Resist and Regenerate
“Resist and Regenerate!”; was the thread that connected and united us at the 2019 Global OPEN Summit, which took place just outside Frankfurt, Germany, and ended last Friday.
My name is Giovanna Alvarez-Negretti and I’ve just begun as Executive Director of this impactful and innovative membership organisation. As a first time participant at an OPEN Summit, I was blown away by the collective power of intellect, courage, experience, wisdom, innovation, expertise, cultural awareness, and talents within the OPEN network. It was energising and humbling at the same time.
Coming with my own set of experiences perhaps allows me, as an outsider, to see the enormous potential we have and how critical our collaborations are at this particular moment in time. I truly believe that today we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in what we can do together, and I know everyone after the summit last week saw that too.
I come from a long line of activists and pro-independence supporters in Puerto Rico. I’ve been a legislative aide, a political campaigner, grassroots organiser, co-founder of a progressive organisation dedicated to civic and political participation of people of color, an advocate, a Middle East regional director for an international human rights and peacebuilding organisation, and an adaptive leadership trainer in places such as Serbia, Peru, Indonesia, Jordan and Iran, among other roles. I can relate in many ways to the work network organisations are doing and the challenges faced today. And I couldn’t be more excited to be standing here, in this role, at this critical moment.
The Global Summit last week was the first of its kind; bringing together full members and startups to learn, bond and collaborate together. It worked brilliantly. Groups big and small, young and more experienced, all leant in, sharing expertise and hungry to learn new skills and strategies. It was also our biggest ever summit, with over 80 participants.
And I wasn’t the only new face. New staff from around the network and new connections from around the world enriched the week’s discussions – and challenged us to stretch our scope and ambition. We were particularly lucky to welcome representatives of Nossas from Brasil, who told us the story of their organisation, their recent political context, and their far sighted, transformational strategy of resistance and regeneration.
The Nossas team reminded us that resistance, while critically important, is not enough on its own – we must provide space for healing, growth, strategising and innovation in our societies. Regeneration is about more than resilience in the face of global threats; it’s about building power in our communities by building the communities themselves.
Over five days we gathered in constellations of campaigners, organisers, technologists and organisational experts to problem-solve our shared challenges. From the global threats of the far right and climate crisis, to challenging ourselves to live our values and create organisations with the strength and resilience to do our critical work, no stone was left unturned.
It was electric to walk from a session comparing campaign metrics of 19 groups, and into a challenging and enriching workshop on gender in our workplaces, before diving into skillshares on fundraising and mobile campaigning. I knew I was surrounded by courageous, committed people, determined to make the most of their time together, who knew that every nugget of information was full of potential. And beneath it all, I heard the drum-beat of Nossas’ guiding words: resistance and regeneration.
It was a truly special week. I felt the passion and generosity, and observed how organisations embrace the challenges in every context. Coming out of this week I feel hopeful and confident that, together, we will achieve the change we want to see in the world.
I’m excited to be on this journey in building our collective capacity to resist and regenerate while challenging the rise of the far right. Thank you to the whole OPEN network for all the brave, courageous and inspiring work.