Wrapping up the Incubator and Stepping out into LA

Firstly, apologies for being late, although I did give Felipe and my fabulous #teamtuesday a heads up that would be the case. Also I’m not sick which is just a disaster. But I digress.

I’m really glad I joined this incubator. First and foremost it has put me into relationship with some phenomenal individuals and fellow justice-seekers that I hope to remain in contact with. We actually already have one follow up set up for December! 🙂 Thank you #teamtuesday for brightening my 6:50am-8:20am tuesdays! Special thanks to Juan for guest starring in #teamtuesday.

Ok, so on to address this prompt:

I have three important meetings set up for the next two weeks which will largely determine whether launching CPA in LA becomes a part-time project for me in January and a central project by 2021, or whether it will need to be a good idea on the backburner until 2021. The short and simple version of this comes down to:

1) Is there seed funding available, and if so, how much? (“Meeting” #1)

2) Are the local IAF affiliate and PICO affiliate willing to put time into credentialing me and/or another contracted individual to conduct feasibility meetings with decision makers within target institutions?  (Meetings 2 and 3)

3) Less importantly, but on my mind also is: Are there 2-3 key partners (ideally from the local affiliates but not necessarily) who would be willing to collaboratively guide this process, with me locally.

In filling out the feasibility excel document I decided to make two versions:

  1. Assuming there is only enough funding ($15,000-$20,000) to support contracting me outside of my full-time employment to meet with potential members, do the requisite research, and be in a position by the end of 2020 to launch a steering committee and roll out a first contract. Below are my best guesses at the type of support that would be needed at the various month-marks:
    1. 3 months: Establish hourly rate, payment mechanism and contract, organize data and written resources within a clear folder, 1 on 1s with CPA DC staff and sector-specific tutorials, 30-minute weekly calls to check in.
    1. 6 months: Site visit to meet with most interesting/interested leaders, dedicated time to workshop first potential contract .
    1. 12 months: Editing and reviewing first contract, invitation and support in attending CPA-expansion staff meeting over a weekend to discuss lessons learned and workshop issues that are arising.
  2. Assuming there is enough funding ($100,000-$120,000) to support 3-4 part-time contractors with deep connections in the community along with one full time organizer getting trained, conducting feasibility meetings, helping with logistics around emails, group meetings, and related activities. In this scenario the consultants and staff would function as a de-facto founding committee and could simultaneously work on founding the co-operative from an organizational standpoint as well as pushing forward the first contracts.  (This is what I have in mind before the important meetings and before talking with Juan about his ideas/commission model, which I’m intrigued to consider) Below are my best guesses at the type of support that would be needed at the various month-marks:
    1. 3 months: Establish hourly rates and contract with contractors and staff , payment mechanism, organize data and written resources within a clear folder, zoom meetings with CPA DC staff and sector-specific tutorials, 30-minute weekly calls to check in.
    1. 6 months: Site visit to meet with most interesting/interested leaders, dedicated time to workshop first potential contract(s) .
    1. 12 months: Editing and reviewing first contract, invitation and support in attending CPA-expansion staff meeting over a weekend to discuss lessons learned and workshop issues that are arising.

I didn’t make an excel document for it, but there is a third option I have in mind in which over the course of the next two weeks I discover that in fact the only piece of founding CPA in LA missing is funding and for me to make sure the right people have access to the relationships and resources the CPA DC and CPA incubator provide. I would love to continue to be involved, and in order to be held accountable for outcomes and for reasons of economic justice and the high value I place on my time I would need there to be funding to do so. However, if it makes the most sense for me not to be involved, I will be an enthusiastic cheerleader and supporter of the process.

I think whether or not an initial investment could or would be paid back depends on several things I don’t have enough clarity about quite yet. I can imagine CPA LA being asked to chose between an initial investment that gets paid back via yearly dues to the CPA LA/national organization or deciding to repay in full and be independent.

And with that, it is 10pm and I must most definitely sleep. I’m excited and curious to see where this might all lead. Los Angeles is most definitely ready for this model, and I’m very hopeful I can be part of bringing the various actors to the table to make it as impactful as possible. I’m excited to have a community to continue working on it with.

Oh, but I’ve stopped working on my splits. (Shoot.)

The nay-sayers are right

 Why people who buy from my competitor are right


  1. Who is “me”: For this essay, we are going to assume I am still myself
  2. My “product” is CPA membership in Los Angeles during year one when I am slowly having one on ones with religious and nonprofit leaders discerning if they have an appetite for this model, asking them to share their procurement information with me, and agitating to see whether they would put forward an initial investment and/or join the steering committee with the promise that their investment is a loan that would be paid back if it isn’t reimbursed through savings within the first three years (Felipe please fact check if this is a reasonable assumption)
  3. I have been credentialed by someone who these religious leaders have some trust with.
  4. The model of CPA I am selling balances concepts of member savings and equitable procurement such that members may be getting both
  5. “People” for the purposes of this exercise will be religious leaders in South Los Angeles, with the base assumption being that many of the most powerful leaders in that area are black.
  6. My competitor is two-fold: it’s concretely whatever current contract the institution has, and it’s theoretically the ability to switch contracts without a broker.

