Thursday, May 12, 2011

Get Your Tail To A Conference

Cross posted from my Media Justice column

As the end of the semester is arrives I am reminded of all the ways I’ve looked forward to this summer. There are a ton of fabulous conferences going on this summer (and this year in general) that I think may be of interest to readers. So, this piece is focusing on helping us all build community through conference attendance and organizing, as well as some pointers on how to get funds to attend (I know all too well how expensive it is to travel and get to conferences!).

I asked some friends to share with me conferences they think are important to share and have you all know about so I’ll include those in this list. If you are interested in continuing your training and commuity building in the reproductive justice and sexual health field there are many different conferences all over the world to look into. The Kinsey Institute has a great
list of conferences all year round for 2011. A few that the Kinsey Institute features that I’d like to highlight are the International AIDS Conference 2012 which will be held in Washington, DC, the annual AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors & Therapists) which has already passed, but is held each year in the US, and the Trans-Health Conference in Philadelphia, PA, this is the 10th year the conference being held. The Kinsey Institute seems to update it often enough, but I noticed a few things missing from this list that I think may be of interest to Amplify readers.

Allied Media Conference
One conference I am shamelessly plugging is the
Allied Media Conference (AMC). I have so many friends and chosen family who attend and present at this conference that I’ve decided I’m going to attend this summer. Located in Detroit, Michigan, the AMC focuses on cultivating “strategies for a more just and creative world. We come together to share tools and tactics for transforming our communities through media-based organizing." Their vision is “participatory media to transform our selves and our world." Needless to say AMC is one of the most radical, progressive, inclusive and accessible conferences in the US. They center on including and supporting folks from various experiences and backgrounds, offer accessible housing that is affordable ($45 a night) and have amazing programs each year! One of the documents I used in writing my Net Neutrality article was created by participants of the AMC. This year the AMC is June 23-26, 2011 and if you are interested in media literacy and media justice this is where you need to be! Come find me I’ll most likely have a big side ponytail.

World Congress of Sexual Health
The World Association of Sexual Health conference (WAS, formally the World Association of Sexology) is an international organization of sexual and reproductive health professionals from around the world. It is one of the largest conferences that is every other year. I’ve attended two conferences for WAS and both were funded by donations from the places I was working and my colleges. It can be overwhelming, but totally worth it, especially as someone of Color in this field where in the US there are not many of us, but when we look outside the US, we are everywhere! The 20th Annual World Congress of Sexual Health is on June 12-16, 2011 in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Kansas City Human Sexuality Educational Regional Conference
Focusing on people working with clients or in the field of reproductive and sexual health,
this conference will discuss the specific needs of people living in Kansas City. The conference will discuss human sexuality in a changing world, as this is the title of the conference. Registration needs to be received by June 1, 2011 and the final program is available onlineand includes keynotes on sexuality education updates, sexting, and ethics in the classroom. June 8-10, 2011

SisterSong Let’s Talk About Sex Conference
Many of you may know of
SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective as their mission is to “amplify and strengthen the collective voices of Indigenous women and women of color to ensure reproductive justice through securing human rights.” This year is their first annual conference called “Let’s Talk About Sex: Love, Legislation and Leadership” in Miami, Florida. The conference will focus on celebrating the movement for reproductive health, reproductive rights and reproductive justice. It will be held on July 14-17, 2011 and registration is now open! As this is the first conference for SisterSong, there will hopefully be many more in the future. They have had a call for bloggers, volunteers, workshops, presentations, and offer scholarships (deadline was in March).

Conferences coming up in the Fall and Winter 2011

Sexuality and Aging Conference will be hosted by Widener University, one of the few higher education programs that has a specialization in sexuality studies on the east coast. It will take place on September 23, 2011 and the conference title is: “Sexuality, Intimacy and Aging: What Every Professional Needs to Know,” and is a day long event and registration begins in the summer.

Transcending Boundaries Conference located in Springfield, MA will be held in November 11-13, 2011. The conference focuses on “’Beyond the Binary.’ Male/Female, Straight/Gay or Lesbian, Man /Woman, Committed/Single, in a world of either-or's, where do those of us that don't quite belong in one category or the other fit? Gender, sex, orientation, relationships and identities don't always meet the definitions society gives us, but that doesn't mean they are any less valid.” They are currently accepting proposals for workshops and presentations and the keynote is Kate Bornstein.

Conferences my friends shared with me are on a range of topics. The first two my homegirl Pamela suggested and the last my homegirl Adele provided:

NCORE is The National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education and the “conference series constitutes the leading and most comprehensive national forum on issues of race and ethnicity in American higher education. The conference focuses on the complex task of creating and sustaining comprehensive institutional change designed to improve racial and ethnic relations on campus and to expand opportunities for educational access and success by culturally diverse, traditionally underrepresented populations.” Registration is now open and the conference is being held May 31-June 4, 2011 and is in San Francisco, CA.

The Gloria Anzaldúa Conference is hosted by the University of Texas, San Antonio Women’s Studies Institute and it seems it is usually held in November. I’ve mentioned Anzaldúa here in the past, most recently when I wrote about Lady Gaga and her misuse of the term “chola.” Anzaldúa was an amazing Chicana lesbian feminist, and one of the first to discuss how race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation and gender intersect. Check the website for updates and information about when this conference is being planned for 2011.

