Pat Baillie, Director of Training & Professional Development has been training on the road. She was recently in Germany with Director of Community Empowerment, Nancy Mace, training and consulting around the establishment of ERGs with a large multi-national European-based corporation.
This is the second European trip I have started from the East Coast. I arrived in Dusseldorf mid-morning on Thursday and made my way down to the company the next day. Nancy and I got a chance to meet and make final plans for the next day. The weather was great so I caught a quick nap and met with our team for dinner. Hearing their stories and experiences was a great jump start on the next day. It was also helpful to have fluent German speakers with us, as my German is very, very limited and there were many times that there was not an English translation to draw on. As I finished up the evening and headed up to bed, I had the chance to watch some of the Democratic Convention.
The next day we worked with representatives from the US, Germany and Switzerland. We spent the morning providing best practices and a common ground for terminology. The group goal was to do the groundwork for establishing a global ERG network. We were able to make good progress during the day, and ended the day with an initial plan for building a network of connections for them to begin to build on. It was impressive to be there on this historic start. Then, we did what Out & Equal has been doing for over a decade–after providing the best information we could to the team, we stepped back and watched them pick up the reins to move from planning to action. I think one of the strengths of Out & Equal is that we are able to convene and support the work that is being done by companies. When we find new ideas, we share those innovations and companies pick them up and implement them to make a difference in their own workplaces.
We celebrated our successes with a dinner out in Cologne with several of the team members, and had a chance to see some of the LGBT life in Germany. Saturday is a day to do a bit of sightseeing, so I think Nancy & I will head back over to Cologne and see some of the sites. For tonight, some much needed sleep!
Saturday & Sunday
We met up with a member of the team and made our way back over to Cologne. We started with breakfast on the Rhein and then off to tour the Hohe Domkirche St. Peter und Maria (English: High Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Mary) a very impressive Roman Catholic church in Cologne. It is listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a Gothic cathedral and there is a bell tower about 2/3 of the way up; and then incredible vantage points to see Cologne. We were glad we went early because by the time we headed down, there was a long line making their way. We decided the next stop was one of the hop on/hop off buses and decided to jump off at the Chocolate Museum. That’s when we the saw the ship on the Rhein that was call Princess Christina and was sporting a rainbow flag.
While we were on the tour, they were talking about the different seasons or celebrations that they have in Cologne. There is a huge Carnival that is one of the largest celebrations in the country, and is also called the “fifth season.” The commentator informed us that the next largest celebration is the annual LGBT Pride, which is one of the largest in Europe with over 1 million attendees. It was amazing to hear this commentary on a very mainline tour bus that translates the commentary into at least 10 languages. What a great way to get the word out! I said my goodbyes to Nancy and headed back up to Dusseldorf for and early morning flight. Sunday is going to be all about flying back to the states and making my way down to Houston to teach at the Space Center! Back on the road again! Danke & Auf Wiedersehen Deutschland!