Going back to my 5-paragraph Essay Days: Why joining CPA LA is the wrong choice

         Religious leaders in South Los Angeles are right to buy their waste hauling, janitorial and other property-related services from their current vendors, or switch vendors without joining CPA LA for multiple reasons. Many if not most of these religious leaders are already immersed within networks and coalitions that are meeting their need to build relational power beyond their individual congregation. Furthermore, although savings and equitable procurement might appeal to these leaders, if they were to invest in staff time to rewrite their current procurement process and switch vendors, their self-interest would likely be in hiring someone within their community who has a greater need for employment and more trust locally. Finally, anything requiring time has an opportunity cost. Given the depth and range of socio-political issues pastors in the South side are called to lead on daily, they are right to focus their time, resources and energies building power for policy changes that could impact the whole community, rather than one contract that will impact a handful of congregations and a vendor.

         One of the major value adds of CPA’s model is getting institutional leaders into transformative relationship with their peers. These relationships can be launching points for organizing around political and policy-related issues as well as simply increasing a network of support and solidarity. However, in the dense social network of faith and values based institutions in Los Angeles any pastor with an appetite to get into transformational relationships has many more than one option already readily available to them to link into. In areas of the city that are particularly impacted by gang violence, lack of investment, over-policing and low quality education these social and professional networks have been both formal and informal spaces for successfully building relational power towards addressing these issues. Creating yet another space whose main selling point is the creation of important relationships is not worth the effort and time of convening.

         The CPA model benefits four stakeholders: the member institutions, who either receive savings, greater alignment with their values or both, the vendors receiving the contracts, the community organizing organizations that get a share of the profits, and the individuals who get employment through CPA itself. Given the historic abandonment and victimization of the South LA community, religious leaders in that area should invest time and energy into co-operative models where all four of the benefits stay within the local community. Upon hearing the idea of the model it would behoove religious leaders of South LA who potentially are interested in the savings and equitable procurement ideas to employ a local leader to direct the organization rather than a white French-American newcomer who may or may not have the best interest of the community in mind, has less social connections, cultural competency, and need for employment as others within the community.  

         Building a cooperative from the ground up requires an investment of time, money, or both. Although the benefits may outweigh the initial costs in the long term, Los Angeles is currently living through a political moment that provides opportunities for social change that may not be available within 3-5 years. The county board, made up of five individuals who collectively hold all real political power over a county whose population would make it the seventh largest state in the nation, is progressive and set on making real progress around criminal justice reform, housing, and other critical issues. Every minute of organizing time, every dollar of investment in social change is important now more than ever if the faith-based and advocate community is going to make the most of this political moment. Within a context where the opportunity is to significantly increase access to substance abuse services and reduce rates of incarceration countywide on the one hand, or saving a few thousand dollars and shifting profits from unethical companies to smaller minority-owned businesses, the choice is clear.

         Religious leaders in South LA should either build their own home-grown version of CPA or wait to invest in this model until other higher-order concerns have been addressed. Sticking with their current property-related service providers is the right thing to do.


Reflection Script

I’m glad I still got my high-school skills and was able to be convincing. 🙂 It’s a strong argument, and there are counter arguments that address some if not all of the points raised.

I don’t know that I learned anything particularly new writing this, other than just putting words and order to the intuition I’ve had ever since starting to visualize myself beginning this endeavor. Keeping this 5-paragraph argument in mind is important for receiving a potential “no thank you” or even just “No!” with an attitude of humility and respect, rather than arrogance and frustration. There were some moments in my life as an organizer where I saw the shadow side of an organizing culture that seeks to agitate leaders of all stripes and which comes with a normative sense that getting into action (implicitly, with us, in our way) is the best way forward. It’s a certain kind of orthodoxy which I have both great affection and alignment with but, like all orthodoxy, see as overly rigid and needing to be treated with some internal critique, distance, and humor/humility. Now, I agree enough with Juan’s flip side of the argument, and honestly could easily write a 5-paragraph essay arguing with myself to know that my instinct when encountering a “no” will still be to agitate, to invite in, to keep the door open, if I think there is a persuasive counter-argument then to persuade. I do think that having a strong credential can make a difference. I do think that with a little up-front energy the long-term benefits could be a significant contribution, and I don’t subscribe to the view that people with privilege and/or outsiders ought not have paid positions within justice work. After all, playing that out to its logical conclusion is oddly dystopic. (I’ve had this thought a lot and written several 5-paragraph essays in my mind, creating mental mazes arguing every side of telling myself what I should or should not be able to do, what is most fair, etc.) I do think we need to radically change the economy so that there are more jobs that promote social good rather than ill, and that in whatever position we find ourselves in we need to respect the grassroots leaders and knowledge that preceded our involvement in a particular issue/community. (For a real mind f***, excuse me but that is exactly what it is, on this subject I suggest those without an overly weak stomach watch “Parasite”) But I digress. The point is that the arguments I outlined above are real. And I want to respect and acknowledge they are real always, and empathize with those for whom they are the winning arguments, even if there are others.

That being said, no, I will not be skipping south LA. In fact I think it’s incredibly important the vendor and members in that region be part of reaping the benefits of CPA. I love Sheila’s idea of potentially having micro-CPAs that meet under a wider county-umbrella. Especially in terms of contracting locally (skip the traffic, save the environment) and investing into local organizing efforts that structure makes sense. Once savings are significant enough to hire multiple staff having local leads makes a ton of sense. I can imagine my value-add being catching the vision, gathering the early-adopters, launching something that begins to grow, and then either becoming a local (someone into theology and/or into state-buildling and/or racial justice please let’s have a conversation about how long it takes to be considered “part of” or what the difference is between investing and genuinely inhabiting a community and being an extractive/oppressive presence within it) or passing it off to someone(s) else. Of the two scenarios I imagine the second as much more likely, given my community-living post and other factors.

