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Welcome! The Women and Religion Movement is alive and well in the 21st Century. A grassroots project started by lay leaders in the 1970s as an effort to promote examination of religious roots of sexism and patriarchy within the UUA and beyond, UU Women and Religion officially began as a task force following the unanimously-passed WOMEN AND RELIGION RESOLUTION at the 1977 UUA General Assembly. Although the Task Force was eventually sunsetted, the movement still exists in UU communities that hold Women & Religion programs and gatherings for those who identify as women. It exists at the UU General Assembly, where UUW&R brings our Store to the Exhibit Hall and occasionally hosts a gahering. And it lives in the hearts and lives of people who have been touched by the many changes inspired by this movement.

"We do not want a piece of the pie. It is still a patriarchal pie. We want to change the recipe!" -- Rosemary Matson

Conferences, like retreats, usually have a general theme; however, the theme of a conference can be related to a talk by a keynote speaker or a special guest who may take charge of a significant portion of the program.

Conferences usually offer some programs for all in attendance to be together plus a variety of concurrent workshops. Most of the suggestions on the previous pages are adaptable for conferences as well as retreats.*

Following are some procedures geared especially for conference facilitators.

FACILITATORS' COMMITTEE

  1. If there is a local facilitators' committee, rather than a single facilitator, it is wise for the committee to take time at the very beginning of the planning process to assess their individual working styles and to establish directly what their decision-making and communications processes are going to be. A team of two is usually preferable to one facilitator; two is often preferable to three.
  2. If may be helpful to have an early meeting with leadership of the sponsoring organization, including the treasurer, to establish working relationships and responsibilities among them. Previous conference facilitators may also serve as valuable resources.
  3. It is important for the committee not to try to do all the planning and on-site work themselves, but, instead, to involve as many members of the local society as possible.
  4. If there is a committee of facilitators, only one name and phone number should appear on the conference brochure as an information source — preferably a phone number served by an answering machine. Advertising multiple numbers is an invitation to inconsistent information, duplication of effort, and confusion.
  5. A copy of all procedures, governing policies, and guides should be given to each member of the facilitating committee, not just to designated chair/co-chairs.

* The differences between retreats and conferences may be related as much to the setting as to program specifics. Conferences arc more often held in a "formal" setting, such as local UU society. Retreats are more often held in a less formal, relaxing setting, removed from ''normal" activities. For example, for many years, FL District W&R has held semi-annual retreats at UU In the Pines, a retreat center, while conferences are hosted by a different UU society each year.

  1. The sponsoring organization should make clear to the facilitators what the budget is for the conference.
    • How much money is available for expenses and honorarium for a guest speaker?
    • Do workshop leaders get an honorarium? If so, how much? Or, do they only get free registration for the conference? Or expenses only? Or no compensation?
    • What is the appropriate registration fee? Is it the policy of the sponsoring organization to keep the fee as low as possible or to raise it in order to pay speakers and workshop leaders more? The higher the fee, the more demand there is likely to be for scholarship money.
    • Is it possible to have some money available in advance as "seed money," for travel costs, food, supplies, or as deposit on facilities?
    • Is it possible for a participant to register at a reduced fee for one day or some other fraction of the conference? Managing partial registrations may be a headache. However, partial registrations may encourage local people to attend for less than the full conference (and may get some interested in attending future retreats/conferences at other locations.)
    • How much money is available for scholarships? What policies govern granting of scholarships? Should scholarship recipients be asked to work at the conference? What are the criteria? Are scholarships given on a "first ask-first get," or some other basis? What showing of need is required? Who decides who will get scholarship aid?
    • If the conference is being held in a society's building, is the society to be reimbursed for use of its facilities? If so, how much? Is it giving up normal rentals to accommodate the conference?
  2. The facilitators and the treasurer of the sponsoring organization should agree to whom registration checks are payable, and who pays for — or is reimbursed for which expense.

