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IFVP 2020 Year in Review: what a year it has been!

We started the year 2020 excited about our 25th-anniversary conference. Part of the volunteer conference planning team met in the Bay Area to finalize our planning for the conference. We were planning a session honoring our roots and pioneers (lots of BIG names), a 25th-anniversary gala celebration with awards, dancing, and comedy along with refreshing conference nice-to-haves like a quiet room, guided meditations to open and close the day, hikes  and bike rides for Open Space, a pool party, and a giant structural installation for sense-making by By late January, we had a solid strategy for the agenda line up and were finalizing details like food and activities. We had made $30K payment for the hotel and food back in October 2019 so we were 100% committed. We had 53 people, without knowing the agenda, registered with early bird pricing.  We had even interviewed our keynote speakers (a semiotics expert, an AI trainer from SalesForce, and Christopher Fuller) during our visit, which had us flying away from the Bay Area with that great feeling we were putting together a great conference for our 25th anniversary.
Obviously, 2020 had other things in mind. In early March came the first COVID19 stay-at-home orders and as difficult as staying at home and quarantining has been, it pushed the IFVP into the virtual age. In late March, we kicked off the first episode of the OLS (Online Learning Series) program with Terry LaBan. We hosted close to 350 people on that first episode! We often wondered as a board how well OLS would have fared if we had never had a stay home order because of a virus. We had experimented with a shorter OLS on Digital Scribing the year before, curated by Heather Martinez, which had been not as well attended at the time. However, by April it was evident we had to cancel the in-person conference and the OLS program was a welcome respite for so many.
By April, we faced the tough decision to cancel the in-person conference. We convened the conference team and collectively decided that it was the best thing to do. By this point, we had 79 people registered, had confirmed all the presenters, we're preparing to announce the agenda line up and keynotes in a massive comms blitz for a new wave of registration and volunteering opportunities. We had several vendors lined up for a vendor fair and were in talks with potential sponsors of the conference. Then there was the process of refunding the 79 people who had registered and deal with the back office work and fees. The community stepped up its generosity by donating registration fees and/or parts of their registration towards the virtual conference. In between all of that, we were battling the hotel to get our $30K down payment back. The hotel wanted to keep it and get us to schedule something as soon as in-person was possible. As we developed our virtual conference it became more obvious that COVID19 was going to keep us all home until the end of the year. Against insurmountable odds, the treasurer and finance team were finally able to successfully obtain a full refund!
From late April to June, the conference team set an ambitious agenda of reshaping the conference from in-person to online in less than two months. Thanks to all who were involved with the in-person being flexible and adapting to the agenda we set for the virtual conference. A major silver lining in the COVID19 cloud was that the virtual conference allowed us to make the IFVP conference more accessible: to those in other areas of the world, but also to those who might not otherwise be able to attend. Through the generous support of our sponsors - Neuland, The Grove Consultants, and MURAL - we were able to scholarship a record number of participants, allowing many more to attend. Most importantly, we think the virtual conference allowed people to connect, upskill, and delight in a shared passion.
As summer progressed, it felt like the world was coming to its knees with COVID19, police brutality, social and racial injustice as well as civil unrest sparking across the globe. We at IFVP had to come face to face with our whiteness. As we invited in a larger audience, making our OLS programming open to all, it revealed blind spots we have with language - presenters using language offensive to participants of color or using political commentary when there was no place for it. We as a field are in denial of our pervasive white/able-ness and while we are quick to draw things to show support, we need actions that help show our commitment to anti-racism, systemic injustice, and inequality. As of now, we are struggling with it. There is no doubt. 
By the end of summer, we shared our 25-year history as a white paper. Out of that paper, the team was inspired to make a video. You can watch the video here. We are aware there is an error in the video and are working to get that updated. This video was directed and produced by Kristine Neckelmann Abbott aka Kris, drawn by Phil Guo, written by Kris and Miryam Artola Dendaluce, with yours truly as the voice. 
With autumn kicking in, we began to see the fruits of the great labor being done in China on WeChat under the supervision of board member Phil Guo. We launched WeChat in March and have an active and vibrant community interacting and sharing, increasing IFVP’s international reach. Sunny and Renatta recently represented the IFVP at The Happening 2020 China as keynote speakers. Phil is working to recruit local volunteers to grow the chapter and offer OLS episodes in Mandarin.
As we started the Nominations process, we were down three directors - Jessamy, Jose Luis, and Kris - and COVID19 restrictions wreaked havoc in the lives of our friends and colleagues.  As we continued through the Nominations process, we realized it was time to check-in and get real about what we directors could bring to the table. Sadly, we ended up also saying goodbye to Frank and Kris. The Nominations process brought us, six new board members. We are lucky to welcome Sven Retore, Chrissie Bonner, Wendi Pillars, Neha Govil, Tamara Kostesky, and Lin Wilson. We are excited to get them up to date and ready to bring you more in 2021.
The website has been a continuous project, and while we worked with UI/UX designer/member Rachel Stevens to create a new look, our programmer has recommended we build a new site. Our current site is outdated, over-customized, and in serious need of retirement. A team is organizing itself to start the Discovery process so we can cost/benefit/price compare the various options available to us. Stay tuned for more news on this in the first quarter of 2021.
Since October, the board has participated in a series of virtual strategy planning sessions, working to course adjust, prioritize, and take advantage of the opportunities we created in 2020. 2021 will be another great year of growth for the IFVP. We hope you are ready to come along. 
Also, if you missed this year’s AGM (Annual General Meeting), watch them here: AGM2020 Part 1 and AGM Part 2

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