Also thanks for the clarification on initial funding, Felipe. I’m assuming our final project is our business plan so this is timely information! 🙂

The post where I tell you my actual life dream while exploring decision-making

I knew when reading this prompt that the most logical “goal” to pick would be starting CPA in LA, but I already did a blog about my goal related to CPA, and I’ve shared extensively about how I’m approaching this from a fairly detached, curious, open posture. So naming it as a core goal that I have multiple routes to would feel at best a bit boring and at worst slightly disingenuouse.

Our #teamtuesday did a good job using this prompt to spur collective dialogue about how we might go about achieving a collective goal of “Formalizing the relationship between CPA-affiliated organizations which enables shared learning, equitable development, transparency and collaboration.” (Your contributions to this question are welcome!)

So I will give you all a break from CPA for this week and try to practice this decision-making methodology by examining the various paths to a core goal (which encompasses a small ecosystem of goals) I have for my life which I have yet to achieve. The prompt encouraged us to go big, so just so you understand, this goal has since college held a greater appeal to me than marriage or any particular career goal, which is just to say: I’m not messing around.

Name the goals:

  1.  Live in community, within a shared house, neighborhood, or series of apartments with 4-8 friends who are themselves committed to the community and sharing resources and time together.
    1. This community should be multi-generational, multi-racial, ideally international, socio-economically diverse and unified around values of mutual care, hospitality, and justice.
    1. This community should be collectively owned, include regular practices of gathering and sharing, as well as freedom to pursue individual passions and work.
    1. This community should be porous and be a blessing not only for itself but for those that live around it, and who come to visit it.
    1. This community should be rich in plants, music, art, organizing meetings, and potlucks.

Possible choices to get there:

I have been working on the “plan a” version of this goal since college. Plan A includes attempting to save money for an initial capital investment in property and encouraging my closest friends from college who have a similar vision to do so as well. One way to achieve the goal would be to eventually return to the east coast and buy property where there are enough of us (likely 3-4, including partners) to purchase a house in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisonburg, Durham, or Charlottesville and begin to form the community. This option requires remaining flexible to where my friends, who are currently finishing masters’ degrees, scattered, or overly burdened by student debt to be thinking about investments yet, land.

  • Stay in LA for several years and then move to the east coast.
  • Convince everyone to join me on the West Coast.

Another option is continuing to tell everyone I meet my vision and keeping my ears and heart open to joining a community-living project already underway. For example, here in Los Angeles I have already met three women who have shared with me their desire to live in a similar kind of community, and I have found a life-partner who shares a similar vision as well. None of these women were at the stage of genuinely being on the brink of investment and needing a final individual to catch the vision, but it was a reminder that such an opportunity might arise and the limiting factor to achieving my goal would be my (and really in this case, our, since my partner would need to be onboard) ability and willingness to embrace this iteration of the dream and place both my money and my commitment in it.

  • Don’t make professional or relocation decisions based on this goal at all, instead save aggressively and discuss with your partner the minimum conditions under which you would agree to join an existing community and plant yourself wherever you find it. Practice holding the place where you currently are close, as if it is the forever place, and keep speaking your goal and intention to those you build relationships with. Seek and ye shall find.
  • Set a specific time-line by which if this method hasn’t worked I switch to another one.

I could start this community in a modular way. That is to say, I could start with my partner and build out pieces of the vision – the practices of hospitality, of sharing meals, of sharing music, of investing in the local community and add individuals who share this vision one at a time. They might not live in the same house but they could be neighbors, and if they are neighbors with whom we share meals and work and time long enough we can build up to co-ownership down the road and keep looking for those who will join the vision.

  • Think of my current 3-bedroom apartment and the two roommates I will have as the beginning of this community. Start building the practices now.
  • The next time my partner and I need to move (likely by next December) we could consider whether purchasing a small property somewhere the “modular” version of this community could arise makes sense.

I could make enough money to buy a large property on my own, start with regular renters, and gradually shift from tenants to community members (sometimes with the same individuals, sometimes by having friends or people who catch the vision move in and/or become part owners) over time.

  • This option requires maximizing my potential income for at least a period of time (2-4 years) in order to be able to afford the initial investment in a community space. Given my professional background this might ironically entail some kind of international civil service or UN posting, or theoretically (though not actually, since it’s entirely unpalatable to me, with all the respect in the world for Jonathan and Juan <3) the consulting route domestically.
  • Alternatively, instead of increasing my income, I can increase my purchasing power if I start this community outside of the United States (particularly in a French or Spanish speaking place where I have history and/or connections) where property values are lower. This option appeals to my sense of self in that until I was 23 or 24 my assumption was always that I would live long-term outside of the United States, since my experience growing up was that the United States was the place we decided to live only when duty to family required it. Some possible places to consider would be Senegal, Colombia, or Guatemala.
  • I could meet the individuals who are interested in this kind of living situation and able to commit to it through exploring a potential CPA LA expansion and diving into the world of cooperatives.

