Video | Honk if you’re an Ally

Guest blogger Elias Cepeda (left) is a new program manager at Public Allies Chicago. One of his colleagues has been videotaping the activities of Chicago’s new class of Allies. This video shows one of their exercises. Elias was kind enough to put it in some context so you won’t be left wondering why a bunch of grown adults keep saying “vroom” to each other.

At first glance it resembles a slightly out of control inside joke – 30 or so people in a circle gesturing back and forth between one another, with sound effects. One after the other blurts “vroom!” or “oil slick!” or “pit stop!” while waving a hand, twirling a finger or putting both arms in front of their body. 

In fact, it’s a well-planned morning exercise on the fifth day of core training for Chicago’s 2011 class of Allies. Mari Meyer, the program manager who facilitated the activity, explains what  is going on: 

“We are working as a team to get our imaginary race car around our track and there are certain sounds and movements that are required to do that successfully. For example, a side twist push and ‘vroom’ sound allows the car to move, and then a screeching brake sound and a hand against the direction the car is coming from stops the car and turns it around.” 

It’s an exercise Meyer learned through her theater experience as a youth. The idea is to move participants out of their comfort zones.  The mix of physicality and sound takes into account different kinds of learners. 

If the activity looks and sounds silly to observers, they’re not alone. At least initially, many of the Allies themselves – all adults working on very serious issues in the community, full time – weren’t so sure about Meyer’s race car simulation. “At first people are skeptical, especially older people,” she says. “They think it is silly and think, ‘how am I going to look?’ But once they start getting into it everyone lets go and it gets funny, noisy and loud. People get engaged  and everyone gets excited when it’s their turn and they are able to add in their own creative expression.” 

Engagement, collaboration and creative expression, all towards a goal. Now it starts to make some sense. The seemingly unruly and silly exercise actually fits very well into the Public Allies paradigm. 

“So much of our program is about building strong leaders that are not only able to lead and work effectively, but also collaborate on a team. It is not only about being accountable for themselves but also about communicating with partners, peers, teammates and co-workers. That is so crucial to them  developing as well-rounded leaders. In the game, they have to think,  ‘how am I going to work effectively with all these other people to make this car go ‘round?’ ” 

:: Visit the Public Allies Chicago web page here.

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Why it’s a great idea to host an Ally

We recently collected video interviews from Public Allies sites around the country (there are currently 18 of them). Using a Flip video camera, Public Allies staff collected stories about our organization. This video contains a sampling of comments from people who supervise Public Allies at their nonprofit organizations. By watching it, you’ll get an idea of the many different roles Allies fill and the impact they have. We figured it would be a nice post to start your week, because everyone in it is happy (to have an Ally). Enjoy!

You can find details about hosting an Ally on our official website. Most sites are still accepting applications for the 2010-11 year.

Video | Why Public Allies? Episode 4

Hanaan Joplin, Chicago Ally ’10

Yet another in our series of videos asking Allies, Alumni and others: “So, what’s the point of being an Ally?” In this video, Hanaan Joplin talks about his placement at The Cara Program (also featured in Episode 3, starring his colleague Megan). Hanaan reflects on ways in which the Ally experience has challenged him to step outside his comfort zone. And, he treats us to a sampling of his rapping skills.

Ask The Alums. Tell us about good Program Managers

Alums from Milwaukee and Chicago reflect on how their Program Managers helped them develop, and what qualities they had that helped make a successful experience.

Why PA? Check out the Training Curriculum

Pawan Bhardwaj is the Director of Training and Learning at Public Allies Chicago, and he talks about the leadership development training, as well as what types of indivuals excel in the Program.

Meet an Ally: Jason McGee, Chicago

Take two minutes to visit with Jason McGee, Chicago Public Ally.  We interviewed him at the IMPACT Conference in Little Rock, AR.

Why Public Allies? w/Bryan Schachtele

Part of a series of short videos featuring Alumni and Staff  talking about why they did Public Allies, and how it’s relevant to their current work.  Bryan Schachtele, Chicago ’00 kicks it off.

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