Greetings from the STOKE Collective!
Dear Community of the STOKE Collective,
How are you? It has been a while since we’ve reached out. We’ve been growing and learning a lot this year. We’ve been toiling away, learning lessons about ourselves and our work, and especially, about the unique challenges of living true to our values while starting a business.
Amidst this growth, a lot of amazing things have been happening, too! We hope this email serves as both an update of our partners’ major developments, what we have been doing in STOKE, as well as an opportunity to begin reconnecting with you all. Please continue reading for an in-depth look at these updates!
508 Bike Life: Creating intergenerational support for youth cyclists
In the Winter of 2018, our partners, the youth of 508BikeLife and several adult allies, screened their documentary 508: The Takeover in Worcester, MA as a fundraiser to get 508BikeLife riders to the national Youth Bike Summit, which happened in February 2019. Thanks to generous donations from folks like yourselves, STOKE was able to match the funds raised by 508BikeLife with a $1000 donation to pay their way to New York City and provide ongoing support for their work.
In February 2019, the youth of 508BikeLife (Anthony Gonzalez, Luis Gonzalez, Mario Harper, Angelike Fernandez and other youth from Worcester, MA) screened their documentary and led a discussion that surfaced conversation about how there’s more to safety than protected lanes for bike-riders (ie - law enforcement does not always mean more safety, especially for Black and Brown youth), and how bike-riding can mean different things to different people and cultures. They continue this work at home in Worcester, through hosting annual block parties (bloxx parties), hosting rideouts, cultivating new spaces for youth to safely express themselves, and fighting for the safety of all young bicyclists of color.
Independent Drivers Guild: Challenges of organizing in the gig economy
Last summer, we were setting the stage for a new partnership with the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG), the union that represents 85,000 app-based drivers in New York City. IDG has built many successful campaigns, from winning tipping in the Uber app and an approximately 40% pay hike for drivers in NYC, to developing a host of wellness resources for drivers working in an extremely stressful industry.
With their winning came growth. With that growth came the challenges to fostering an organization that is capable of engaging and building the leadership of drivers from all over the world, speaking over fifty languages, to work together to combat an industry built on greed and exploitation.
In the first phase of our partnership with IDG, we took to building relationships and learning about the cultural, historical, and political contexts of the organization. In the second phase of our work, over the past six months, we’ve worked with the staff and the amazing stewards -- the driver-leaders -- of IDG as they do the hard work of building a sustainable home for the ongoing struggles of drivers in the industry. We have been so inspired by the dedication of IDG’s stewards and staff, and are so privileged to accompany them in their work to build a strong relational culture that is capable of supporting and building the power of drivers and their families.
We have several projects on the horizon, too! We are laying the groundwork to provide concrete relational culture support and to build the capacity of people most affected to lead projects within higher education, community-engaged cultural organizations, youth development, organizations addressing state violence, and more.
The STOKE Collective: Building Our Own Capacity
The STOKE Collective has been imagining and creating a professional development structure for our growing trainer community, around the country, to support one another in our work, and learn together. By broadening our circle in this way, we hope it will enable us to grow the “us” sustainably, relationally, and intentionally.
As exciting as all these developments have been, things have also been quite challenging. Turns out starting a business, while managing multiple projects and working full-time or part-time jobs, is really difficult! As we continue this work to grow STOKE, and support culture-shifts across our movements and communities, we recognize that we need some organizational support in two important areas:
We need a Communication Liaison - a professional (or naturally gifted) person to help us communicate skillfully, wisely, and consistently with the STOKE Collective’s friends, supporters, and colleagues, as well as past, present, and potential partners.
We also need an Organizational and Financial Counselor - a skilled professional to help us research and develop solid financial, legal, and organizational structures and processes for our growing social justice training collective.
Feel free to reach out to us directly if you are interested, or to connect us with people you know who may be. We deeply appreciate it!
As you can see, this year has been awesome, though stressful at times, for this fledgling collective. We are sorry for how all of this impacted our ability to communicate with you all, our beloved supporters and friends. We are unendingly grateful for how each of you supported us, relationally and financially, to get us fully off the ground a year ago. It worked -- we're launched! Moving forward, we would love to connect with you about anything that relates to building a strong relational culture in social change work. We hope that you are engaged with the support, love, and community you need in these extraordinary times.
Please be in touch, truly! We will be, as well.
Lily Brown, Olivia Espinoza, Kristie Herman, Jishava Patel, Jen Sandler