What was the MEDA Network up to in 2021?

In one word, plenty. 

After a year spent organizing and attending virtual events in 2020, it is easy to get weary of time spent in front of the screen. What’s more, it’s harder to think about organizing get-togethers when local safety guidelines are ever-changing. Pouring time and energy into a volunteer effort that may or may not happen can be daunting and overwhelming.  

Throughout 2021, however, the MEDA Network has been anything but stagnant. The volunteer supporter groups, while diverse in leadership, membership, and approach to activities during a pandemic have shown solidarity in thoughtful planning and engagement of local communities, creating awareness and fundraising for MEDA’s work. Throughout North America, the 11 active hubs held 21 events, with 14 of those being in-person.

For those not familiar, the MEDA Network consists of affinity groups of dedicated MEDA supporters who meet across North America to discuss faith and business, poverty alleviation, inequality, entrepreneurship, corporate social responsibility and how business can be a noble calling. The MEDA Network includes Hubs and other volunteer groups, made up of ongoing committee-operated affinity groups whose goal is to build awareness of MEDA in their local community through events and activities.

Did we mention dedicated? This year, the MEDA Network groups have tried their hand at new initiatives, continued to host tried and true events, and add a little twist of new to the old. They fundraised for MEDA’s work in Ukraine, Jordan, Senegal, and Myanmar. As you read through, click on the linked hubs to learn more about their history and focus! Here are a few of the things the MEDA Network Hubs did to engage each other in a pandemic world:

1. They went virtual

The beginning of the year saw most hubs going virtual. The Sarasota, Colorado, Delaware Valley, Waterloo, Winnipeg hubs all hosted a webinar in the Faith and Work in a Pandemic Webinar Series, which featured multiple local business owners discussing challenges and successes during a time when business was not as usual. Managers and leaders in the hospitality, legal, retail and retirement industry shared their candid thoughts across all hubs about the ways in which their values have been lived out during a trying time. As Hannah Hill, Waterloo Hubrecalls, the series was “was a great way to connect with other cities and without having to travel!”

2. They got creative.  

With limited ability to commit to large in-person events, supporter groups changed up their event models. Leamington Hub, for example, held a Move-a-Thon, Community Drive-Thru Community meal, and an open golf tournament, teaming up with the Leamington Mennonite Home to encourage community participation while staying safe and following local guidelines.  

In Souderton, Pennsylvania, the Delaware Valley Hub canceled their in-person event last year due to COVID-19. Determined to make it work this time around, the Hub succeeded in hosting an event that celebrated the memory of Clayton Kratz, a Mennonite from the area who disappeared while working in Russia. Taking place in a restored theater in town, the event offered attendees “grab and go” food, held multiple film showings at multiple times, and encouraged the community to do what they felt most comfortable in partaking.

3. They returned to what worked.  

The Northeast Ohio Hub continued to host local business leaders and an in-person book discussion. Waterloo hosted monthly breakfasts, starting up again in September of this year. In addition, the Winnipeg and Niagara hubs were able to host in-person events, with MEDA’s CEO and President Dorothy Nyambi and Chief Marketing and Development Officer Michael White, appearing as speakers.   

4. They innovated to make it possible to meet safely. 

The Colorado Hub hosted a hybrid event in October, bringing in MEDA’s David Eagle, Senior Director of Global Program Operations via Zoom. While those who attended were able to enjoy authentic East African food, attendees could also choose to attend virtually, not missing a word of Eagle’s important presentation. Other hubs, such as Niagara and Waterloo, as well as Women Empowering Women (WEW), chose to meet outside. 

When it wasn’t possible to meet safely, events were canceled. The Kansas hub poured a lot of energy into a possible event focusing on local and global sustainable innovations in the agricultural sector, only to have to cancel the gathering due to the pandemic. They returned to their annual call for support, setting up the Jerry Weaver Memorial Drive, and inviting Kansan hub members to donate in memory of a local hub and community leader.

5. They worked. Hard.  

Of course, these ideas and events take planning, which looks a little different than it had pre-pandemic. Groups needed to locate new venues, find new outdoor spaces, decide on timelines and event dates knowing that things could change at the last moment, and think through the best way to create meaningful experiences despite challenges. Behind the scenes, dedicated supporters have been brainstorming and planning with their committees, thinking through potential hurdles, and are already thinking about possibilities for the next year as more and more in-person events become possible. As Priya Parker explains in her book “The Art of Gathering: Creating Transformative Meetings, Events and Experiences, “Gatherings crackle and flourish when real thought goes into them, when (often invisible) structure is baked into them, and when a host has the curiosity, willingness, and generosity of spirit to try.” The MEDA Network indeed has poured thought, organization, and the willingness to try into their events in 2021 – and we are grateful!

So, what’s next? 

The volunteers in the MEDA Network are planning for 2022, with potential venues and speakers already taking shape.  While we don’t know for sure what the new year will bring, the MEDA Network will continue to do what they do best: Bring people together for a common cause, build relationships and create meaningful community among those who share MEDA’s values. As Jono Cullar, the Waterloo Hub Chair, notes, “As I spend more time with the hub, it never ceases to amaze me the space that Network Hub events make for new friends to be made and old friends to connect.”  We hope to see you in 2022! 

To find out more about The MEDA Network and to sign up to receive event updates, click here.

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