The Map Ahead symposium in Alexandria earlier this month was a RESOUNDING SUCCESS.
We brought together 139 very motivated, very focused, and SMART people together for two days, over 95 people tuned in online, we heard over 25 people on a formal basis and dozens and dozens more in questions and in participation in the events. We had four sit-down meals, four lively snack breaks, two group dinners on the town in Alexandria, one fantastic Learning Room filled with information, and even an impromptu silkscreening shop.
We heard from a Who's Who of thinkers in the eating disorder and mental health field on topics of great interest to the parent community, and we got it all on film to continue to share with our members.
We had volunteers from all over the world who had not ever met come together to creatively, generously, and often invisibly make all the complex parts of such an event work, and work well.
We had the support of a wonderful and genuinely encouraging hotel staff, families who weren't on site but sent supplies and advice and donations. We each had the support of our OWN families to be there and turn over home responsibilities to others while we were gone.
We did this without sponsors. This is important. All of our participants including speakers' registration and expenses were paid for by someone - either they paid or an individual made a specific donation to cover them. We did this with the goal of breaking even - not fundraising - and not using membership donations. We kept the fees at the rate we knew would simply pay for the expenses of putting on the event. Having no marketing or advertising was important to us as an environment for the parenting community to come together and listen and speak up.
As the surveys come back from participants the response was really positive. All but ONE person says he or she wants to attend next year. (We'll work on that person.)
Were there problems? Yes, of course. We learned a great deal during this process, and know some things to avoid and do better. We also learned that it is impossible to meet the needs of everyone because those needs often conflicted.
We had a few painful issues as well. Conflicts between individuals. Emotional disagreements. Offenses taken, and some behavior apologized for. We learned of an eating disorder death in the community on the eve of the conference, and another during the conference. There were family crises behind the scenes as well. This is a serious, serious illness and it doesn't take time off for a conference.
We learned a lot, and will be processing a lot.
I want to personally thank the F.E.A.S.T. Board and volunteers for my Magic Plate Award. It means so very much to me and is here in my office, shining even on this rainy day. What an honor to have the opportunity to put on that event. More, much more to say later, but life is incredibly busy right now as we sort everything out and continue the networking and the information-gathering and the paperwork and details of such a tremendous effort.