My Firsthand Experience: National IPL Conference Highlights & Observations
Climate Change Advocacy, Mental Health, and Networking Opportunities - Cerissa A. Brown
As a new employee attending the National Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) Conference in Washington, DC, from May 8-10, 2023, I was eager to dive into the world of climate change advocacy, meet fellow professionals, and learn more about the organization. In this blog post, I'll share my experiences, thoughts, and takeaways from the conference as a first-time attendee.
Arriving in Washington, DC, I at once noticed the beauty of the city and its commitment to inclusivity, as shown by signs warning deaf pedestrians crossing. The conference took place at the Kellogg Conference Center at Gallaudet University, a school for deaf students, which left me inspired by the possibilities for differently abled individuals in Birmingham, my hometown.
The conference agenda was packed with sessions and presentations, focusing heavily on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Racial Equity. While the importance of these topics is undeniable, as a Black woman living with these experiences daily, I felt race-fatigued and craving alternative options for BIPOC attendees. In future conferences, including a more diverse range of presentation topics may be helpful to cater to attendees with different interests and experiences.
One standout presentation was "Climate Crisis Mindfulness: A Sacred Conversation," led by Ren Martin and Sarah Newman. This session explored the significance of creativity, mental health, and restoration in climate advocacy work, discussing the concept of eco-grief and its impact on physical health, mental well-being, and community networks. As a mental health advocate, I particularly enjoyed this presentation because it highlighted the importance of incorporating mental health into every aspect of our lives, even in the context of climate change advocacy. The session supplied valuable resources on mental health practices, art as a spiritual climate response, and how creativity can positively influence our work and well-being.
The conference schedule, while informative, was tightly packed, leaving little time for networking. As someone who values making connections, I would have appreciated more opportunities to engage with fellow attendees outside of mealtimes. Despite this, I met many like-minded individuals, including our Executive Director, Reverend Michael Malcom, who helped clarify IPL's mission as a non-profit organization working with faith communities to address climate change.
A downside of my experience was the lack of an assigned IPL Buddy and Lobby Buddy, which would have made me feel more comfortable and confident navigating the conference as a new attendee. However, the warm, friendly atmosphere, delicious food, and proactive National team members helped to make the conference enjoyable and memorable.
Transportation-wise, it would have been helpful to have railway instructions for attendees unfamiliar with the area, providing a more affordable and convenient choice for getting around the city. Additionally, it would be beneficial to include activities for non-lobbying participants, ensuring that everyone has a fulfilling and engaging experience at the conference.
In conclusion, the National IPL Conference provided me with invaluable insights into climate change advocacy, an opportunity to connect with professionals in the field and a newfound appreciation for the importance of inclusivity. As a new employee, I look forward to applying the lessons learned at the conference in my work and hope to see future events evolve and improve to better cater to the diverse needs of attendees.