As I write these various options out I’m struck by the idea that while my goal is crystal clear, it is the very fact that I’m aware of these various paths to my goal that becomes its own choice. What do I prioritize? The people or the place? When do I absolutely need this to happen? What am I willing to sacrifice in order to get it? Is this community-vision my version of the “sacred-object” which Peter Rollins warns us about? I’m not sure. But I think at the very least it’s helpful to keep track of where I am in the world of choices I have generated for achieving this goal. Being aware of the stage I’m at, the choices that I’m making (including the choice not to chose between approaches for a set time) are all important information to track.

Finally, please let me know if you’re interested in founding this community with me. In your application please list your financial and geographic limitations and preferences as well as any dietary restrictions or unsavory political views. 😉


Reflection Script

It’s exciting and fun and humbling to have you all read this. Felipe, I’ll certainly give you a heads up if Durham is in the plans.

I want to try to answer Carrie’s initial question of why this goal/vision/desire is so important to me.

Basically, this vision synthesizes most of my deepest-held beliefs (spiritual, political, social and otherwise) about who we are as humans, how we ought to treat each other, what is necessary for human thriving, and the shape and texture of what the “Kin-dom of God” looks like. I truly believe that *so* many of our deepest societal problems (from mental health issues to climate change related issues) stem from isolation, loneliness, and people of different groups not being in genuine, sharing relationship with each other. I also think the meritocracy is a farce and the reason one person makes 30K and another makes 200K is so often unrelated to the true value of what they produce and unrelated entirely to what they “deserve”. I also believe from a virtue-ethics perspective that if we want to be improving as people we need to do better than just learn how to be decent and loving to people it’s most comfortable and easy to relate to daily. And I think being intentional all the time is hard and unrealistic and exhausting, so we have to build our private lives in ways that facilitate rather than resist the world we want to see existing. Which ironically requires a ton of intentionality on the front end, but with the goal of having less resistance continually. (For example, the first time you have to figure out the bus route and it takes longer to get to work than just hopping in your car is work, but the benefits of not having to sit through traffic and pollute and being free to take public transit because you now know how it works are longstanding.) I know that I tend to be selfish, and lazy, and that behavioral economics confirms that if I want to make it more likely I have practices of generosity, mutual care, justice, and sharing in my life I need to make injustice, isolation, greed and selfishness things I have to actively opt into rather than forcing myself into a life where every decision has to be one to opt-out. If that makes sense.

I’ve been building this theory/idea for a while but it was viscerally illustrated to me when I was 23 and living in Colombia as part of a program with Mennonite Central Committee. I had my first serious adult relationship with a brilliant, funny, theologically and politically inquisitive and knowledgeable Afro-Colombian man 11 years my senior who also happened to be the father to a 16 year old, victim of the armed conflict, and impoverished. It wasn’t the right relationship for me for a variety of reasons I won’t get into here, but the experience of being in love and in relationship with someone whose life circumstances were so different from my own gave me an entirely different perspective on social change and economic justice issues. As I work in the world of social services now with its legacy of institutionalized racism, its language of “clients”, its broad categories and implicit assumptions I’m struck so often with how social segregation at the personal level leads to bad policy at the macro level.

There’s a lot of “why”s. I’m also an extrovert who grew up in Europe, West Africa, the Middle East and around Mennonites so more communitarian set ups may also just appeal to me personally more naturally. But I think the truest whys are linked to what my freshman college seminar called “Ruling Ideas”. I just think it’s a normatively and existentially better way to live than most. 😛

I’ll also briefly touch on Carrie , Alessandra and Felipe’s questions of the common thread, what holds the vision together in all the various iterations of it I’ve described.

There have been several moments I’ve looked around my life, seen that this vision was not yet within my reach and felt a deep sense of mourning, and anxiety about it. In the wake of such moments I’ve had to reframe and name the fact that every time I chose my living situation, every time I chose a partner, a job, a next step, this vision is weighing in and influencing how I make those choices. I could afford to live in a studio or maybe even a 1 bedroom in Los Angeles and instead I’ve chosen to consistently live with roommates, and consistently attempt to share life with them in increasingly meaningful ways. I chose to move to Los Angeles because I wanted to be near my sister and not become a near-stranger to her. I chose my current partner in part because his vision of church (he’s going to be a pastor) is one that holds within it so many of the aspects of this community vision I have. I feel that I am orienting myself towards this intention and that I’m trying to inhabit a “not yet but already” mentality about it.

I hope and pray and save money and will likely make a discreet serious choice someday that will make the co-ownership a concrete reality. I will only do that if the people I’m co-investing with share a vision for our community (whether it’s apartments, micro-neighborhood, large shared house, or other) to be a space for hospitality, shared life and care, art and organizing. I’m not going to artificially impose racial and socio-economic diversity, but I believe that if I continue to stay involved in the issues I’m passionate about, and if I hold to the intention of that diversity, I won’t have to impose it. Similarly being multi-generational will come when people have babies, or when parents need housing, or when someone from our local church finds themselves precariously housed, or when the lgbtq community has yet another member kicked out from a conservative family. The important thing is to have the space and intention and practice of hospitality, or letting go of a purely wealth-maximizing mentality, or of accidentally creating a community that isn’t porous enough for people to enter or to feel free to leave.

Anyways this is far too long. And late once more. But there it is. If you made it this far, thank you.

What are the values that unite us?

Sorry I’m a bit late. In my defense it’s 7:30pm as I begin writing this in California. Sorry also that my takeaways are less descriptions of specific conversations during the workshop on Wednesday, and more reflections based on my experience of the whole thing, and the experience of this incubator so far.

