Transitional Steering Group Meeting Notes – June 6, 2018

June 6, 2018


Present: Gail Anderson, Jessi LeClear-Vachta, Curtiss DeYoung, Adam Stock Spilker, Mary Pickard, Ben Connelly, Rob Eller-Isaacs, Randi Roth, Zafar Siddiqui, Prabhat Tekriwal, Tom Duke

  1. Introductions around
  2. Story of organizing the Poor People’s Campaign-MN, Rob Eller-Isaacs

    • Rob was asked by Rev. William Barber who is heading up the national PPC to lead organizing for Minnesota/Twin Cities
    • This process has been a study in decentralized vs. centralized organizing with elements of each
    • Messages from the national PPC are sometimes contradictory: do local organizing in deeply collaborative way; follow these detailed instructions
    • Rob brings his own networks to the work, which are heavily white, older, liberal
    • He sought to find local partners already in similar work (on the focal areas of economic injustice, environmental degradation, military spending, and racism), and found mostly young activists and their groups (e.g., Interfaith Power and Light, MARCH, Fight for 15, Jewish Community Organizing, MIRAC, etc.)
    • The principles suggested by national campaign are good but tend to reflect centralized leadership style. The local younger leaders took it to decentralized approach. This may foster humility for the older, first echelon organizers, who may see such a new effort as another new effort which will compete for the same dollars they are scrambling for. PPC is deeply counter-cultural. It’s agile and not incorporated, but required the sponsorship of solid, established, substantial partner organizations. Unity Church-Unitarian, for one, has supplied that. Still Rob found himself taking a stance of not second guessing tactics of the younger leaders, providing space, and raising money.
    • This effort had a deadline, specific dates when actions were to be taken in concert with the national effort. Thus it didn’t have time to build new and more relationships that could have helped deepen and expand the range of groups involved. The organizers have grieved over the homogeneity of those involved. Some additional people and groups of diverse communities have been invited but not able or willing to be involved at this point.
    • Some organizations don’t have the capacity or assets to be involved as do the more established ones. Others may fear association with more radical groups.
    • At the first meetings/actions one didn’t see the CEO’s,  bishops or current established religious leaders. Some have joined in later actions.
    • It’s all about personal relationships and trust, which enables joint involvement and actions.
    • A question remains: what will happen to the coalition/relationships after the days of action?
    • Some lessons: deep relationship-building can’t be hurried; the differing levels of assets of organizations needs to be remembered and respected; both centralized and decentralized aspects can help but a challenging dance is required; supporting younger, diverse, less established leaders without controlling may be the challenging role of more established leaders/organizations. More lessons may be learned in further reflection and from different voices after the campaign.
  3. Review of draft prospectus

    • Question raised: Where is the general public? Will we seek their participation to volunteer and/or donate? Some people will respond especially if they don’t have a network, and individual donors may be a primary source of funding. Will it be in the scope of the Network to support the public? It may be that there is a public facing aspect of the network’s functioning, but that it primarily sees its stakeholders, constituency, or customers as faith communities and interfaith organizations/groups.
    • Related question: Will the Network have “membership?” Will it be by organization? Would member/participating organizations be willing to contribute funds? It may depend on the size of expected contribution. What would be the criteria for membership? Is it possible to have members and still remain open to and serve others? Underlying these questions are the questions: Who do we want to show up? Who do we want to serve? And, is there a demand or pull for this network to exist and work?
    • Can the Network relate effectively to people who are not part of a faith community (the “nones” or a-religious)? Can we be at least aware of these folks in our language and include language that makes it inclusive, as in “..and those of no faith.” We might need definitions somewhere for “faith leader” and “interfaith leader” –one that’s inclusive of those with “no faith.”
    • Annual event is important. The Network will grow as more people come and more people see others.
    • As a “hub” or network of others groups/organizations it will be a challenge to fund. We shouldn’t try to make the Network more than it is or can be.
    • We need a staged work plan that flows from this prospectus.
    • We need wording/function that helps groups and programs reach to groups that are not being reached at present. For example, the Taking Heart Iftars are attracting mostly white people. Could ways be found to attract others?
    • The tagline needs to be changed. The following suggested: “Connecting and supporting multi-faith work to heal the world.”  (instead of “Connecting and supporting multi-faith organizations healing the world”)
    • The mission statement needs to be changed. The following is suggested: “The Minnesota Multi-faith Network is the statewide network supporting faith and interfaith leaders and organizations who work together for a more just and loving world.” (instead of “The Minnesota Multi-faith Network initiative is the statewide network supporting multi-faith leaders and organizations to work together for the common good.”) Revised prospectus attached.
  4. Name
    The following name was suggested:  Minnesota Multi-faith Network, with acronym: MN-MN, or MNMN.  One other name was suggested, Minnesota Interfaith Coalition with acronym, MIC, pronounced like “mike.”
  5. Fiscal sponsor
    TCIN has suspended functioning and is ready to transmit its funds to the new network entity.  SPIN is in the process of determining what will happen to its current programs; once that’s determined it may have funds to contribute. The total from both could be approximately $15,000. Currently SPIN and TCIN are splitting expenses for the network 50-50. We will need a fiscal sponsor to receive the funds and dispense them. Randi Roth is willing to submit a request to the board of Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul for it to serve as fiscal sponsor. By consensus it was agreed to submit that request. A one-page request will be given to Randi.
  6. Interfaith Response Network
    Adam Spilker and Randi Roth also serve on the steering committee for a new initiative entitled Interfaith Response Network. It aims to provide a means for multi-faith religious leaders to make statements and counteract acts of violence directed at faith communities. It is envisioned that this network can coordinate with MN-MN.
  7. Participants in this meeting were asked to commit to speak to one other person before the next meeting about MN-MN, with message based on the prospectus, to let them know about this initiative and to receive any feedback or questions for us.  Every one present named a group or person they will speak with.
  8. The next meeting will be convened in the second week of July. Watch for notices. Participants are asked to fill out a meeting time preference form. (See attached.) Forms received from Jessi, Ben, Zafar, and Erich.


Notes by Tom Duke and Adam Spilker