Ojai Foundation to offer training to community groups

Tue, 04/16/2013
The Ojai Foundation wants to help organizations create a sense of community.

Ventura County Star, February 19, 2013

The Ojai Foundation wants to help organizations create a sense of community.

To do so, the foundation is offering to train 10 organizations in its Social Justice Council Project, funded by a $96,000 grant from the Los Angeles-based Angell Foundation.

The Ojai Foundation is offering training packages worth $150,000, with the help of the grant and their own backing, to 10 organizations. The deadline for applications is March 1.

The Foundation invited potential applicants to an open session last week for its Social Justice Council Project at the Ventura County Leadership Foundation Center in Camarillo.

Jared Seide, director of the foundation’s Center for Council Practice, led the group in a council circle, which is designed to enhance listening and help create connections among people who work together. He explained the program to the more than 30 people sitting in a circle on the floor.

Among the Ventura County groups that sent representatives were One Step a La Vez, City Impact and Mixteco/Indigena Community Organization Project in Oxnard and Ventura’s Cabrillo Economic Development Corp.

The workshop last week was a requirement before an application for the training.

Arcenio Lopez, associate director of the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organization Project in Oxnard, said the council practices are a perfect fit for his organization.

“We are an organization of mainly indigenous people,” Lopez said “The practice of council really makes sense for us. This would be great for staff and leadership.”

The Rev. Betty Stapleford of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice was impressed by the presentation.

“I think it could make such a difference in how we work. It could help create a deeper-rootedness,” she said.

Each selected organization can have 12 to 20 people, Seide said. Selected participants will attend another workshop and then 16 hours of training over two to six sessions.

The training will focus on the council-based model and incorporate team building exercises on foundation property.

Participants may also be eligible for more training and mentoring at the foundation’s facility in Upper Ojai.

During last week’s session, Seide gave participants a glimpse of what they will be doing if selected. The participants moved from tables and chairs to sit in a circle on the floor.

Seide had placed objects in the middle of the circle, including candles, a bell, a shell and a dog collar.

“This is something precious to me. It is from my dog, Max. When you handle the collar, you get Max’s DNA. I’m sharing with you an object that is significant in my life,” he said. “The center is that which is communal.”

Seide asked people to come to the center and share something with the rest of the group. He acknowledged that some people can find the openness of the circle style of learning intimidating. Nevertheless, he said, it is a great way for people to communicate more effectively with one another.

In his first exercise, half the people in the circle said their names and why the names did or did not suit them. The rest of the people were asked to listen and offer a word, not of opinion, but rather a reaction “of what resonates.”

Foundation Executive Director Jim Mangis said the idea of the Social Justice Council Project is to radiate the practices taught in the council circles outward.

“This is a pilot. This is how it can work. It can radiate out,” Mangis said. “We can make the circle bigger. We aren’t worried about the size. We want to get 10 really committed organizations.”

The foundation has applied the principles of its council project in Los Angeles-area schools, where it offers 43 programs serving 12,000 children. It’s the foundation’s biggest effort.

For information about the project, call 646-8343

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