Take-away #1: We have everything we need, potentially

Based on the comments of those in the room, I got the strong sense that we have absolutely everything we need in terms of knowledge, relationships, access, widome and vision in order to expand the reach of CPA. Justin’s knowledge of charter schools, Kate’s understanding of working with small scale organizations, Juan Francisco’s business savvy and can-do attitude, Sheila’s wide creativity and hunger for more, Felipe’s pragmatist humility, Dr. Soul’s HVAC savvy and Yesica’s confidence and centering of minority vendors…over and over I kept thinking “Yes, we need that person. Yes, the answers to my question lie somewhere here.” The challenge as always becomes (always, eternally, inflexibly) that of time, commitment, and as I will highlight next, trust.

Take-away #2: Operating from a place of trust, collaboration, and urgent-patience is key

In my role working within the county of Los Angeles I am often baffled and saddened by the things that could get done, but don’t, because there is a fundamental lack of trust or lack of creativity for moving beyond ones’ funding requirements or strict job description. The tone we have set in this incubator is good so far, and I’m hopeful that it can continue the same way. It takes trust and a willingness to collaborate in order to truly learn what we need from each other. In economic terms (often more helpful for capturing concepts than actually running an economy, but I digress) it takes those elements to unleash each of our comparative advantage. I suppose comparative advantage might also be akin to our “edge”. But I digress. I think an urgent-patience, as in a sense that everything cannot or will not be known or clear when one might wish, and yet an urgency to creating movement and getting into action regardless, is also key. This I think was best said by Juan in the session in speaking about not waiting to have all the key players at the table to move.

Take-away #3: We need a collective conversation about our guiding values.

I enjoyed starting to hear the thoughts in the room about what guiding values we might be able to hold and claim as core to CPA as it expands. I find that it is often helpful to start somewhat complicated/complex group conversations around important issues by putting forward a proposal that others can then use a springboard off of which to react. In that spirit I offer the following as first draft proposals for guiding values  that would cover all CPA-affiliated co-ops. I’m sure if I look at these again tomorrow I will have different ideas about them myself, so please feel entirely free to rip them apart. I  would  genuinely be very interested in having incubator participants and CPA DC staff and members alike react:

The National Community Purchasing Alliance’s Guiding Values are:

  1. Equity – CPA believes in equity both in its procurement choices and its hiring and human resources management. This means prioritizing purchases from business with companies that are local and woman or minority owned and operated and Fair Chance employers. It also means being environmentally conscious given the unevenly distributed impacts of environmental degradation.
  • Cooperation and Relationality  – CPA is a cooperative because it believes that we can do infinitely more when united than when divided.  We believe in win-win-win solutions and an economy that works for everyone, and we believe that begins with grounding our work in building healthy public relationships with each other.
  • Anti-Racism – CPA stands in opposition to white supremacy and all of the insidious forms it takes. CPA staff and members are diverse and have suffered or benefited from white supremacy in different ways. As an organization we understand that white supremacy has functioned in part through divestment from communities of color, queer communities, and communities at the intersection of various oppressed identities. We seek to build relationship and to invest in those communities.
  • Plenty – CPA does not fall prey to a scarcity mentality that pits us all in a race to the bottom. We believe that there is an abundance of ideas, solutions, and ability for organizations and individuals to live and do well.
  • Power building – A portion of CPA’s profits are invested in local community organizing networks because CPA believes in using relationships and a solidarity economy to be a model and engine for the critical work of moving our world from what it is to what it should be through participatory political organizing.


Reflection Script

Thank you for the resonance and the questions this week.

I’m tempted to respond to the individual questions in detail but given they touched on such complex issues for me to express myself around, I’ll try to group them thematically.

Several of you asked about this idea of trust – why/how have we felt it in this incubator? How do we keep and grow it over time and as things evolve?

2For me, a few key components of why I feel a sense of trust in this group and practices I think important for keeping or growing that trust:

1. Showing up. I put *ALOT* of stock in the sheer fact of showing up, putting in the time. Ultimately time is our most valuable asset and so seeing people show up for weekly meetings and at the workshop is the first and largest reason I have for trusting that at the very least, for a plethora of reasons, these folks are people that are in a similar enough state of curiosity, commitment, and openness as I am. Sheila asked about what we could do to build on our current dose of trust in the future. I think visiting each other in our various locations over the course of the next couple of years of building and serving as fresh ears and eyes for problem solving, while also having our imagination expanded could help further build that trust. When I was part of the SEED group through Mennonite Central Committee we were a group of 10 individuals scattered across Colombia doing various accompaniment projects within communities and we were able to visit each location as a group once over the two years and learn from each others’ contexts. How feasible that is in terms of finances and time I’m not sure. I think being thoughtful about post-incubator what the relationships will look like, whether mentorship, peer-support or regular regathering, all could help continue to build on our trust.

2. Financial transparency. This is a strange one and (like all things in a capitalist world that relate to money) a potentially awkward one. I think being clear that participants in the incubator are receiving a $1500 stipend if they complete the incubator is important. I think getting to look at CPA’s budget openly and know that questions around money are welcome is important. I think when the time comes for Felipe and the CPA team to decide how to invest grant funding for future potential CPAs comes it will be important for the continued trust and health of this thought-community to understand what and why those decisions are made. Sex and money are the two areas that by virtue of holding such taboos and being connected to such visceral needs also (to my mind) require radical transparency/honesty if we are going to learn to trust each other.

