all things Junior League, a kick-off mix and mingle with beach music and morning exercise activities including barre and a walking tour. It was a packed weekend, but we made the most of our time to soak in as much knowledge as possible to bring back, share, and implement within JLW.

It was affirmation that we are already excelling in numerous aspects yet exciting to know that there are so many opportunities for improvement and growth. I was inspired by 354 hardworking, talented delegates from 110 leagues all in one place. Full of new friendships, optimism for the future and the assurance of knowing no matter where you live, we have a network and backbone of a more than 100-year legacy to support our efforts. And to think it all started with “one woman” Mary Harriman at the age of 19.

Junior League of Washington with the Junior League of Atlanta (3,000+ members and 3rd largest league)