I haven’t been using the blog here, but I’m going to start now! Each week look for a post from me about issues somehow related to Intercambio.
This week I wanted to share a few things I’m excited about:
1. Our staff and Board have planned a half-day visioning session where we’ll discuss major changes that could bring Intercambio to yet another level. We’ll discuss topics like how we train/screen volunteers, where we offer child care, how we offer group classes at other nonprofits, how we recruit, and much more.
2. I trained a few people in other states this week on how to use our database. The heart of our program is our Salesforce database. It’s not exciting to talk about databases, but without an efficient our program wouldn’t be the same. It allows us to coordinate classes efficiently, generate all kinds of reports on who needs to be assessed, billing, goals achieved, how many advanced levels, what percentage of students have received a job promotion, mass emails, mass text messages, and so on. The database also allows us to utilize many volunteer interns, because they have reports ready for example of home students they need to post assess. Before we send a teacher to the student’s home we have a staff member or experienced intern do a pre assessment, and then every 4-6 months interns will do post assessments. Without the database we couldn’t keep all this organized nor would we be able to efficiently use the volunteers. And it’s a great experience for the volunteers too. I’m excited to share it with other programs so that they too can enhance their efficiency.
3. This afternoon we’re working on a new video that will show potential volunteers what kind of training, curriculum, and support they will receive as a volunteer. Many people are fearful of this opportunity because teaching a foreign language can be challenging and overwhelming, but we have tools to make it easier, so hopefully that video will help us increase our recruitment and find teachers for the many students still on our waiting list!
Life has changed a lot in the last 100 years. What will things be like in another 100 years? None of us know, but I’m gathering and sharing a bunch of predictions. Send me one major prediction you have focused on technology, human relations, the environment, wealth, health, crime, sports, war, international relations, communication, migration, politics, anything!
If you’re interested in having an entry included to this publication (which may be a book or more like a magazine…I’m not sure yet), email 300 words or less starting with “In 100 years, _____” to firstname.lastname@example.org. I want a variety ideas, so I can’t guarantee that all entries will be included, but the more I get the better so spread this to others who may have interesting ideas.
Considering new and different possibilities about the future may impact how we live our lives. Thanks for taking part in this!
A WORK WEEK IN THE LIFE OF LEE. A few people have asked what a typical day for me is, and this one was an interesting one, so I’m sharing some of my activities during the week and some thoughts, interspersed with a little Intercambio history. February 24th- February 28th, 2013. You can see why I feel so blessed to be able to interact with so many amazing people.
Sunday morning walked in the snow to present at the Unitarian Universalist Church, which designated Intercambio as the recipient of their “share the plate” donations for February. I saw a bunch of friends and former/current Intercambio volunteers, including Susan Riederer, my former boss’ boss from pre-Intercambio days when I ran the before and after school program in Louisville at BVSD. She was super supportive of Intercambio from the beginning, and had helped us secure free space at BVSD schools which allowed us to serve thousands of people over the years (and save around $500K). And she was an amazing volunteer for a while after leaving BVSD.
Monday morning I led a new webinar for 5 organizations in Charlotte, Nashville, Seattle, Centerville OH and Atlanta. All are interested in starting adult ESL programs using the Intercambio curriculum, training, assessments and database. Two participated in another webinar I did on how to use our database.
Met with Bruce Swinehart, a former Episcopal priest and past Director of City of Boulder Housing and Human Services. He’s a great guy wanted to talk about potentially using the Intercambio model in Haiti where he’s volunteering. He’s also helping to connect us with the faith community to boost our volunteer recruitment. We will co-host a panel on immigration and ways to get involved, and the panel will be broadcast on KGNU.
We have outgrown our office space in Longmont, and now is not the right time for a capital campaign, so we’re looking at other options. I had a few conversations with Christy, our Asst Director and Board member Scot Smith as we negotiated with one possible location.
Set up meetings with the Colorado African Organization in Aurora and Little Immigrant Resources to discuss using our model. CAO is interested in replicating our home classes to help refugees they serve. Littleton has been using our old curriculum for several years, but they have a new director, with whom I did an integration exchange in Denmark, and she is interested in using more aspects of our model.
Had lunch with the President of 1st Bank, one of our supporters. I did a brief cultural training for some of their management a few weeks before, and the President had lots of great questions regarding our experience working with the immigrant community, and he genuinely wanted to learn more.
Talked with former Senator Dorothy Rupert about speaking at her CU class next week.
Had to do send in more paperwork to our brokerage account so we can easily accept donations of stock.
Had a meeting with Maria, our Program Director, to discuss Intercambio’s potential role with an increased demand for inclusivity training in Boulder through a partnership with the Nonprofit Cultivation Center. We’re excited that Intercambio has become the go-to place for these kinds of conversations, but it’s challenging to meet each organization’s needs, and their expectations of the results are often unrealistic. We talked about whether we want to develop several additional specific trainings for groups to choose from or simply expand our existing training and offer a series of workshops to the community.
