Free Minds, Free People Planning Process

I think I want to join the conference planning team.
What am I getting myself into?

Planning Free Minds, Free People is truly a labor of love. It is for people who believe in the need for a grassroots-driven, youth-respectful, people of color-led, justice-oriented space for education activists from across the country to share, organize and dream together. The beauty of this unique national gathering is that it is created and controlled by those doing the work at ground level–educators, parents, youth and researchers–not by a foundation, institution or corporation.

But building such a space demands hard work, commitment and creativity. It is not for the faint of heart, the dabblers, or folks who are more talk than action. Being part of the planning team means making a commitment not only to the conference, but to the community of people who put it together.

Being part of this community has benefits. It can help you:

  • Learn more about education activism around the country
  • Connect your local work to the national education justice landscape
  • Build strong personal and professional relationships with like-minded folks

And, most importantly, being part of the planning team means the development of this great event will be informed by your vision.

Starting in Fall, 2013 the full planning team meets once a month to select a host city (with possibly an extra meeting as we get into the final stages of that process). Host cities will fill out a preliminary application due Friday, December 13. The planning team will meet to review these applications and determine which cities should move to the next stage. Each city selected will be assigned a member of the planning team who will help that city prepare the full application, which will be due Friday, February 21. The planning team will then meet to make a final decision about the host city or determine if additional information is needed.

We might add an additional task this year. Free Minds, Free People is considering organizing a meeting or other activity at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit in June, 2014. If we do, an ad hoc committee of planning team members would work on that during the winter/spring.

Once the host city is chosen, representatives from the host city and the national planning team will organize a retreat to take place in the host city in the late spring/early summer. Participation in that retreat is not mandatory, but all planning team members are strongly encouraged to attend. It is the only opportunity team members will have to meet in person before the conference, and it is a critical site for relationship building, visioning and laying the groundwork for the conference planning process. We have limited money available to help people with travel expenses.

After the retreat, the planning team is divided into several committees. For the 2013 FMFP those committees were: Fundraising and Finance, Workshops, National Special Events, Community Building and Communications, Documentation and Evaluation, and the Local Committee. Each person must join at least one committee. Those committees begin meeting once per month in the summer to plan their work. By the fall, each committee should have chosen two facilitators and have a plan of action. The committees continue meeting usually once per month until the conference itself. The committees aim to make decisions on a consensus basis.

During the conference planning team members are expected to assist with the running of the event. After the conference the committees meet to debrief, evaluate and determine how to best support work coming out of the conference.

The committees each meet once per month for an hour and a half. There are usually tasks to do between meetings. It’s important that all committee members step up to take on tasks at some point, but you can chose when to do that based on your own schedule. Different committees are busiest at different times. The Workshop committee, for example, is at its busiest in January-March when it is reviewing proposals. Fundraising is busiest in the fall when it is seeking conference sponsors. It’s a good idea to choose a committee whose schedule is compatible with your own. It’s ok to take a step back from the committee work if something comes up that you need to attend to. We just ask that you are clear about what you can and can’t do and that you let fellow committee members know in a timely manner if you can’t complete a task that you had committed to.

Each committee has two co-facilitators. Those facilitators are responsible for: 1) planning the agenda for and facilitating the committee meetings; 2) making sure committee members are completing tasks; and 3) representing the committee on the Coordinating Committee. Facilitators can divide these tasks between them.

The Coordinating Committee oversees the planning process, coordinating the work of the other committees and dealing with cross-committee issues. It includes representatives from each of the other committees as well as some experienced FMFP conference planners. That committee meets every other week for one hour.

Sound good? Click here to learn how you can become a planning team member for the 2015 conference.