“There’s a place in my mind where ideas can grow into sprouts that turn into trees.”
– Renee, Grade 7, 826 NYC
All the work 826 National does serves to support the regional chapters in the work that they do. Together, the 826 network can best achieve their social justice mission: to work toward more equitable education opportunities for all students, regardless of circumstance. At the national level where I am interning, progress is focused in two areas: growth of existing chapters and development of new chapters.
Growth: For chapters that are well-established, 826 National is constantly collaborating with them to improve and enhance the great work that is already being done. Sometimes, that can be as simple as facilitating monthly department check-ins across chapters so that everyone working in a similar capacity can touch base about what is working and what they might need ideas about. Sometimes, progress involves facilitating exciting partnerships with companies like Cartoon Network! Recently, 826 National and Cartoon Network collaborated to launch the Inclusion Storytelling Project, which encourages youth to share stories about kindness and empathy in an effort to work toward a bully-free world. Each 826 chapter is taking part, adding their own local twist.
826 New Orleans, for example, linked the project to Confederate monuments that were removed from the city at the end of 2017. Third graders at a local school wrote a book filled with their own suggestions about what should replace those monuments, which was published by 826 National. Buzzfeed recently picked up on it, after some of the images from the book when viral on Twitter!
Development: Speaking of 826 New Orleans, another way that 826 National works toward progress is by working with groups looking to establish their own 826 chapter. Until recently, 826 New Orleans was actually a chapter in development, which involves a process that can take up to two years. Sites apply for the chapter development process and, if selected, undergo a series of phases to create an organization that matches the 826 model. Once they become a full-fledged chapter, they have access to all the resources that the national office has to offer. Though it can be a time-consuming process, all of the steps involved lead up to a new regional site, which enables us to vastly increase the number of students we reach each year!
In order for the 826 National office to adequately support its chapters, we need to be sure that we are operating in the most efficient, effective way. This means that we are also doing work internally to make changes that aid our ultimate mission. In the short time I have been at the office, staff have come together several times to talk about ways they can improve their own work. These conversations involve both self-reflection and feedback from chapters about how the national office can better support them. I admire 826 National’s strong commitment to being the best version of itself, and I am learning a ton about how to use effective reflection practices for actual change. It’s a skill that I can take with me to my future workplaces–to ensure that my work is always aligned with the mission.
–Katie Reinhold, ’19