Received a couple of big curriculum orders from repeat clients in Missouri and Boston. Celebrated that briefly with Rachel J Also talked with Rachel about a big curriculum order from Cobb County GA that we can’t fill because we ran out of 1B student books. Double checked inventory and called the warehouse to discover that we have sold more than we thought, which is a good problem!
I worked a little on the French translation of the Immigrant Guide, determining if another round of professional edits is worth the extra investment of $500. I ended up deciding that it’s not, since I don’t anticipate distributing tons, and the existing translation is definitely readable according to the editors.
Spent some time battling with my email because I couldn’t get incoming or send outgoing messages for a while. That was not fun.
I was happy to find out that a box of Immigrant Guides we had sent to Micronesia 2 months ago finally arrived. Didn’t think it would actually arrive, even though Micronesia uses USPS.
Connected with a friend and former volunteer at SDL (a translation company) about connecting with their company team to engage their employees as volunteers.
Hosted an evening community engagement session at Intercambio with BVSD leaders and Latino parents. The superintendent, deputy superintendent, 3 school board members and several other leaders joined 15 Latino parents to hear their ideas, concerns, and experiences. I started to get nervous because there were around 15 BVSD people before any of the Latino parents I invited showed up, but they came through. We didn’t invite too many people because we wanted everyone to be heard. There were good ideas shared, and while I don’t know if any changes will come of the meeting, making that connection was great and there was some genuine listening happening from the Superintendent. Everyone felt good about being a part of the session, and there was plenty of passion, emotion, smiling and laughing.
I hung around for a little afterwards with Alexis, Monica and Bernardo, who had read to the group a mini story of his past that he crafted onto wooden blocks and presented earlier in the day at his son’s school. Earlier I introduced Monica and Bernardo to Guillermina, and told them that they were together and all three had bravely spoken at the podium at the City of Boulder Council Chambers in 2001 when Intercambio was requesting from the Human Relations Commission what would be its first piece of significant funding.
Tuesday morning went to Longmont to hear the Longmont City Manager speak and then give a brief presentation about Intercambio to the St Vrain Coalition.
Worked on preparing a draft agenda for the March Board meeting. Talked with Victor, a staff of the Colorado Immigrant Right Coalition (CIRC) about doing a brief update on federal immigration reform at the meeting. We are seeing huge demand for our classes now, and we assume it’s because the reform being talked about may include some evaluation of English proficiency. If some English requirement is enforced, we will see way more demand.
Went to the Longmont office and talked with Marisa, a great intern there, before doing a conference call with the Board Executive Committee. Together we solidified the agenda for the next Board meeting.
From Longmont went to a meeting held by Social Venture Partners on social enterprise. I was shocked to see so many people there interested in that, which is great, and it made me happy that we are so far along with our enterprise, successfully selling resources while expanding our mission.
Contacted and heard back from the Silicon Valley Foundation/Knight Foundation that they’ve begun processing a grant for $20K that will allow us to distribute 7,000 guides to several awesome organizations in the area working with immigrants. That’s a lot of boxes!
Talked with a woman from an adult education program in Bryant TX that purchased our resources a few months ago. Now they are submitting a grant to buy $5K worth of our materials because her tutors are very happy with our curriculum.
Spent some time talking with a program in Oregon that recently ordered our curriculum and needed some help with the placement test.
Talked with Dionisio Salazar in NY. His United Methodist Church Foundation gave us a small grant to share our model with UMC churches interested in starting or growing an ESL program, and we discussed having him connect us to leaders in that area. Eliberto was the one who connected us with him.
Met with Scott Andrews, one of our Board members and also an incredible entrepreneur and one of my amazing mentors. We discussed future growth of Intercambio and of our national expansion efforts.
I added some photos for the next version of the Pronunciation Fun booklet. We’ve distributed around 8,000 copies so far, and for the next version I’m adding 8 pages with 32 new images of minimal pairs (words that differ in one sound such as coat/code, choose/shoes, and my favorite rabbi/ribeye). Hayla, a great high school volunteer from Dawson, helped to label the sounds that each word is demonstrating and create the table of contents. She also finalized some edits to the French translation of the guide.
Wednesday morning had a phone meeting with Maggie from the Community Foundation in Lake County, IL. I met her at the Council on Foundations conference last September and we’re still discussing partnering with them to distribute guides and curriculum through the Foundation in their community.
Lunch met with Ken Hotard, who works at Boulder Area Realtor Association, which sponsored Intercambio years ago but hasn’t recently. We discussed the past, present and future of housing in Boulder. He’s lived here since 1973, and he has some strong feelings about the housing situation and which populations are being driven out and which populations are driving the big decisions.