MALCS is Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (Women Active in Letters and Social Change) and is a “national organization of Chicanas/Latinas and Native American women working in academia and in community settings with a common goal: to work toward the support, education and dissemination of Chicana/Latina and Native American women’s issues.” Each summer they provide a Summer Institute for members (you do have to be a member to attend) and this year in August 3-7 they will host Against Fear and Terror: Una Nueva Conciencia Sin Fronteras
 at California State University. This years summer institute will focus on “aims to foreground the academic and activist endeavors contesting the current framing of citizenship and belonging through binaries such as immigrant/non-immigrant that ignore lived relationship, histories and transformative practices in rights-based struggles.”

How To Get To Conferences

Most of my time in undergrad and graduate school I hustled to get to many conferences. Not only did I volunteer to work at many conferences in NYC and DC to get free admission and not pay for registration, but it also helped me build community. One of the ways I was able to get to international conferences was by fundraising. I’ll share here how I’ve fundraised in the past, some key words to keep in mind, and how fundraising has changed with new technology that can be very useful.

The first thing I did while in school or working was find a conference I wanted to attend that connected to either my field of study or the work I was doing at my job. I had to make a case for why I should be provided with funds and time to attend certain conferences. If you are seeking an employer to pay for your conference travel and registration (including food and lodging) make sure you have a clear understanding of why you want to go and can eloquently articulate it verbally and in writing. Terms such as “professional development” and “training to share with colleagues” can be useful phrases to use. If you can demonstrate that what you will learn and acquire at the conference can help impact the work you do chances are you may be able to get full funding. If you are interested in taking what you learn at the conference and sharing it with staff, your employer may see this as a investment as you can provide a “free training” for staff through your participation.

It is also important to have a budget planned out. Make sure you consider and include all forms of travel: to and from the airport, train, a cab, bus or metro/subway fare. A per diem is a fancy way of saying how much money you are allocated to use for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Often this does not go over $50 a day if you work for some non-profit organizations, but check with your employer before picking an amount to include on a budget and see if there are any meals covered by the conference registration fee. Make sure to include registration fees, institute or special fees, hotel accommodations, and any special support you may need. Having a budget demonstrates you have considered the costs and itemizing the budget allows for easier fundraising for your fees.

Sometimes employers will reimburse you for your lodging, travel, and food so make sure you have that amount of money available or a way to access it via credit cards. Keep in mind that reimbursement varies for each location so make sure you can cover what you spend during that time and keep all your receipts!

As a graduate student I asked for funds from various places: my department, provost for retention and recruitment, provost for diversity, student organizations, and specific programs such as LGBT studies, women’s studies, and ethnic studies. Having an itemized budget may be useful in these situations as you could ask for specific amounts to be covered (i.e. lodging only) and also you can demonstrate how you are fundraising across disciplines and are actively seeking support in multiple ways versus leaving it up to one space to cover all financial needs. I have also offered to provide recruitment to our department or campus through attendance and took brochures, applications and other information to share with participants.

If you have a blog, or you write for a specific space, such as Amplify, and have a few posts to show as proof, you can ask to attend as media. Many conferences offer media passes for FREE. Yes FREE. You can get into many events on a press pass, such as film festivals, special events, and advanced screenings. Many of the conferences above offer press packages that include waiving registration.

Other options are to host a table, become a sponsor or join the exhibitors at the space. Often these are opportunities for you to share the work your organization and/or school provide. Sometimes there are fees to host a table or be an exhibitor but they are often less expensive than full registration fees. You will have to sit at the table for a certain amount of time, but often if more than one person attends you can agree when to take breaks to attend some sessions that may be of interest.

Many conferences offer scholarships if you apply in advance and can demonstrate need. I’ll admit that this is not the most enjoyable thing to do: talk about how broke you are and how worthy you are of attending. I’ve had my fair share of providing such narratives to get conference support and I think I’ll be continuing to do so for a while. However, it is an option. It is important to get your information and application in advance, and keep in mind they don’t often have enough funds to offer scholarships to everyone. Although it may hurt you are not offered a scholarship and thus not able to attend, it does not mean that the work you do is invalid, your existence is being ignored, nor does it mean there are not other conferences to attend! Believe me, I wish I had someone remind me of these things because I spent a lot of time being upset and disappointed when I wasn’t offered funding.

Using online technology is another way to fundraise. I’m currently fundraising to attend the AMC and if you want to see how I created a budget and set up a request for funds feel free to
check out the post as a template. Having an account with PayPal requires you to have a bank account to confirm your money can be sent in a particular way, usually directly to your selected account. PayPal can also provide you with a check but that takes some time. So, think about how this option may be useful to you or not.

My homegirl Stacey shared with me the
ChipIn widget that you create to demonstrate how much money you have raised and how much more you need to meet your goal. This is useful to include on a website or blog so that you and others can track your progress. I chose not to use ChipIn because I discovered it later in my fundraising and it does not show how much you have already raised, it works when you include it prior to fundraising. ChipIn is set up via PayPal, but there may be some other options for folks outside the US as well using this service.

Are there other suggestions folks have for fundraising and/or conferences that are coming up or are of interest? Please share below! I’d love to hear how many of you are fundraising and which conferences you are hoping to attend!

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