 

* With FL W & R conferences, the local sponsoring group generally receives all conference related money and pays bills through a designated account of that society. A final accounting and check for balance is given to W & R Treasurer. It is important that these funds be payable to and pass through an organizational account, not that of an individual (no matter how trustworthy that person!)

  1. Speakers and workshop leaders should receive a letter in the nature of a contract specifying what they agree to do, when, where, and what payment they are receiving, either as honorarium or expenses. A speaker receiving a substantial sum of money should be asked to sign and return a copy of the letter as confirmation.
  2. It is reasonable to ask a speaker who is being reimbursed for expenses to choose as economical an air fare as possible, In fact, it is wise to put this in the letter of agreement.
  3. Workshop leaders are entitled to know whether they will be reimbursed for supplies they provide.
  4. Some guest speakers like a lot of direction; others prefer to plan their own programs with as much freedom as possible. It is worth it to find out early what preferences a given speaker has. Above all, speakers and facilitators need to have a common understanding about how much freedom speakers have.

 

  1. How many workshops occur during the conference depends in part on the physical plant. If relatively few rooms, or only small ones, are available, it is possible to stagger workshops.
  2. It is important for people's comfort not to allow workshops to become over-crowded. One way to control the size is to make sign-up sheets with numbered lines for participants.
  3. If there are space limitations, it is possible to accommodate a popular workshop by offering it twice. (This also helps participants make fewer agonizing choices between interesting workshops which fall at the same time.)
  4. When planning workshops, it is good to offer a variety of options that will appeal to a diverse group, including thinking, feeling and artistic endeavors.
  5. Workshop leaders should be asked to turn in a form giving the title and a brief description of the workshop, a short autobiographical note, an indication of how they want their space set up (theater style, chairs in a circle, etc.), and equipment they need. (See Appendix J: Sample Workshop Information Form.)
  6. The conference program should include a biographical note on the workshop leaders as well as the title and short description of each workshop.
  7. Setting aside a space with refreshments, where participants can relax and get acquainted when they first arrive, can help to facilitate community-building.
  1. A press release should be mailed to interested societies, newsletter editors, etc., approximately three months before the conference, giving its dates, location, theme, and special guest speakers.
  2. The registration brochure should be mailed to the sponsoring organization's mailing list six or seven weeks before the conference. This may be separate from, or as a part of, that organization's newsletter.* If brochure is mailed separately, be sure to check if that cost must come from conference budget.
  3.  If it is feasible to have participants indicate workshop preferences on their registration forms, that advance information can help planners select an appropriately sized room and the amount of supplies needed for each workshop. (Understand that some participants will feel free to alter choices once there.)


* Such as FL District W&R Womanspirit.

  1. Volunteers usually need to be recruited personally. Asking for volunteers generally does not get them.
  2. Volunteers are entitled to know as precisely as possible what they will be doing.
  3. Volunteers are entitled to know reasonable deadlines for their tasks as well as approximately how many hours of work are involved.
  1. If possible, find a nearby hotel/motel willing to offer a conference rate for a block of rooms. Some may also offer a flat rate for a room and allow as many as four to share it and split that flat rate. Hotel/motel information, including phone number, address, directions and rate range, should be included in conference brochure.
  2. Participants with limited income often appreciate having home hospitality available. Providing such may involve a lot of time-consuming and troublesome maneuvering, however. Facilitators may want to avoid it unless the host society already has a home hospitality squad in operation. The conference facilitator should never attempt to manage it, but instead should put someone else solely in charge of home hospitality.
  3. Some societies have grounds which lend themselves to safe, secluded camping — or are willing to have participants "camp" in specified rooms in the building. Consider this as an alternative or augmentation to home hospitality. A modest fee might be charged to offset building rental/clean-up costs. (It is a nice touch to designate "late night talkers" and "early risers" rooms and tent sites to accommodate differing internal time clocks.)
  4. It is important to find out whether the sponsoring organization has a policy about child care availability.* Nursing mothers are commonly invited to come with their babies.


* Policies of FL W&R and FL District UUA both require child care availability at all events.

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