Talked with Shawn Moriarty from the YMCA of Boulder Valley about our annual camping trip (which has space for 140 people and fills up quickly) and the possibility of having a second one each year. Also they have some camp scholarships that he’s going to offer people we know who could use them. The Y is incredibly generous with us, donating food and lodging for 150 people each year for 2 days.
Led a webinar on how to use the Immigrant Guide in ESL classes, workshops and/or cultural orientations for programs in 11 states.
Talked with another amazing intern at the Boulder office, Kim, who oversees the 70 students and 7 teachers we have at Boulder High School. She is part of the INVST program at CU, which has sent Intercambio many terrific interns over the years.
Talked with Kristine for a bit about our summer event, which may be huge.
Talked with Susan about our Intercambio and Schools program and the foundation funding outlook for the rest of the fiscal year.
Set up Kritima and Krushalta, two Nepalese high school students, who are volunteering weekly, to enter contact information from potential guide and curriculum clients.
Talked with volunteer Alex about approaching large corporations that employee many immigrants to gauge interest in purchasing guides or providing grants. He is researching those possibilities.
Met with Doug, who teaches twice a week at Indian Peaks in the evening. He works with a big construction company and he wants to teach English to the workers at various sites to help them move up. He said it’s hard for people who aren’t fluent when they get surprise visits from OSHA or other inspectors. I shared the placement test with him so he can assess their levels. He also wants to be out of the office more because he has a constant ringing and pain in his head that gets worse when he’s around computers too long.
After work visited El Grupo at the Arapahoe branch library. El Grupo is a program that Intercambio serves as a fiscal sponsor for. They work with families that have kids ages 3-5, and they have several volunteers who are grad students at CU.
Thursday had breakfast with Larry Gold, one of the most fascinating and brilliant people in the world, literally. He was telling me that for most of his life he has only slept 3-4 hours a day. His company Soma Logic is revolutionizing health by creating breakthrough diagnostics based on protein signatures that can earlier detect and treat diseases (I copied that from his website because I can’t explain it in my own words J). Larry and talked about many things, including little about our new partnership with the Big Red F Restaurant company, which owns several successful restaurants (Jax, Zolo, Centro, West End) and is expanding rapidly. Larry connected me with the Big Red F founder Dave Query, and Dave connected me with his main operations people who I met with, John and Iva. They are awesome, and it’s cool that the company is focused on giving back to the “secret sauce to their success”, their immigrant workers.
Signed a couple of thank you letters, and sent our listening placement test to a program in Atlanta that is interested in assessing large numbers of students at one time.
Met with another great intern Purvi, who is helping to organize our list of conferences that we may want to present or exhibit at in 2013.
Had lunch with Bob Yates, co-founder of Level 3, which now employs 3,000 people. Bob is no longer with the company, but he is going to try to get more Level 3 employees engaged with Intercambio as volunteers, which is great! And Bob is an Intercambio supporter.
Talked with Kim, who is in charge of our classes Tuesday and Thursday night at Boulder High. She is an intern through the INVST program at CU, which has sent us many incredible interns for the past 7 years. We talked about Costa Rica because she may go there next year, and it was my experience living there for 6 weeks that partially sparked my interest in starting Intercambio.
Talked for a while with our newest addition to the office, Paula Martin, who is volunteering around 20 hours a week! Paula has a law degree from Stanford and recently left a large law firm. She’s super sharp and excited about helping us out in many ways, and we’re excited to have her!
Talked with Kristine, our Marketing and Development Director, about when and how to send the email invite for the event on April 5th, and we discussed defining our pitch, and with Christy and Kristine whether it’s better to pay a professional auctioneer 8% of proceeds or do it ourselves (me and John Tayer). It’s a tough call, but they decided to go with the professional auctioneer.
Discussed some financial stuff and Quickbooks with Ted, our business manager.
After work taught dance class at the office. It was fun, but one woman threw up next to the water cooler. That was a first after doing teaching dance class for 5 years now.
Friday had some high school friends in town and went to Winter Park for the weekend J
Here's another idea that I'm excited to pursue with a group of great volunteers from CU. Let me know if you have any ideas or people they can talk to during the research phase.
As consumers we have power, but we don’t have access to objective, measurable data about the social impact of companies we support with our purchases. I can buy gas at Conoco or Chevron, or a toaster at Wal Mart or Target, but which should I support? I’d prefer to go to the one I consider more socially responsible, but I don’t know how to determine that. There is no simple place that people go to evaluate and compare companies using actual numbers.
What’s Being Done
There are a few helpful websites, but it's difficult to find and compare, and often the info is subjective, not measurable, and not updated annually. These sites are not known by many people. Where do you go to evaluate a company?
1. To create a culture where consumers care about how their purchase decisions impact society
2. To create a simple, concrete, annually-updated site where consumers go to make informed choices according to an objective set of measurable evaluations on social impact.
