This past week, I attended The David Project’s Relationship Building Institute, a conference focused on how to build lasting relationships with leaders on campus. It was a riveting 72 hours in Washington, D.C. My time was filled with meeting students from across the country, learning about their personal connections with Israel, and immediately applying what we learned in meetings with representatives of national organizations. I must say, it was the most relationship building I’ve ever done in the span of a few days, so clearly the conference was a success.
On the first day, we learned how to convey our personal connection to Israel, listen effectively, and identify keywords that we could use to relate with another person (family, heritage, shared values, connection to place, etc). We also learned that these skills can be most effectively utilized for engagement over something as simple as taking someone out for coffee.
My favorite part of the conference was the next day when we met with representatives of different interest organizations in downtown D.C. First, we met professional relationship builders at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) who spoke about the AJC and their experience. Then each student chose two of the following organizations to meet with: OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates, the Urban League of Greater Washington, United Macedonian Diaspora, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. I met with the Leadership Conference and the United Macedonian Diaspora (which I’m thrilled I went to because I had absolutely no knowledge about Macedonia and it was so interesting!).
I loved meeting with staff at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights because, on a national scale, the Leadership Conference does exactly what we had learned about the previous day. Rob Randhava, a Senior Counsel staff member of Policy there, told us about the “meat and potatoes” of what we were there to learn how to do. He said that the Leadership Conference had built relationships with over 210 national organizations in D.C. whose views on particular issues align with those of his organization. The Leadership Conference relies on relationships to be proactive. They ask their partners to sign onto their policy initiatives, which amplifies their voice and impact.
Hearing from the Leadership Conference's staff was so empowering to me as a student leader. It proved that building lasting and meaningful relationships will make our voices have a much stronger influence on campus. It was gratifying to see national organizations take this initiative because it was tangible evidence that building relationships on campus is beneficial.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a member of The David Project staff say, “it all starts by just taking someone out for coffee” as either the opener or the wrap-up for how to start the relationship building process, I’d have a lot of nickels.
It sounds funny, but at the Relationship Building Institute, hearing the AJC and non-Jewish national organizations say the same exact thing had the strongest impact on me. I now know that I am fully capable and confident of bringing these skills back to campus to further my groups’ initiatives.
Clearly the world really does run on Dunkin'. I know I could drink enough grande iced carmel macchiatos upside-down with three Splendas to build a lot of relationships. How many lattes could you drink to build lasting relationships on campus?
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