Project Director Meetings 2012 – The Inner Innovator

Opening the sessions, Harlene Winnick Appelman, executive director, The Covenant Foundation, commented that creativity is both inspiration and plain hard work. Based on Twyla Tharp’s book, “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life,” Appelman’s presentation urged project directors to work generously and not settle.

Through out the meetings, directors where able to explore experimental concepts in a collaborative, safe environment. They were nudged to stretch their thinking, to use their imaginations, and to take intellectual risks. One director commented, “I feel comfortable testing my ‘wild’ ideas and breaking with traditional expectations. Here, I get good feedback and excellent suggestions.” Another director said, “I’m feeling inspired to provoke, to rethink, and to embrace a more expansive agenda.”

“As a teenager, Camp Ramah touched my soul and began my intense Jewish journey,” said John S. Ruskay, executive vice president, UJA-Federation of New York, in his keynote remarks to the directors. “Yes, our work can spur inspired, caring communities. It’s up to us wherever we’re sitting to impact Jewish life. But, it starts with knowing your own Jewish journey.”

Reflecting on innovation and change, Dr. Ruskay explained that to facilitate change, it’s important to create a context with meaning, purpose, and choice. First, however, directors must understand where they stand. He said that with a firm self-grounded, it’s possible to transform their roles from a job to a passionate cause. And, it’s this passion that inspires people internally and externally, nurturing an environment for change and encouraging connection and engagement.

From another perspective, the Inner Innovator was explored through a workshop at the Morris Museum: “Capacities for Imaginative Learning: Noticing Deeply and Making Connections.” Conducted by members of the Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts and Education, this workshop offered an inquiry-based pedagogy, new tools and strategies for cultivating imagination and inspiration by actively engaging with the arts and becoming more aware and sensitive to one’s surrounding. Group discussions included how to identify and articulate layers of detail in a work of art, and how to create and personal meaning and expression.

Embedded in the fabric of The Covenant Foundation’s 2012 Project Directors meeting, each session had distinctly exploratory, practical and reflective components, all designed to foster an attitude of “This was great, now what should I do differently tomorrow?”

As many presenters suggested, learning to practice creativity as a norm and to feel comfortable as an innovator is a collaborative process in today’s accelerated overachieving world. Already incredibly creative, the intent of the meeting was to arm the project directors with the tools to continue to nurture their inner innovators and supply them with new resources.

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