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

The Network Weaver Learning Lab’s Medicine Deck

The Network Weaver Learning Lab was an 18-month program for leaders to develop their thinking and practice, and to explore and experiment together on ways to advance the movement to end relationship-based violence. The lab centered the importance of art in making meaning, and has shared its learning in an e-book and medicine deck created by the weavers (lab participants) and other justice-minded artists in California (forthcoming).

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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.


CompassPoint is a national nonprofit leadership practice that helps leaders, nonprofit organizations, and movements committed to social justice realize their full power by engaging multiple forms of wisdom and expression.

Thousand Currents

Thousand Currents develops long-term funding relationships with effective women-, youth-, and Indigenous-led organizations, and works toward changing the way that donors in the Global North interact with grantees, challenging the traditional top-down, paternalistic model of international aid and philanthropy.

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.