1. Information that influences consumer choices will be accessible, so consumers will start to care.
2. People feel empowered to have an impact on corporate outcomes.
3. Corporations that are not naturally inclined to have positive social impact will have more incentive to do so because consumers will punish their bottom line if they don’t compare well to the competition.
Annual data can include measurable numbers such as:
- How much and what % of profits are donated to nonprofits?
- What initiatives are being supported?
- How much are the highest-paid employees making? How does that compare to the lowest paid?
- How does the company encourage community participation and volunteering? How many paid hours are employees allowed to volunteer?
- Which, if any, political parties do they support with their dollars and with how much?
- What is the climate change or energy efficiency score?
- Diversity of workforce?
Earn Permanent Residence Plan. This idea can help make the logistics possible for true comprehensive immigration reform.
What’s the challenge? There are many, but this is one of the biggies that keeps delaying next steps.
Our immigration system has huge backlogs already, so the logistics would be overwhelming to process 11M new people. Rather than put all 11M people nto one group, we can process applications in segments, starting with those who have demonstrated U.S. values of education, abiding by laws, work reliability, and financial responsibility for the longest period of time. We create a simple, objective, measurable system that rewards those who deserve to stay and puts them at the front of the line. No non-extremist thinks we should deport someone who has been here for 20 years working, paying taxes, learning English, and not getting into trouble. They can earn their status by receiving points for the following for instance:
We start by processing applications only for those who accumulate a certain number of points (say 120 points). Once those are processed we move to the next group (100 points).
This makes reform more achievable while conveying important U.S. values.
I originally wrote about this and did a little initial research last July, but I'm excited to start working with a great student from a Social Entrepreneurship class at CU to help make the idea a reality!
This could work if done right, and it could have a huge impact in minimizing the growing gap across generations when it comes to technology and communication. Here goes:
How it works:
Who will support this?
I've attended this conference the last several years, and it attracts 800-1,000 people, many who are doing amazing work around immigrant integration. However, I've been disappointed with the lack of intentional networking that happens. We are missing out on important opportunities to be meeting and sharing with our peers in a more intentional way. Informal networking can be good, but adding structure should make it way better.
I talked with one of the planners of this year's conference in Baltimore, and they put me in charge of making this intentional networking happen. I'm very exited and grateful for them trusting me with this important, challenging job. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.
I was recently interviewed by my friend Greg Nees for a book he is writing about cultural differences. One of the sections is about being intentional around cultural differences, and I loved having the opportunity to talk to him about my experience and what got me interested in this topic.
Usually our instincts lead us to connect only with people whom we share lots in common. So why do I love connecting with people from such different backgrounds? Why did I jump at the opportunity in college to facilitate creative writing workshops at a high-level prison and at facilities for people with schizophrenia, knowing that it would be an extremely challenging experience?
His questions made me think. Maybe part of it comes from my privilege and my need to stretch a little to find challenges that take me out of my comfort zone. Part may come from knowing that our world is diverse and wanting to make my world a microcosm of the bigger diverse world, demonstrating that we can form fundamentally positive connections no matter how different we may be.
Maybe it’s because I hate to see war, and people disrespecting other peoples’ way of seeing the world is often the root of war.
Now that I’ve experienced vastly different cultures it’s like a drug, and I want to learn more. I love learning from people’s personal stories when we give our cross-cultural trainings. It’s so important for these conversations to be happening, and they’re going to need to happen eternally if we want true peace on earth.
We are becoming a group of people with our heads down. Anyone who is by themselves walking, on the bus, at the airport…they probably have their heads down. They could be selecting music, texting, checking email, twitter or facebook. Before we had cells and iPhones we looked up and observed the world around us – the people and the scenery. Now we mostly observe the world through tiny devices.
These devices definitely have positive impacts, but I worry about the direction we’re headed, and that people will regret later spending too much of their life with their head down. When we aren’t using these devices we are forced to think, and maybe that scares people. Often, it’s easier to always be doing something than to be with our random thoughts.
I have intentionally resisted getting an iPhone because I know it will encourage me to keep my head down. It’s hard enough to consciously keep my head up and I just have a crappy old regular cell phone.
Many people communicate more these days through writing than through talking, which may be a good thing for people who are more comfortable communicating via writing. Some people express excitement more effectively via exclamation points than through physical emotion, and there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s a sincere exclamation point.
In general, the two main groups of people who aren’t living with their heads down are older folks who don’t know how to use today’s technology and low-income folks who can’t afford it. The technology divide continues to widen, and those who don’t have the latest and greatest will exponentially fall behind when it comes to efficiency, but maybe it’s to their advantage in the long run for those who see life as more than a fancy device.
Eventually, will our excitement around new technology that makes everyday living more convenient plateau?