Rendezvousing with Regional Cohorts
Each year, the Friends Rendezvous attracts Conservation Lands advocates from across the West for a weekend of training, networking, peer-learning, and camaraderie. For some, the Rendezvous is an opportunity to catch up with their colleagues working in other states; for others, it’s an opportunity to learn more about the movement and meet some of their counterparts from other groups for the first time.
One of the best opportunities for connecting with colleagues happens during the regional breakout sessions. Friends groups in Arizona started the tradition of meeting as a state network during the second Rendezvous in Santa Fe. Since then, other regions have joined the mix—and it’s been an official conference agenda item for a number of years now.
Regional discussions are important for a number of reasons. As the Friends Grassroots Network expands in geographic scope and Friends groups grow their ranks, the regional discussions help connect new advocates with their fellow state cohorts. These peer-to-peer relationships allow leaders to learn from each other’s successes and challenges, develop joint projects, share advice and support, and generally make the whole endeavor much more fun.
But it’s not just about personal relationships. Given the BLM’s state-centric decision making structure, state networks of Friends groups can band together to more effectively advocate on behalf of the Conservation Lands. Regional networks, such as the Arizona Friends Network and the Colorado Plateau Coalition, have already begun to develop shared objectives and exercise their collective clout on important issues. Whether it’s the California network engaging on the development of a state step-down strategy for the Conservation Lands or the “mini-Rendezvous” that Arizona groups held earlier this year, regional Friends networks are growing in both number and sophistication.