3. Sharing the personal reasons for how we engage and approach the public world. Understanding at least some of the underlying stories, heroes, reasons we bring into this work is so critical to fostering trust. Then intro videos were huge in setting that tone. The genuine desire I see in our weekly calls to get to know each other is also key.

I’m sure there are more, but those are the top 3 that occur to me. I don’t think trust is a feeling you have, I think much like love, it’s more of a practice and a gift. By weekly writing my truth to you all I am showing you trust, and so you will trust me more, and vice versa. I’ve been watching Battlestar Galactica a lot recently and in one scene the General is asked, when sending out a character who used to be part of enemy ranks off on a sensitive mission for his side, “How do you know she won’t betray you?” and he answers “I don’t. That’s trust.” And I believe that too.


Several of you really resonated with urgent-patience as well. I chuckle because I feel like I cheated — paradox is always so appealing. To me what this means is to feel the sense of urgency about taking the next small step, the next 1 on 1, the next research item, the next blog post, whatever keeping momentum means, while also holding a deep sense of patience with the process. Patience doesn’t mean waiting to me, it means listening. It means being realistic about what is possible in this very moment, and hopeful that that possibility can grow and build without dying. It means being anchored deeply enough in your own core purpose to be open to it taking different forms as the opportunity/need/power/community arises and demands.

Felipe — I’ll end by not answer your three questions that agitated me the most:

4. What might going deeper look like for you?

5. What’s holding you back to committing to a place?
(you mentioned a move may be on your horizon in 1-3 years?)

6. In thinking about the rest of your life — do you want to be more of a boomer or a sticker?

Felipe’s question 🙂

I won’t answer them because they’re each overly long posts of their own. I will say I take issue with Wendell Berry’s sharp distinction, helpful as it might be for illuminating his idea. I would argue my parents were neither boomers nor stickers. Nor are many itinerant artists, prophets, refugees, and a variety of other groups. That being said, I will continue to wrestle with these questions, and hope you ask me again sometime.

A sandbox we can all play in: bridging networks and inviting gym-churches to the table

The three relational meetings I am in the process of setting up are with the lead organizer of the IAF affiliate in LA, the director of the local PICO affiliate and a community leader he thinks I should talk to, and an entrepreneurial church-planting pastor whose congregation are becoming part-owners of a gym where church will also be held. I have met all three of these men before, and indeed had a regular one on one with two of them previously so this one on one is a reintroduction, of sorts, and an opportunity to both learn how and if they have done thinking around community purchasing, as well as whet their appetite for doing so.

In thinking about what story I want to tell, I have landed on wanting to share the story of attending Eastern Mennonite University and doing research on our institutional investments in the context of leading a student boycott, sanctions and divestment group. I want to share how I felt the invisible-made-visible complicity in an economy of death every time I passed the Caterpillar construction equipment on-campus knowing the impact of that company in the lives of Palestinians I had met and protested with. I want to share the inverse feeling of liberation I felt in planning a positive investment campaign buying hand-made keffiyeh’s from the Hebron women’s cooperative and how those seminal experiences birthed my passion for organizing our purchasing power as intentionally as we do our people power.

The biggest risk I anticipate taking, which directly overlaps with modeling vulnerability is in admitting where I am on this journey of exploring CPA, which is to say, I am still learning. As so often the case in my life, I am the newcomer here in Los Angeles and I must risk being told that any knowledgeable local would know what I am suggesting has already been done, is impossible, or is already in process. My inclination to do all of my research before speaking with people (not my typical approach, but for some reason my temptation in this endeavor) will have to give way to trusting I am coherent, trustworthy and intelligent enough to communicate the nuanced idea that while I am not entirely an expert, nor able to commit all of my time to becoming one, I can nevertheless provide the energy, guidance, and savvy to move this proposal forward while learning and respecting the necessary local context. In many ways this is the nuanced agreement I have had to make with every community and every employer that has ever trusted me with their time and work.

I have started with these three in part because there is already enough of an existing relationship that I feel I can be somewhat vulnerable, but also because there is so much I am genuinely curious about.

For the two leaders of broad-based organizations I am curious which of their members they might suggest I approach. I am curious if they might be inspired enough by the model to allow me to invite their organizing staff in as message multipliers and initial scouts for interested institutions. I am curious whether they are aware of any similar ventures having previously occurred. I am deeply curious whether they will see this as an opportunity to bridge whatever differences they may have and work together, and who they recommend I reach out to beyond their direct membership.

With the new gym-owner-pastor I am most curious about how he and his community decided to move forward with that model, and how they are aiming to live out Kingdom economics while helping run what I assume is a for-profit space.

I’m actually far less concerned than I have sometimes been about the relational versus transactional dynamic for the simple reason that at this point I’m approaching CPA similar to any campaign I imagined myself organizing with the IAF, which is to say, I’m waiting to see if it is genuinely within the self-interest of the community. I’m agitating to see if leaders who may be intrigued are also willing to actually support the idea. I cannot start a cooperative alone, and my professional, personal, and emotional well-being do not in any way depend on whether or not CPA LA gets established. This was a very hard lesson I learned as an organizer “You cannot want it more than the leaders”. I have not forgotten that lesson. I listed in my first week what I have to gain from this venture, but I don’t have much to lose which releases me from the concern that I would get overly transactional in my initial relational meetings.

