What a desert can teach a Humphrey Fellow?

desert-590x354What a desert can teach you? This riveting question was coined by Steven Kapoloma, Humphrey Fellow from Malawi, and after I lived thirteen months in USA, nine of them in Phoenix, I feel able to share some thoughts on that.

First of all, desert as an arid place in the middle of nowhere and with few resources is not at all a right description for Arizona, especially for Phoenix. We are talking about the fifth largest city in USA, and growing.

However, I do agree that it is hard at the first glance to access the city’s resources. I had my professional development plan and several things to achieve in nine months. In a couple of searching days, I realized how expensive is to attend conferences and workshops in USA. I had to look for low and free opportunities, here I am sharing which sources have helped me:

Digital media and technology

Groups – Phoenix has very strong communities of professionals. They get together to exchange knowledge and organize event such as: WordCamp, I blogged about that hereTechPHX , I also shared my experience with them here.In Phoenix, also has grousp like Girls in TechSocial Media Club and others.

At Cronkite School, the Innovative ASU LAB and Social Media Class are great places to get some tips and help for a specific work.

Nonprofit/Civil Rights

Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center  – I attended its first training on Advocacy for nonprofit organizations, composed by six sessions. It was amazing. People who came to speak are the best professionals in the field, with large experience in many roles of advocacy, policy makers, lobbyist, advocate, others. They also provided a very useful material. I have a blog post to write about that.

Race and Democracy – The right place to see debate related to African American issues. This institute has many events along the year. I attended several sessions, they were full of information, data, research and stories. I could write many articles from those lectures if I had time, but I did blog about one: An inspiring night with Forest Whitaker.

ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation – There is no free stuff, but some event like the annual Lodestar Conference is a good opportunity to network,  have an idea how is the third sector in Arizona and the trends there. At the event, I got a connection to my local professional affiliation.

General subjects

ASU calendar events – Check it out quarterly. There is plenty of events promoted by different colleges, most of them for free.

Eventbrite – It’s overwhelming, but this website shows what’s going on in different fields in the city. I found good things there, don’t underestimate it. You can start by subscribing its newsletter.

Public speaking, networking and entertainment

Toastmasters – There is a fee to be part of the Toastmasters groups, but they also have free events, almost every month. A speciality of Toastmasters is develop skills on public speaking and presentation. I had a memorable session with a youngest World Champions of Public Speaking 2012. See this story here. 

Library – ASU has a very good online system to get the book you want. You can do almost everything from your computer and just go there pick up what you ordered.

ASU Cultural Pass – This is a really cool thing. They has free tickets that allow you and a guest go for free to many museums and cultural houses in Arizona. Some places are reachable by light rail or bus.

Downtown Phoenix newspaper – It is a weekly publication that brings the schedule of the cultural and sport events. It is available online and at Cronkite School entrance for free.

Whatever you want 

For many factors such as time, schedule or limited budget, free webinar have been a good way to learn. I had in average two webinar per month. Just google the “subject + free webinar”, and see what come out, explore them, and subscribe newsletters the ones you like.

As you can see, Phoenix looks like a sea of opportunities, but to navigate there needs some effort. Hopefully, my experience help you.

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