CAGJ Activist Profile: Lisa Colligan

About CAGJ Activist Profiles: Each month CAGJ is introducing CAGJ staff, activists and interns to our members. This month, we are featuring Lisa Colligan! Lisa lent her organizing and artistic skills to CAGJ in previous years, and recently joined our team of organizers again. Lisa easily engages all kinds of people in deep conversations. She is the type of person that is down to taking a leisurely walk in the neighborhood with you while talking about food sovereignty.

Lisa Colligan

What led you to working with CAGJ?

While studying Geology in New Zealand six years ago, I attended a food sovereignty hui (Maori term that translates to gathering in English). The kiwi farmers taught me the basics of community organizing over scratch-made halloumi and coconut pudding. I would be lying if I said I was not pulled in by the meals and eccentric people. But mostly, I was pulled into the movement because I realized that food sovereignty is a deliciously creative approach to environmental justice. After returning to the US, I merged my degree and food sovereignty through farming, running an urban garden, and writing my thesis on the benefits of urban gardening on soil. I moved to Seattle in 2019 and immediately joined CAGJ after learning about its trade justice organizing roots in the 1999 Battle of Seattle. Over the next few years, CAGJ gave me the opportunity to organize Summer School, join the G.E. Salmon campaign, and coordinate SLEE. Currently, I work in communications and general support for CAGJ.

What does food sovereignty mean to you?

To me, food sovereignty means that every person has the right to access their cultural foods and steward its source.

Where do you see CAGJ in 5-10 years?

I see CAGJ becoming a more well-known organization in Seattle as we buckle down on the Gates Foundation. I also see CAGJ producing more storytelling films and docu-series.

Can you tell us one favorite aspect of your work with CAGJ?

Working with CAGJ keeps me current on food sovereignty issues!

What is one growing edge you think CAGJ can work on?

CAGJ can improve our volunteer work areas. We need to provide our volunteers with more direct organizing opportunities while reducing their clerical work load. Some volunteers feel disconnected from the movement when their first engagement with food sovereignty organizing is managing emails or cold-calling for fundraising, as I witnessed when I coordinated interns to do outreach for SLEE. This work often is non-reciprocal and non-creative, leaving the volunteer unsure of their impact upon the movement. This is a complex issue – as a grassroots organization, we depend on volunteers to propel our back-end work. This work is essential and maintains the community-powered objective of CAGJ. However, if we increased our funding, we could hire more full-time staff to manage the clerical and administrative tasks. Then, we could use this expanded capacity to create volunteer positions that engage volunteers directly and creatively with our campaigns.

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