The people who I know with whom meeting is a joy are those who I know are coming: 1) with their own energy and excitement 2) having thought through why they are meeting with me specifically 3) with a clear ask or question for me to consider 4) who truly listen to me and project a sense that they care about me as a person in the midst of their passion for the topic at hand. This human-touch combined with thoughtful approach make for the best meetings, and is the balance I will aim to emulate.

Ending with this exerpt from Mary Oliver, my forever inspiration:

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

(Excerpt from “Wild Geese”, offered in the spirit of offering up this time and community to the wild harsh and exciting call of our greatest imaginations)


Week 2 RS:
Thank you all for your engaging questions, thoughts and support! I heard the sense of detachment really resonating with several of you, as well as the organizing universal of never caring more than the leaders. I daresay if I didn’t have a stable job with good benefits, sound mental and physical health and a deep sense of my innate worth, the detachment would likely be more difficult. I struggled most with this concept as an organizer in large part because I was being paid (not a lot, certainly, but as compared to a volunteering it was a raise!) and measuring my professional success and aptitude by what I produced. The question to dig into for me, then, is how to maintain this detachment (which I agree is helpful and healthy right now) if and when my personal well being, career, etc is more at stake?

It’s ironic because on this “break” from being the organizer, paid staff, I had been eager to explore being a leader and allowing myself the freedom I had in college to drive action. In college it was my personal passion for solidarity and Palestinian rights that drove action at the university level. While it wasn’t my identity as a Palestinian, it was my identity as someone who had just been living there, who had friends personally impacted, and as a Christian whose values were in deep conflict with the complicity I saw. I say ironic because I have come to see that my status as the eternal outsider, particularly in a country (and world) in which oppression is largely the fatal mixing of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy, makes it necessary for me to take on the position of organizer regardless of that being my official position or not. That is to say, given what we have learned about positionality and my maturing in understanding where I stand in the current of history, I see that the task of agitating, catalyzing, and observing what is truly linked with the community’s self-interest must be core to all I do, as organizer or leader. Paul asked “If we think too deeply, it would freeze us in acting. What parameters do we put on not being complicit?” I think we name our complicity as honestly as we can, we surround ourselves as best we can with others that share our values and will make disentangling ourselves from the easy ties of complicity less painful, and we do the continual work of effort, grace, effort, grace, that trying to live well in this world requires. Even as I write this I know I’m circling around a dynamic learning I don’t quite have the right language for – so thank you for your patience.
Felipe asked if what I was looking for were co-conspirators – yes. Definitely. I’m looking for energy, knowledge, deep local knowledge and excitement at the adventure and opportunity of it all. You also asked if coming without all the answers is as much a strength as a risk. Yes. I think it depends what piece of the conversation, what part of the timeline we’re operating within. At this point I can certainly see it as both. Looking forward to continuing this dialogue with you all.

Discerning CPA LA and Doing the Splits

You can’t give an enneagram type 7 such a list-like assignment and not expect her to answer it in list form. So, here we have it. Week one exploring goal setting:

Describe your goal, be specific.

I. (CPA-related). Gain clarity aboutthe opportunity and appetite for CPA in LA by the December holidays.

II. (Personal) To be able to do a split by 2020.

 List the benefits

I. Gaining clarity around CPA byDecember

  1. Building relationships with leadersin LA who are interested in the CPA model is beneficial to building myprofessional network, to giving me a sense of belonging to the city and county,and providing me with a deeper sense of purpose, meaning, and hope.
  2. Gaining clarity about theopportunity for CPA and in what my role could be in the coming year will helpme prioritize my time, commitments, and projections for the future.
  3. Gaining practice writing aneffective pitch is a transferable skill to many scenarios and will bebeneficial to me overall.

II. Splits

  1. Increases your flexibility.
  2. It’s an impressive party trick.
  3. If I achieve this goal by Decembermy sister will buy me a beer.
  4. The practice required to get thereteaches you patience, perseverance, and intentionality.

List the obstacles to overcome

I. Gaining clarity around CPA byDecember

  1. Time: Since I am embarking on this work while being employed full time, having a leadership position in my local congregation, and holding a deep commitment to safeguarding time for my personal and private life and relationships I will need to be intentional about how I work towards my goals.
  2. Sequencing: Some conversations may be more fruitful if they are timed after previous conversations. Unfortunately that can be hard to know. I will have to balance being discerning with not getting stuck or forsaking the good for the best.

II. Splits

  1. Consistency: I decided on this goal in early September but then given my recent move and the associated transition and hectic schedule I was not actually able to maintain consistent practice.
  2. Talking myself out of it: I’m deeply pragmatic and it’s easy to simply decide it isn’t a real goal because it isn’t as “important” or “worthwhile” as my more substantive career, relational or even physical goals. It’s “fluff” and therefore easy to dispense with, even though I decided I wanted to commit to it.

List the skills and knowledge required

I. Gaining clarity around CPA byDecember

  1. I need to know the California/LosAngeles market better, particularly what types of services are most promisingfor collective purchasing agreements.
  2. I need to know what I can reasonablycommit myself, Felipe, CPA staff, and potential future partners to in terms oftime and funding. Some of this I can clarify through personal discernment andhonest conversation, but some of it will be emergent.

II. Splits

1.  I need to know which stretches are most effective if getting to be flexible enough to do the splits. (Research done).

