I originally wrote this on my Tumblr blog in Feb 2015. I was on the streetcar, going back to my office, after having an absolutely enraging meeting with someone from an organization doing similar work with us that asked for advice on how to run their program that they recently got funded for. How did they get funding to do a program they didn't know how to do? How did this organization get invited to apply for this grant stream when we were much more well-experienced, knowledgeable and positioned to fulfill their new stupid funding priority that we had been doing for 10 years? How did we get rejected, turned away from even applying when I found out through the grape-vine that this funding was available? These are exactly the questions I am left with, dear reader.
In my outrage, I started ranting on my phone... typing rapidly and angrily, I felt my face was getting red, sweaty, swollen, I thought my whole head would explode and blow off my body. In that outrage, most of this was written, and the videos and conclusive parts came after I sat down in front of a desktop to complete the rant to give me some sense of release. I think I had been watching and soaking in a lot of examples and conversations around change work and in this piercing angry moment all these connections were formed in my head, the interconnectedness of healing, of humanity, or how we are approaching social change work.
There are some realizations I've had since writing this in 2015 and some things I would slightly alter in what I wrote but some major life lessons I've come to are largely from my own therapy healing process. I've come to understand that codependency runs so deep and so wide in our society. Martyrdom gets mixed up in our need for love, and our sense of duty. Toxically co-dependent folks get drawn into this kind of work. It's all a big fucked up grey, mucky, goopy area. As much as I held funders responsible in this blog post, I realize I as an individual and so many of my activist friends have put ourselves in these situations of hope, expectation and giving up of our powers, expecting them to do all the changing, expecting powerful institutions to change for us. A lot of revelations have arose for me and continue to. I'm not ashamed to share my evolution in my thinking on this topic however, I think it is an important journey that is seriously lacking in exposure - if this can help any up and coming newbie non-profit youth organizer, that would totally be worth it for me.
Here it is:
If you really cared about social change, you would show us how successful grantees faired up to your criteria publicly when you announce your recent grantees so we aren’t left wondering if it was favouritism that got them the grant. You would recommend various ways to get to “sustainability” not just continually asking us what our plan is for sustainability over and over and over again. If you’re really our partner amplifying and acting as a catalyst for us to make social change, you’d help us to understand what sustainability is so we can stop asking YOU for funding over the years.
If you really cared about social change, you would take more time to discover the challenges to us making the impact we want to make, and put more effort into discovering our assets and strengths that you don’t have at a large institutional level.
If you really cared about social change, you would show us off, promote and advocate for our work to gov’t, main stream media etc. To rally more people into our positive Movements and and to get others to support us to make even bigger social change!! If you think we’re hot enough to fund then wouldn’t you want others to too?
You would act as a connector to potential partners with people in other sectors that you are connected to.
Wake up call, Giving us some money here and there is not going to make any societal or cultural shifts. You are sustaining the systemic oppression that exists which means you are perpetuating the very same social issues you are trying to tackle. You are keeping the poor poor, they stay thinking that they can just rely on funding to make long term change. You do not clarify what you do, or correct our assumptions that I’m sure you’re well aware of because we keep coming to you to scale our impact and GET sustainable! Somehow you continue to lead us on. So either change your intended outcomes or don’t fund us at all. Your project funding isn’t producing long term impact in case you haven’t noticed.
If you really cared whether or not we make social impact or cultural shifts you wouldn’t hire your staff as contractors for decades because you should want dedicated program officers who are well taken care of so that they can take care of our portfolios and projects well.
This chalkboard sketch is the live graphic facilitation of the Theory U course I am taking currently on EdX U.Lab (which I highly recommend the 0x and 1x). This session in particular was on the relationship between Finance or Money and the Climate. This image might be difficult to follow since you weren't there during the session but you see the 7 acupuncture points in the centre (noted only by 1 letter) and the surrounding text around it explains the relationships and the leverage points that currently exist for us to make change in societies across the globe.
Otto Scharmer the founder and professor at MIT speaks about 'N' Nature on the very left and how we are currently consuming 1.5 times the Earth's available resources, as you can tell, we'd be consuming everything if that number was 1, but right now we are in a depleting rate of consumption. The 'C' stands for Capital. We learnt that the current economic system we live in is largely (95%) made up of transactions that are not happening in the real economy. They are happening mostly electronically, created and birthed out of nowhere simply by banks pushing lots of '0' buttons. As Scharmer notes, we need money to build 'the commons', i.e. the public services that the government is in many countries responsible to build or offer to its citizens, rather than supporting the rich to get richer and other banks and corporations to benefit monetarily from the depletion and consumption of the Earth's natural resources.
We are learning in more detail about the specific movements, relationships and attitudes we need to achieve transformation in these 7 areas and the hypothesis is that these will really change things! I am very inspired by the TheoryU movement and I hope you can check them out!
The image below is the digital version of the 7 acupuncture points, and here is the original blog post Otto Scharmer writes to describe a good summary of the 7 points.
'The Root Issue: Commodity Fiction
The essence of transforming capitalism—or creating a new economy, if you prefer that term—is often missed or overshadowed by activities that happen under the headline of pursuing corporate social responsibility. These are worthwhile efforts, as are many of the sustainability-related activities undertaken by business. But a true transformation must deal with an essential design flaw in the core architecture of capitalism.
In his 1944 book The Great Transformation, political economist Karl Polanyi describes this design flaw as commodity fiction. Capitalism, or the market society, as he calls it, is constructed on the foundation of a fiction—namely that nature, labor, and money are commodities; that is, they are produced for the marketplace and for consumption. But, Polanyi argues, nature isn’t produced by us for market consumption. Nor are human beings (labor). And neither is money. But in the market system they are treated as if they are commodities. That’s what he calls commodity fiction.
The result is, according to Polanyi, phenomenal growth on the one hand, but also disastrous negative externalities in the form of environmental destruction, poverty, and cyclical monetary breakdowns. Societies responded to these dysfunctionalities by creating a whole new set of institutional innovations such as standards for labor and the environment, social security, and the federal reserve system—all of which do basically the same thing: suspend market mechanisms where they are not useful.' - Otto Scharmer
I don't understand how this has so little views. Elena Bennett articulately explains it all. I love the way this image below is laid out visually, the main categories of areas we need to thrive as a planet in order to continue existing. There are so many initiatives around the world trying to tackle single issues, and rightly so. However, it's also nice to be able to see where you fit in in the work you are doing; what contribution you're making to the whole to ensure the whole continues to exist. These are specifically environmental and ecological and influenced by human usage of resources. We know that politics, human interaction, psychology, and our relationship to our planet are the drivers of how this will all go down (or up! let's be optimistic).
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