Equitable, transformative change requires embracing the many ways we understand and engage with the world.
Photo of Group of dancers

Embedding Multiple Ways of Knowing

Artist credit: Kate DeCicco | AmplifierArtist credit: Kate DeCicco | AmplifierTo catalyze the conditions for equitable systems change, we need to engage multiple perspectives and experiences in order to define both problems and solutions. In doing so, we draw on ancestral and cultural wisdom, intuitive knowing, and the insight of the arts with their ability to represent complexity, as well as what may be more familiar rationalist approaches rooted in theory, logic, and numeric analysis that are so often over-privileged in U.S. dominant culture.

Thousand Currents, one of our partners, worked with Sharon Bridgforth and Omi Osun Joni L. Jones through their artists-in-residence program. Sharon and Omi offered theatrical jazz as a tool for improvisation, creativity, and innovation, and guided the staff through creative processes using these art forms. In the words of Sharon and Omi, “A beauty of art is simultaneity—multiple truths being allowed to exist. What would happen if the world could live with that—multiple truths existing?” As a result of these processes, the organization has begun embracing cultural (indigenous/ancestral) and artistic ways of knowing, influencing Thousand Currents to dramatically change its strategy, shift its theory of change, and re-envision how it goes about its work. For more on this story, please refer to our article, Multiple Ways of Knowing: Expanding How We Know, in the Nonprofit Quarterly. 

Photo credit: Tracy NguyenPhoto credit: Tracy NguyenAt Change Elemental, we believe that engaging multiple ways of knowing also means creating space for all of us to bring our full selves to the work—our stories, histories, and experiences. Without surfacing these multiple ways of knowing and making meaning of the world, we can lose access to ourselves, our connections to each other, our stories, and to the environment around us, and in so doing, we lose access to transformational approaches to creating a world in which we can all thrive.

Featured photo credit: U.S. Consulate Vladivostok | CC BY-ND 2.0

Multiple Ways of Knowing in Action

Network Weavers Learning Lab

Launched in 2017, the Network Weaver Learning Lab was an 18-month program created through a partnership between Change Elemental and CompassPoint Nonprofit Services. Through this program, participants experimented with a number of practices and approaches to advance their healing and increase their ability to work in networked ways to end relationship-based violence. They have shared their learning through a variety of resources including a medicine deck for justice leaders.

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Co-creators Embedding Multiple Ways of Knowing

We partner with so many incredible people who amplify and use multiple ways of knowing in their practices. Here we name just a few that inspire us to learn and deepen our practices.

Leveraging a Network for Equity (LANE)

Leveraging a Network for Equity (LANE) brings together extraordinary leaders from arts and culture organizations to collectively address racial and geographical imbalance in the arts.

Our Next Now

Sharon Bridgforth and Omi Osun Joni L. Jones offer a series of virtual gatherings that use the tools of artmaking to encourage group cohesion and collaboration, and strengthen individual expression and healing.

Breathe Media Group

Breathe Media Group is a full-service media company in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Services include film and video production, photography, design, and social media strategy. Breathe Media Group strives to create content that enhances America’s understanding of its underrepresented people and sparks change by grappling with multi-cultural issues on-screen and beyond.