Like many Diabetes Hands Foundation (DHF) Masterlab Fellows, I was not sure of exactly what to expect from the experience before I arrived in Oakland on Friday, March 31 for the 2017 Masterlab weekend. Like many of you, I had read many blog posts and spoken with several advocates in the diabetes online community who attended Masterlab in previous years (and a few of them were in the room this year, too). But this year’s event seemed different – and turned out to be different in a lot of ways.
The 2017 Masterlab focused on the work of diabetes advocacy as a business; a startup venture; and/or a social entrepreneur project. The opening and closing speakers were executive/leadership coaches, and the rest came from spaces of business fundraising, health care technology, marketing and design, business models and theory, and networking and partnerships. In addition, the inspirational closing keynote speaker was a mindful leadership executive coach who has lived with diabetes for more than 40 years.
One of our main goals as Masterlab Fellows was to create and refine a pitch for whatever project was awarded the fellowship, and to deliver that pitch at the end of the weekend to a panel of mentors, some of whom were speakers from earlier, and some who came just for that session. Our 2-minute pitches had to include: what problem for people with diabetes are you addressing; how does your organization solve that problem; how is your organization structured to be financially sustainable; and given current resources, what is your growth plan for the next 6-12 months? Each of the 20 Fellows presented our own pitch, answered questions from the panel, and received feedback from the mentors.
The topic of my pitch was/is the DiabetesSisters Minority Initiative, which we began in 2016 in order to address the lack of emotional and educational support for African American and Hispanic women living with any type of diabetes or prediabetes. They may be isolated and lack resources, and are fighting the battle named diabetes by themselves while taking care of everyone else (family, work, church, and community) first.
Through our Minority Initiative, DiabetesSisters brings credible, accurate, culturally appropriate educational resources and opportunities for in-person peer support to women with diabetes through special events in their local communities. We began in 2016 with events for African American women in Silver Spring, Maryland including a health forum with expert panelists, a healthy cooking demonstration and tasting, and a day of diabetes workshops on topics such as mindfulness and blood sugar, new ways to exercise, and diabetes from head to toe.
We are continuing the Initiative in 2017 with a healthy cooking event for Hispanic women/Latinas in Dallas, Texas, and working on plans for additional events this year. Currently we are looking for strategic partnerships with organizations to connect with new participants, locations, and promotional assistance through the rest of 2017. We’d love to offer at least two more events in addition to Dallas.
Do you work or volunteer at, or belong to, an organization that might be interested in partnering with us? If so, please let me know at sarah (at) diabetessisters.org. I’d love to talk about how we could work together to grow the Minority Initiative this year.
Many, many thanks to:
Mandy Jones, DHF Director of Advocacy, and Gene Kunde, CEO of DHF, for the opportunity to participate and learn from this inspirational weekend; Mike Lawson and Becky Nguyen from DHF for the admin support and encouragement that made the weekend so successful; all of the speakers and mentors who shared their expertise with us; and finally, the 2017 DHF Masterlab Fellows - incredible colleagues and co-conspirators in making the world better, safer, and more accepting for people with diabetes.