Nags Heart exists to arrange small residential conferences that are aimed to replenish what we call “the feminist spirit.” By feminist spirit, we mean the communal effort to enhance gender equity and inclusion across multiple identities. The spirit resides within individuals, but individuals in isolation cannot bring about real change. Collective efforts are necessary so that all individuals may reach their full human potential. Replenishment is needed because any effort at true change drains people of energy, even as it satisfies and invigorates them. Nag’s Heart has its roots in the higher education community, but we believe the processes of our conferences are useful to people in any field. The point of the Nag’s Heart Annual Conference Series is to help invigorate and sustain both women and men in their efforts to help themselves and others achieve their highest potential.
Peggy Stockdale, Donna Chrobot-Mason, Randie Chance, and Faye Crosby describe the Nags Heart Model in this chapter.
The conferences generally include 6 to 12 people and last one to four days. It is generally the case that a conference is organized around a theme of relevance to sustaining the feminist spirit. Most of the time, the meetings are organized following the traditional Nags Heart pattern, designed to attenuate hierarchy and build a sense of safety and community.
The general effectiveness of Nags Heart conferences derives from their unusual format and process. Participants live together in informal settings, often sharing bedrooms and bathrooms. In the multi-day conferences, Day One starts in the afternoon with cocktails, dinner, and brief introductions. Days Two and Three involve intensive small group interactions in the mornings, free time for relaxation in the afternoons, and communal meals and activities in the evenings. The final day is devoted to achieving closure, both substantively and emotionally. Ceremonies matter at all points in the process. During the intensive work sessions, each participant is allocated one half hour in which to present a "dilemma" of personal import relevant to the issues at hand. Dilemmas can be broad or narrow.