What Happens in San Antonio Stays in the Heart: What Works 2018 Recap

Rachel Falek, Communications Officer


Partners of the Americas kicked off its fourth annual What Works Conference on December 4. For four days, 115 change-agents gathered from 27 Chapters and eight countries to strengthen inter-institutional partnerships and power greater connectivity across the Partners network. Through coming together to learn, share and connect, participants engaged in this year’s theme, Juntos Podemos. The Texas-Peru-Mexico Chapter hosted the Conference at El Tropicano Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio, Texas.

The Conference featured four primary objectives: Improve affiliations among local and international counterparts in addition to Partners' international office; Share effective strategies and tactics in grassroots program development and execution; Organize development training for Chapters for the acquisition and maintenance of their in-country or in-state non-profit legal status; Celebrate the 300-year legacy of San Antonio's vibrant history and culture.


On December 4, the entire Partners International Board of Directors attended meetings to narrow our mission and discuss strategic planning. We want to thank our Board for supporting this event each year, and for not only attending the Board Meeting, but also staying through the Conference to discuss “what works” within our network.

Of his time at the Conference, Board Chairman Harry Wing said, "It was important for the Board to show its support for this event and strengthen our friendships among old friends and develop new relationships with young people and their student chapters. It was a big success!"

IMG_2950 (1).jpg

What Works also included a special pre-conference workshop, IGNITE: Chapter Leader Training, on December 5. In this workshop, participants learned techniques to effectively recruit, retain and motivate their volunteer members and build a plan to launch their chapter’s energy and action. Anne Pellicciotto, President & Chief Change Agent of SeeChange Consulting LLC, inspired people to collaborate and connect.



After the workshop, the Partners community participated in International Volunteer Day (IVD). Mandated by the United Nations General Assembly, IVD is held each year on December 5 to celebrate and share the values of volunteers. Over 25 attendees, as well as members from two Chapters who could not attend, participated by writing down how they build resilient communities, this year’s IVD theme.


What Works officially launched during the Opening Ceremony, with words from Partners President and CEO John McPhail and Texas Chapter President Iliana Diaz. During the Ceremony, Betty and Roger Brown recognized the contribution of Jan Brummond in creating the What Works model in 2012. McPhail and Diaz presented Brummond's husband Steve Waechter and daughter Crystal, the Network Connector Award for Brummond in memoria.


After this tribute, a Mariachi band from a local San Antonio high school performed traditional songs as well as Christmas Classics. 


The Opening Ceremony was followed by two days of highly engaging panels and presentations on December 6 and 7. Bob Honts, one of the earliest members of the Partners Texas Chapter, presented highlights from the past 50 plus years of collaboration and partnerships. Honts joked that the title of What Works should be renamed, “Get ‘er done,” since that means “what works” in Texas.

Honts showed an earthquake relief film about the deadliest earthquake in Peruvian history: the Ancash earthquake of May 1970. Honts led a Texas Partners Relief Mission to Peru in 1971 after the earthquake devastated the country. During his time there, Honts and other members of the Texas Chapter worked diligently to spread awareness and increase donations.

According to Honts, “The roads, the airport and a huge cloud of dust for more than three weeks kept the world from knowing that there were more than 1,000 dead and more than 1 million homeless.” Honts, along with John Wayne raised over a million dollars in pledges that went to Peru. Honts concluded his presentation by saying, “With you all here it’s proof that [the idea of serving] has passed down the generations.”


Partners President and CEO John McPhail also discussed the importance of connecting and changing lives. He said, “We need to take these ideas we are sharing, these successes, these innovations, these friendships and even our challenges. We need to take them back to each of our chapters, countries and programs.”

McPhail laid out Partners’ five-year vision to grow and sustain the organization’s impact on the Western Hemisphere. He presented his 2018 Strategic Planning initiative for fiscal years 2019-2023. The presentation gave a high-level view of what the Partners staff have been doing, why, and what this may mean for the Partners network. He then shared a snapshot of the Partners organizational structure to explain our future initiatives.


In the fall of 2018, Partners staff members formed subcommittees to address our passion, what we are best at and what drives our resource engine in order to strengthen our vision and core values.

After McPhail's What Works presentations, participants reflected on the strategic plan in breakout groups and shared their best practices on and key elements of any strategic plan. 

Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert also spoke out about the critical work of Partners as partnership creators and peacebuilders. He said that these are not times for us to become isolated, but to come together as global citizens. 


After a productive day of collaborating, the Gala Dinner provided a night of fun and appreciation. Guests were treated to Texan food, dancing and song. Bob Honts again showed the relief documentary, which was made in the memory of Dr. Jacqui Von Honts, his sister and a Texas Partners of the Americas Board member. Honts shared how Jacqui was a noted artist and painted a mural for Partners of the Americas to display at the 1980 Partners Convention held in San Antonio. Honts and Iliana Diaz presented the film and the 1980 mural to John McPhail. 


Partners also presented awards to those individuals who have donated their service in the following categories: Years of Service, Dynamic Networking, Emerging Leaders, Philanthropist of the Year, and Life Changers. For those who could not make the Conference, we will be sending digital certificates for Outstanding Service to more than 150 individuals shortly in the future.

12 (1).jpg

On December 7, session topics during What Works ranged from the importance of strategic alliances for accomplishing your mission to a shelter that provided job training opportunities for abused women to youth engagement with Partners. The day ended with the Closing Ceremony at the Mexican Consulate, where guests enjoyed listening to Mexican music and eating Peruvian food. 


PartnersCampus members participated in special youth leadership activities on Saturday, December 8. Attendees experienced a variety of festivities that celebrated San Antonio’s rich cultural heritage in conjunction with the 300-year anniversary of the city, including the Alamo and the Missions. 

We have many people to thank for such a successful conference. We would like to thank Iliana Diaz, as well as the entire Texas-Peru-Mexico Chapter for organizing What Works. Diaz won the Philanthropist of the Year Award for being a major supporter of the Texas Partners Chapter in the past year. We would further like to thank Karen Graham for supporting and Anne Pellicciotto for leading the IGNITE workshop. 

1 (4).jpg

We would also like to give a special thanks to San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg for proclaiming December 5-7, 2018 to be “What Works Conference – Juntos Podemos Day.”

DtvnHI7VYAAW_P-.jpg-large (1).jpg

Discussing “what works” within our network and connecting ourselves with each other – camaraderie, friendship, mentoring and learning from each other – is what makes these conferences special and successful. As Iliana said, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. What happens in San Antonio stays in the heart.”

We are looking forward to our next What Works Conference in Goiânia, Brazil, near the end of 2019! Check out the PartnersCampus Goiânia Chapter's promo video here and stay tuned for more details in the future by signing up for our newsletter.