ESW 2021 Retreat: Denver Colorado

Denver, Colorado, was selected as this year's retreat location. I was excited to join my fellow ESW HQ colleagues for a weekend jam-packed with strategy sessions, networking, activities, and social events. While it was a small group, representatives from various ESW HQ teams were at the retreat. Thomas Loughlin and Sarah Innocenzi joined us from the executive team. Sarah Barr Engel, Amelia Veitch, and Matthew Vu joined us from Student Membership and Marketing Communications were represented by Justin Feldis, Maria Zhra Ali, and me, Sophia Atwell.  



It was the first time that many of us had met, and whether it was because of our diverse backgrounds, we quickly bonded over our mutual passion for ESW's mission. Those with deep experience shared stories while the newbies hung onto every word. We were all excited to explore together how we could extend the reach and impact of ESW using the "strategy refresh" as a guide.



Let's take a hike!


We started our day with a power hike at Red Rocks Park because there is nothing like strategizing and bonding while hiking. We began our trek at the Red Rocks Amphitheater, an open-air venue that hosts some of the world's most renowned musical acts. While ascending Red Rocks Trails, we had a bird's eye view of incredible views of downtown Denver. On our way up the trail, we stopped for a rest and snapped some amazing photographs. It was a fantastic way to discover Denver's beautiful landscape.  As we hiked, we sought clarity over the strategy refresh and discussed timing and resources. The question we kept coming back to is, "How do we advance our mission and reach with our scant resources and an all-volunteer staff in a post-covid world?" It was a long hike, and we were hungry, but we were fired up to answer some of the questions raised during the trek. 



It's time for our leadership and strategy session!


After our hike, we returned to our Airbnb and got down to business with our leadership and strategy session. The executive team, Tom and Sarah, led our brainstorming session. The discussion focused on the organization's overall goals, improving internal processes, engagement, and growth. This was a lively, informative discussion due to our group's varied perspectives and personalities. 

We found that we had the shared energy common in a tech start-up, but we had to align the team's talent and energy around prioritizing and selecting fewer, more impactful goals. We concluded that focus would be our superpower, student chapters. While the revised strategy addressed our 10 year and three-year goals, our one-year goals would provide the clarity and focus we need. Further, we would achieve the goals together, sharing our experience and talent while building a foundation for growth. The focus areas for our next year would be:

  • Grow Student Chapters this is where we can have the most significant impact while building capacity for change.
  • Fill out the leadership team get the talent on board to get the job done
  • Build a stronger website; our online presence is our primary means of communication and our face to the world
  • Invest in regional meet-ups to revitalize ESW meetings in a post-Covid world.

As the session concluded, we felt accomplished, energized, and motivated to pursue the next steps.



A Toast to ESW 2021 Retreat! 


Later in the evening, we went out to dinner on a rooftop in the city. It was a bit cool outdoors, but hey, this is Colorado. The food and drinks options were plentiful; we sampled Italian, Asian, and American dishes and toasted to a fun and productive day.