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Meet Tom Cesarini

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tom Cesarini.

Tom, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I decided to establish Convivio in 2003 after having spent a number of years volunteering for other local cultural groups–and having noted a lack of unity and leadership in our community organizations. The very word, Convivio, means to come together, to unite, and that elemental essence of unity and collaboration serves as our organizational zeitgeist. I wanted to tap into the aspirations and ambitions of San Diego’s Italian community, work on coming together to address those components, and then strive toward creating a dialogue with other like-minded groups locally to work more effectively together.

Part of Convivio’s overall vision is to establish a multifaceted cultural center for the Italian community in San Diego to serve as a community cultural hub. The Convivio Center will represent a unifying element for the local Italian community: By serving as a catalyst for collaboration of the numerous Italian community groups all working independently for a similar cause, the center will help these organizations to share vital resources and increase their collective impact—a space in which to find common ground and a home for the Italian community.

A large focus of our organization is storytelling–especially in recounting the Italian American historical narrative of this community and preserving its rich heritage assets through photographs, documents, and oral histories. Convivio has established a digital repository, the Italian Community Digital Archives of San Diego, specifically for this purpose.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As with any project or any vision-building endeavor, it’s hardly ever a smooth ride. The nonprofit sector, of course, provides its own unique challenges–fundraising, board development, constituent building, effective storytelling–but the challenges do make the journey interesting!

Some of our struggles have included continually pressing on to meet our objectives and goals while doing that with limited resources (a nonprofit sector common lament overall) and finding new ways to foster dialogue with potential partners.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Convivio – what should we know?
Our mission is to cultivate community and fellowship, advance Italian cultural identity, and foster multicultural awareness in the arts and humanities through education and research, social enrichment, and innovative programming.

Convivio has the following objectives:

* Encourage dialogue and collaboration with multicultural partners
* Cultivate partnerships with academia
* Promote the study of Italian language, arts, and culture
* Support scholarly research in Italian Studies
* Foster Italian community emerging leadership
* Provide scholarships and grants across scholarly disciplines
* Preserve Italian heritage and identity and relate the Italian immigrant experience

Convivio sponsors events and programs such as educational lectures, film screenings, heritage exhibitions, artisan showcases, and musical performances. Our auxiliary Web sites include, the digital repository of Italian-community historical photographs, documents, and oral histories; and, a virtual piazza for local Italian-community resources (launching soon). Our newsletter, From the Italo-Files, highlights the local Italian community news.

As an organization, Convivio prides itself on its Renaissance approach–offering something for everyone–with an emphasis on exploring the entire breadth of Italianità and its place in the world; and establishing many innovations that have been lacking or absent in San Diego regarding Italian culture and heritage.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
With everything we do, we always keep in mind our core values:

* Integrity
* Community
* Inquiry
* Collaboration
* Innovation
* Compassion
* Respect

All these characteristics are vital to our organization and to how we convey our organizational philosophy. We have a deep understanding of the larger system in which we operate and continually strive toward collaborative approaches in order to build a more effective organization and translate those efforts to our diverse communities. Perhaps most important to us is creating and sustaining an organization that is framed by continued dialogue in all its approaches and ultimately ensuring space for all voices to emerge.

Our ethos is to cultivate a sense of communitas and caritas through our approaches while combining education and scholarly research with community engagement and enrichment to promote a new model of Italian cultural advancement, one based on a larger sense of unity and pursuit of a common purpose.

Contact Info:

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