A few weeks ago, our staff got the chance to meet in person in downtown LA for an action-packed team retreat. We laughed, we bowled, we shared our dreams for democracy, and we learned about local issues from community leaders.

The retreat gave us an important opportunity to build and strengthen our relationships with one another and our supporters, act on our goals for the year, and hear directly from folx involved in LA’s current participatory budgeting process, L.A. REPAIR. Here’s a brief recap:

Day 1 - The Skid Row History Museum and Archive

Xuana Mulul, Maya spiritual leader and key supporter of Guatemaya L.A. Mujeres en Resistencia, opened our session with a beautiful land acknowledgement. We learned about our space for the day, an exhibition and performing arts space curated by the Los Angeles Poverty Department. It was founded as a community space for residents of Skid Row, one of the poorest areas in the city, to gather, share their stories, and collectively amplify community resistance strategies such as arts and activism to fight displacement and immense income inequality .

After grounding together and getting a chance to catch up face to face over delicious food, we spent the day discussing ways to improve how we can achieve our goals and work well collaboratively as a remote national organization.

Then, we headed over to the bowling alley for some friendly competition! While some staff were more successful than others at racking up points, we all had a blast cheering one another on.

Day 2 - Japanese American National Museum

On the following day, we met bright and early to get in sync, deliberate about the structure of our organization, and hear from some amazing community partners. We were hosted by the Japanese American National Museum, a national repository of Japanese American history and leading cultural voice for inclusion, justice, and Japanese representation.

In the afternoon, we heard from a bevy of advocates and community leaders fighting for democracy across LA. First, Megan Castillo (La Defensa), Mya Hendrix (La Defensa), Diana Zuniga (Tres Lunas Consulting), and talked about their advocacy work at the Reimagine LA County coalition and what it means to them. The coalition is fighting for full implementation of LA County’s Measure J ballot measure to invest $900 million for community services and alternatives to incarceration which the county passed in 2020.

Then, we heard from a panel of community leaders representing LA Metropolitan Churches, who shared deeply from their lived experience and reflected on the challenges and opportunities in using participatory budgeting to advance racial justice. Panels included Carrie Broadus, Candy Centieo, Corrine Paige, Cedric Farmer, and Steve 'Whitey' Robertson. Their community organization serves as a Community Engagement Partner in the city’s current LA REPAIR participatory budgeting process that will distribute about $8.5 million to nine designated LA neighborhoods.

Read our LA Advocacy Manager Edna Sandoval's reflection on what it was like to witness the beauty of intergenerational activism.

Energized from their incredible testimonies and our engaging Q&A, we took a breather before sharing some drinks and fun with folks from across our networks at a PBP Happy Hour.

Day 3 - Los Angeles Eco-Village

For our third and last day together, we hopped in a van and landed at the Los Angeles Eco-Village, a 30 year old cooperative community based in Koreatown. After learning about experiments that Los Angeles for All is piloting with People’s Movement Assemblies from our host Dani Knoll, we discussed several different participatory democracy practices we wanted to explore further together.

This included hearing about citizens’ assemblies and policy juries directly from one of the leaders of the movement in Ireland, Art O'Leary. You can find out more about his work here.

After a wonderful lunch, we created some space for integration, planning on next steps, and reflection on our time together as we finished out the week in Los Angeles.

A few staff takeaways:

“I was struck by the power of our sociocratic practice when we’re in space together. We were able to have deep conversations, weigh options, and move through rounds quickly, efficiently and more impactfully when we are together in person.” -Kristania De Leon, co-Executive Director

“Experiencing moments of joy together as a team felt important after also experiencing challenges in our work together.” -Isabel Luciano, People's Fellowship Director

“My favorite part of the retreat was seeing the legacy of the elders’ organizing in LA that created a path for us as organizers today.” -Anita Dos Santos, Advocacy Manager

What’s Next

We have returned reinvigorated and ready to continue to advance participatory democracy together as a team! In Los Angeles and beyond, we look forward to continuing to harvest the gleaning from this time together and carry them into our work.