Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What's Pickling for 2013?

Happy New Year, picklers near and far!  

In early December,  a small group of us gathered in Washington, DC (thank you Portrait Gallery and American Art Museums for having such a great, friendly space to work in) to brainstorm and plan for the future of the Pickle Project.  Joining Sarah and I were Christie Bond and Anne Laesecke,  both returned Peace Corps volunteers from Ukraine, and Eugene Chervony of the Museum of Natural History in L'viv and currently a Fulbright Scholar in Museum Studies at George Washington University.

We've taken our first steps to becoming a non-profit organization,  with the mission of encouraging thoughtful conversations about food in Ukraine and elsewhere.  We incorporated as a charity in New York State, with Christie joining Sarah and I as the fledgling board.  We're working on the next steps,  our IRS non-profit status and hope to have that paperwork filed soon.

Using survey results, feedback from audiences in Ukraine and the US,  and our own diverse perspectives, we looked at issues that might affect our work in Ukraine and here (both threats and opportunities),  and brainstormed a long list of ideas and possibilities. A few of our concerns:
  • Political stability in Ukraine, which could impact free travel and access, in addition to the ability of Ukrainian NGOs to continue (ability for us to partner with Ukrainian organizations
  • Tight philanthropic climate in the US (economic downturn – US & Ukraine
  • Environmental impacts in Ukraine (increased mining and fracking, changing climate, land use, transformation of agricultural politics)
  • Lack of trust in social capital in Ukraine (impact on partnerships)
 And a few of the many opportunities we identified:
  • Continued interest in food & preservation (homesteading, etc.)
  • Look at the “why” and “how” of the project in Ukraine (in particular, consider the “how” of the project – Soviet influence)
  • Environmental, Natural History perspectives
  • Engaging through exhibitions
  • Ukrainians have a more integrated “full systems” understanding of environmental impacts – could bring knowledge to Americans
  • Engage high school students, & college students in Ukraine (youth)
  •  Connect with people hosting agro-tourism in Ukraine (eco-tourism) – greater “tourism” in Ukraine opportunity & growing access to Ukraine

Our weaknesses boiled down, to a large degree,  to our somewhat limited capacity (more on that below, dear readers!)  But our strengths were primarily external ones that heartened us all as we listed them out:
  • Strong intentionally cultivated partnerships – and existing connections
  • Connection to Fulbright and Peace Corps Communities
  • As an organization, able to live with uncertainty
  • Creative and flexible as an organization
  • 6,000 unique visitors went onto the blog from 110 countries in 2012
  • Ability to use social networking platforms – access to a larger audience
  • Diversity of Ukraine (landscapes and cultures) and diversity of conversations, partner organizations, and the open way in which we interact with partners.

We boiled down our ideas into three primary goals for the next two years:
Enhance our online presence through increased interactions
To this end,  you'll be seeing our blog convert to a full-fledged website with more ways for readers to engage with us and we hope, see a Ukrainian/Russian version as well.
Build capacity of the Pickle Project
Complete the 501c3 status;  build the board;  and seek new funding sources including  "Friends of the Pickle Project."
Cultivate in-person engagement in Ukraine and in the United States.
In 2013,  hold a Pickle Project event (or two) in American cities to build engagement and interest;  plan for a 2014 series of conversations in Ukraine. 

As it has since its beginning,  the Pickle Project wants to respond to your interests as well--and to invite you to participate with us in any part of our work.  So please share your thoughts,  invite us to speak, write a blog post,  share your fabulous social media, web development or party planning skills to help us move to the next level.  It's been an incredible journey with friends all over the world--we look forward to the next steps!