2014 Diabetes Advocates Forum: Part 2

medtronic-14As I said in my previous post about the Diabetes Advocates Forum, we heard things from Medtronic and we also heard things from each other.

It took very little effort to transcribe the few notes I took about the technology aspect of the Medtronic Diabetes Forum. The difficulty I have in sharing (more than my initial thought) what those in the room said to each other comes down to this:  I am still processing what it means to us as a community and to me as a person.


The afternoon of the first full day was spent in a brainstorming session led by Bennet Dunlap, George Simmons, and Scott Johnson. Rapid fire, small groups, top answers. We made fast work and faster decisions about what we saw as ways to use social media and our voices, but one of the questions (and one of the brilliant answers given by Sara Nicastro) caught me off guard.

To paraphrase, the question was this:

“What can you, as an individual, do to help the community as a whole?”

Sara’s answer stunned me. “Get the F* offline.” (If you know Sara, then you’ll realize that she doesn’t curse. She used the notation F* to mean exactly how serious she was, but she didn’t actually use the expletive.) Sara is heavily involved with her local JDRF chapter and did an incredible job fundraising for the JDRF walk. She recognized her strength and is looking to bring that spirit to her local offline community. (While spending a ton of time sharing her talents online as well. I’m in awe of people like her - and her.)

Others shared their thoughts and ideas and we came up with a doable list, although it won’t all happen at once or even this year. I see each of the ideas forming into concrete plans broken down into workable pieces, some of which will take funding while others will take people power.

The Ask

The second afternoon was handed over to David Lee Strasberg of the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. He’s a T1 and a T1 parent, so he’s part of the club that no one wants to be in…two clubs, in truth. Strasberg’s father, Lee Strasberg, trained a lot of the great actors using the “method acting” technique and his methods continue today. David used his skills and talents to teach something that may seem simple, but isn’t: asking.

According to Strasberg, there are four steps to asking:

  • Build the Relationship,
  • Share the Vision that connects you with the others in the relationship,
  • Communicate the Opportunity that is borne out of the Vision, and then…
  • Ask.

The room buzzed as we participated in various exercises to see how these four steps could be accomplished  and then it buzzed even louder as the group put it into action. The Spare a Rose campaign is coming up again and ideas on how to kick it into high gear whizzed around. People threw out suggestions while others grabbed those suggestions, saying: “I got it.” It was electric. Magical. Inspiring.

That’s what happened at the meeting when the advocates there talked to one another.

Vexed Introspection

As all of this was happening, I got introspective (and apparently my face looked “vexed”, according to Kerri). My head veered into a dark space, where I recognized that while I have no problem with “the Ask”, I completely and utterly suck at the Relationship part of the equation.

When I worked into an office environment, my staff knew that they didn’t need to couch their requests or build up to what they wanted. When they knocked on my door, they were ready and fired away. That’s how I liked it. We were all busy and they knew that I trusted them to get stuff done, so if they needed something from me, they got it (if it was reasonable and within my power). I’ve been told that I can be assertive and a bit abrasive. My filter to social niceties can be warped at times.

It’s not always like that in the world, of that I know. For as forward and raucous as I can be with my friends, I’m not big on small talk and feel awkward in some social settings. (In fact, it happened at the forum. There were people I wish I had gotten to know better, but I flunked the “put yourself out there” portion and missed a lot of opportunities.) I’d much prefer to be plunked on a stage in front of hundreds of people, as I’m more comfortable sharing and baring my soul (and my requests for help) when I don’t have to look into the eyes of the other person.

So, my answer to the question about what I can as an individual to help the community as a whole is to work on the Relationship building. I’ve got to reach out and connect with other advocates, people in the diabetes space, and government. It’s a scary proposition and challenge for me and one I know will take a lot of effort on my part. But it’s worth it if building a relationship helps the community as a whole.


Every single person who attended the Medtronic Diabetes Advocates Forum is talented and extraordinary, including the members of the Medtronic Diabetes team. It’s my hope that as we build relationships with each other to create a groundswell for diabetes advocacy, we build friendships and learn from each other as well. I couldn’t do any of this without the inspiration and support from the entire community and the champions that sat in the room (and many of those who were virtually there).

Asking is easy for me, so I’m asking this from you: Help me learn how to build strong, lasting relationships that can help this community be a undeniable force. 

(And help me achieve better blood sugars. Wait. Is that asking too much?)




  1. Scott K. Johnson

    One of my favorite parts of the whole weekend was something I’m not going to share in fear of stealing G-Money’s thunder. Besides, he’ll say it way better than I would anyway. :-)

    I think that you are wonderfully skilled at all of this, Christel, but I also recognize that if you think there is room for improvement then there is room for improvement. And if you can improve on what you’re already doing, then I’m just happy to watch some really great things happen.

    Thanks for doing whatcha do.

  2. Heather Gabel

    Christel, you are wicked cool. I hope you know that. Being a get-down-to-business-kind-of-gal is a kick ass trait. I strive to be more THAT way in life. With that said, taking up personal relationship goals is beyond admirable. I will be reading and commenting and participating in any way I can to see you achieve your goal. I have zero doubts that you will accomplish everything you attempt. Thank you for posting this, and for being so open and honest. We all could use more transparency and openness. <3 Hugs.

  3. Scott E

    The whole relationship-as-a-means thing has me a bit conflicted. You can’t build a genuine relationship in two sentences and follow it by a request, nor can you use relationships exclusively for personal gain.

    What’s wrong with building a relationship for the simple sake of a relationship … for companionship? I’m not talking political “relationships” which all seem to have some sort of calculated undertones; I mean just a friendly relationship where we can freely exchange thoughts, ideas, and experiences. Where, rather than an I’ll-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine type of mutual benefit, both people are on the same side - advocating the same message - to equally benefit both (and more!)

    If you want to rally the troops to stand behind you — or next to you — I think you’ll have no problem at all. Thinking back to our own interaction during this exercise, you have a way of extracting order from chaos (amid thoughts in my mind, anyway), and that is a real gift and it draws people in. Just let the “ask” lead to the end-goal of a relationship and don’t take it to the level of a favor. People will like you and trust you.

    In other words, just be yourself and forget the preamble to the “ask”.

    My comments are way too long.

  4. Scott K. Johnson

    I love Scott’s observation that you have a way of extracting order from chaos. So true, Christel. So true. Thanks for that, Scott E!

  5. Sara

    Please pardon the fact that I am a little behind on my blog reading. Your post only showed up as an excerpt in my blog reader so I didn’t see it the first time through.

    Thank you for the compliment (and the recognition of my inability to curse). I think my point can actually lead into your point. I have friends that I would NEVER have made if it wasn’t for the relationships we started online BUT those relationships don’t just stay online. We travel to visit each other. We talk on the phone, we text, we video chat. We make time for each other. I know you do this with others in the diabetes community as well.

    Perhaps I am being short sighted (and as I wrote in a post after this one was published, I kinda found David’s whole premise icky) but I don’t think you/I/we need to convince anyone that is currently online to support our causes. We need to get offline because we need to stretch the circle wider. We need to help the people who have yet to find the glory of the diabetes online community. If you “buy” David, those are the relationships we need to work on building anyway.

    Sorry about the novel but it feels like this might be one of my soapboxes.

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