Friday, September 28, 2012

Aging and Voting with Grace

Written by Daniella Levine, Catalyst Miami President/CEO

I am in Dallas right now attending the annual meeting of OWL, the national organization that promotes the voice of midlife and older women. I joined OWL's board of directors when I turned 55, and now at 57, membership in OWL is helping to remind me that as I age, I am proud. While there are many new challenges that come with age, there is also a wisdom and serenity for which I am supremely grateful.

So, reading in today's OWL e-newsletter about the recent YWCA survey of women's concerns, I was struck by how these concerns resonate. Eighty percent of women, across all divides and regardless of political affiliation, agree on 80% of the issues.

Top concerns among women across the board include (quoting from OWL):

    • Disappearing middle class
    • Social Security and if it will be there when they retire
    • An unaffordable medical expense for themselves or family
    • Health insurance that is affordable and secure for their family.
    • The economic downturn continues to loom over women. Its consequences are writ large in their concerns:
    • 41% of women have been the primary breadwinner in the last four years.
    • Women report hardships ranging from postponing medical care to losing a job or falling behind in rent or mortgage payments. Most importantly, even women who have not personally experienced these difficulties express concern about these issues.

These are also the concerns of Catalyst Miami and our constituents. These are the motivators for our work. We seek to end poverty through civic engagement, connecting people to opportunities to make a difference.

I am so very proud of my affiliation with both OWL and Catalyst Miami, two organizations that focus on ways we can protect and promote the best of our democracy: civic participation AND economic opportunity. I urge you to consider these issues as we countdown to election 2012 in six short weeks. Who are the elected leaders to help us with these pressing concerns? What is the pathway to a more prosperous and engaged future?

Where the people lead, the leaders will follow. Most important: learn the issues, discuss them with friends and neighbors, and participate! Democracy is not a spectator sport and we at OWL and Catalyst are excited to provide tools and connections to help you to participate with wisdom and grace. You don't have to be 57, or a woman, to care about these issues. We are raising up civic leaders every day to show the way.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Keeping it Catalyst at the Office

Bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-95 and Metrorail delays are no surprise to anyone traveling to work Monday through Friday. Catalyst staff confront these and a host of travel factors when heading into downtown Miami during the work week. Even with the best intentions of being on time, each one of us is bound to experience that moment when easing into the office a few minutes after the “estimated time of arrival” is coupled with a hope that no one notices our tardiness.

Not to worry. Rather than harsh reprimands for late arrivals, the Catalyst Miami family has started a unique tradition. 
Walk into a meeting late and you may be asked to lead the team in the chicken dance, speak in a British accent or perform an impromptu tap routine in front of everyone in the office.

Sneaking in without notice isn’t an option thanks to this tradition, which was introduced by Chief of Civic Engagement Gretchen Beesing. What started as an idea during a team meeting turned into a longstanding practice in which the entire meeting group votes on something funny a latecomer has to do.
These quirky requests lightly admonish people for being tardy and fit the culture of the organization, where ice-breakers, team-building exercises and get-to-know you activities are common.

Gretchen found that people were less likely to be tardy when they had to face some sort of embarrassment if they did. Staff have reacted favorably to this tradition mentioning all the fun it's been watching their colleagues perform an impromptu dance or speak in various accentsThe takeaway is that it's possible to have a little office fun while reiterating the importance of punctuality in the work place.
After all, better late than never, but never late is always better.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ring the Alarm. SoundOut is Here.

For the second consecutive year, the Family Leadership Training Institute (FLTI) will provide an opportunity for teenagers in Miami-Dade to have their voices heard on issues that matter most to them. On Tuesday, September 25th, the youth component of FLTI, “SoundOut” will welcome its fifth class at Booker T. Washington High School.

“SoundOut,” which is facilitated by Catalyst Miami staff, Public Allies and VISTA AmeriCorps members, will provide a space for teenagers to explore issues related to community involvement, education and school improvement all while enhancing the students’ leadership, project design and development skills during the 22-week series. This year, students will address issues surrounding stereotypes, decision-making and so much more.
The after-school “SoundOut” series will also be held at Miami Beach Senior High beginning October 10, 2012. We are looking forward to hearing all that the students have to bring to the conversation this year! For more information about this and other Family Leadership Training programs, contact Santarvis Brown at or Lizabeth Verjano at