Inviting a Renewed Commitment

Tucked away in the Nature Center at historic Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia, members from AFRICOM came together for their first-ever board retreat in November 2018 with excitement, curiosity, and wonder.  Tony Hernandez and Sharlene Goldfischer of PANO’s Consultant Collaborative, retreat facilitators,  set their intentions for the time together and shared their journey of how they came to work with AFRICOM. They invited members to reach into the memories, moments, stories, and the unique strengths and expertise that they each bring to the organization.

AFRICOM, the Coalition of African and Caribbean Communities in Philadelphia, came together in 2001. For the past 19 years a group of volunteer leaders have worked to bring this vision to life through the facilitation of family access to health and social services, serving and empowering women and youth, promoting economic development, facilitating inter- and intra-group conflict resolution, advocating on issues of concern to African communities, and educating the broader public on African culture and experiences.

Faced with resource and membership changes as well as shifting constituent needs, AFRICOM reached out to PANO’s Consultant Collaborative for support with:

  • Strengthening of board function in alignment with organizational mission, 
  • Deciding the future direction of the organization, 
  • Laying the foundation for the development of several organizational practices 

On the day of the retreat, participants worked through different exercises to help them gain clarity about their work. They shared their personal stories, proudest moments, and the impact that AFRICOM has made in the lives of others. Using these stories, the group drafted a purpose statement representing AFRICOM at its best. 

As result, AFRICOM-Philly quickly cultivated new partners and re-engaged with past partners, totaling eight entities after only one post-retreat board meeting. President and COO, Eric Edi, commented on the special significance of a partnership renewal with Bartram’s Garden, the site of the retreat. Energy was put into community outreach events and organizational change. For instance, the format used for the retreat was utilized for the membership meeting to plan for 2019, an inclusive atmosphere was generated by distributing a survey regarding needs to member organizations before the meeting, the mission statement generated at the board retreat has been incorporated into new literature and grant writing. 

For AFRICOM’s leadership, staying connected with what they do as individual contributors and as an organization and staying aligned with the new vision statement will propel them forward. They also see newfound value in taking time to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses as they work together, and in building strengths-based partnerships internally and externally.

Adapted from Tony Hernandez and Sharlene Goldfischer

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