Written by Susan Dobkins, Managing Director of Philanthropy, and Lynda Rodriguez, Programs Assistant
At Vista Hermosa Foundation, our support goes beyond funding. We seek to be mutual partners, creating opportunities for listening, networking and local leadership. To that end, we formed a cohort of our partners in Mexico, largely led by partners themselves. In August, grants team staff had the opportunity to travel to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico to attend a convening of the cohort.
What is a cohort? It’s a trusted group of organizations and individuals all learning and sharing together. This group, made up of 11 organizations, encompasses the work the foundation has done for decades in the region to support mindful leadership, safe and healthy families, and sustainable livelihoods. The cohort first formed in 2018 and met twice in person before the pandemic, then moved online and met more frequently for the past two years. Over time, the topics have ranged from discussing specific methodologies (like Raising Voices’ SASA anti-gender violence curriculum) to highlighting current programmatic work to personal support and prayer during the worst of the pandemic and beyond.
One of our organizing principles with this group is that our role as a funder is to provide the container (support with logistics and agenda creation, for example) but not dictate the direction. These organizations are chock-full of established and upcoming leaders in their own right, and have a wealth of experience and knowledge to share. The group designed a highly interactive experience over three days, combining fun team building and icebreaker activities used in their community programming, spiritual reflection and practices, and sessions on topics like Servant Leadership, Human Trafficking, Child Sexual Abuse, and the Revival of Indigenous Ways and Wisdom. The diversity of those present was remarkable, with a large age range, good gender balance, mix of leadership and frontline staff, and representation from several indigenous communities. During one group exercise, there were four different languages plus Spanish spoken!
At the close of the experience, the organizational teams were asked to reflect about what they contributed to and what they were taking away from the experience. Responses included–
- Contributions: value and respect, understanding of our value as individuals and validation of our gifts, deep exchange of experiences, spiritual richness, good feedback…
- Takeaways: New ideas and learnings, new friends, knowing that others are working toward the common good, future collaborative work, strength and hope…
It is truly a privilege to witness and experience the power of the cohort model. The joy was palpable as people gathered for the first time in person in three years, and we can only imagine the ripple effects as participants went back to their daily work and community lives. We look forward to more gatherings like this, and given the success of the Mexico cohort, we expanded the model to our East Africa partners. Now we have the dream of hosting a global convening at some point in the future to continue to weave together the international and local work of the Broetje Family Trust!
For more photos of the convening, click here.
Vista Hermosa Foundation is an initiative of Broetje Family Trust, which stewards a family legacy of “bearing fruit that will last” through servant leadership, community building, and philanthropy. Vista Hermosa Foundation partners with organizations committed to community-led development that promotes healing and reconciliation for both people and the planet.