2. I need to know whether my body is actually physically capable of doing a split. Some aren’t. I won’t actually know until I’ve given it a good faith attempt.

Who will you work with?

I. Gaining clarity around CPA by December.

  1. Felipe, my CPA incubator small group
  2. Local leaders in LA I have gotten to know over the past year

II. Splits

  1. My partner, Justin and my roommate, Alyssa have both said they would try to encourage me by sometimes joining my daily stretches.
  2. I follow an instagram account dedicated to those attempting to do the splits.
  3. Now the CPA incubator #TeamTuesday know and can ask me at some point whether I’m doing it!

Develop a plan of action:

I. Gain clarity about theopportunity and appetite for CPA in LA by the December holidays.

  1. Write down a pitch to begin speakingwith faith and other institutional leaders who are potential partners forlaunching CPA in LA by the end of October.
    1. Get as much detailed informationabout CPA parameters from Felipe/Amy/Justin as possible this week.
      1. Email request them by Wednesday, set up “office hours” toFelipe
    1. Read through materials and create adraft pitch next week.
    1. Practice this pitch with Felipe inthree weeks and get feedback.
  2. Test this pitch with at least threeknown leaders before the end of the incubator.
    1. Receive feedback from pitch andmodify as needed
    1. Ask for leaders’ list of individualsthey recommend I speak with who are either already invested in this type ofendeavor, have important context I need if I am to move forward, or may beinterested in the model.
  3. Find at least 2-3 individuals whoare willing to put time into exploring the potential for CPA or something likeCPA LA with me in 2020 by the end of the year.

II. Splits

  1. Do each of the 5 key stretches to achieve a split everyday from 9:50pm-10pm.
  2. Set an alarm on my phone reminding me to do these Write down the 5 exercises and keep them visible in my bedroom
  3. Every time I come back from a run, make sure to do each of the 5 stretches for at least 30 seconds each.

Week 1 RS

I thank everyone who sent me questions for their agitation, mentorship and curiosity. Jonathan’s question struck me most deeply, asking about what about CPA I hoped would bring meaning and hope. I offer my answer to him as my overall reflection back on these questions, cognizant it doesn’t summarize the entirety of my synthesized wrestling with the questions I was brought, but wanting to share this vulnerable inner-work:

In terms of the sense of meaning and hope that CPA might be a vehicle for bringing and what resonates…
There’s some deeper context to that need (for hope and meaning) which I think is still within the spirit of this incubator to talk about (Sorry this is so dang long):

I started attending church (mostly) regularly for the first time this year after a five year hiatus. I grew up fairly evangelical (albeit with a French philosophical/social-justice-y bent) and at 18 had my first major crisis of faith after unsuccessfully trying to convert a formerly-orthodox-turned-secular-and-unbeknownst-to-me-settler Jewish teacher of mine in high school. I went to Eastern Mennonite University promising God I wouldn’t date anyone so as to remain focused on my central goal which was determining whether God was real and I ought to remain a Christian and to learn how to live justly in the world. (So you see, growing up has taught me, perhaps to my disservice, to make “SMART” goals) My time at EMU was many things, but I mostly stayed true to those two goals and by the end of my time had decided not only to stay within the Christian faith but to dig more deeply into it and try to live it out more holistically, but with a more anabaptist/liberation/eco/feminist theology bent that aligned with my vision of the world. Then I spent two years working closely with Mennonite churches and nondenominational churches in Colombia which were extremely evangelical, while most of my friend group came out as queer, and my distaste for the brand of Christianity grew exponentially. I was also deeply frustrated that much of the important organizing work I wanted to do wasn’t at the core of the self-interest and identity of the partners I was tasked with working with. Joining the IAF, I felt liberated in the ability to work only with those congregations and partners who had an appetite and willingness to show up for the work. And I spent so much of my time in congregations, and found such spiritual meaning and belonging in the community of leaders and the ceremony of political action rooted in values that a church service felt a little hollow in comparison, and needlessly narrow. So I stopped attending church then, and then traveled the world and interviewed change-agents in conflict and post-conflict contexts for 7 months, and then attended graduate school, during which time I again found community in students organizing for change. So why go back to church at all? And how is any of this related to CPA?

The truth is over the past several years, and to some degree even while organizing for the IAF — where the work was authentic and meaningful, but the scale of our impact so seemingly local and limited — I started to feel my sense of hope and courage erode and give way to both “cold anger” (a la IAF) as well as actual rage, and a twinge of nihilism with edges of hedonism. Going back to church was a pretty crude attempt at tapping back into the sense of community, the transcendence (at best) of worship, and the opportunity to take action based on values that I could find. But I’m again feeling like my one congregation is too limited a sphere and worldview in which to cultivate relationships and opportunities for action, and that to grow in hope and to practice courage means, at least for me, seeking opportunities to bridge and create new relationships and collaborations across groups. I’ve noticed I still don’t actually get much spiritually from Sunday services. But my small group, and the core team I’m helping build and get involved in faith-based organizing, those do. So in terms of meaning and hope, I think I’m hoping building CPA is a vehicle for participating in that work of bridging and imagining and creating together across groups that otherwise don’t have as much opportunity to engage. And it gives me a reason and way to be in relationship to people of faith whose values I connect with but whose ceremonies/cultures/natural meeting spaces I have a hard time feeling a sense of belonging to.