This month, in commemoration of Juneteenth, we celebrate and honor Black freedom and resistance. This week we also remember the Stonewall Uprising led by Black trans women. We are holding those who came before us in our joy, sorrow, and continued efforts to co-create power for liberation. Given the challenges and possibilities of this last year, we have been deepening and amplifying our practices of living our liberatory values together in collective purpose to make our future now. One area where we have been expanding our organizational practices is in how we hold interdependence, our relationships with our partners, equity, and an abundance mindset—resources flow in interdependence in many ways and directions that nourish and sustain networks. While we are still very much in the midst of experimenting and learning what this might mean for Change Elemental, we are sharing a bit of what we have tried out.
“The trees act not as individuals, but somehow as a collective. Exactly how they do this, we don’t yet know. But what we see is the power of unity. What happens to one happens to us all. We can starve together or feast together.”– Robin Wall Kimmerer
As an organization with a small staff and a mix of different income streams, we have had access to resources over the last year that many healers, racial justice workers, and culture workers we partner with and who work as independent practitioners have not. As a team who had worked virtually for many years, we also brought a lot of experience and knowledge about virtual work. Finally, we have communications and operational support that many partners don’t have access to.
In a time when systemic inequities are amplified, we asked ourselves “how might we co-create a community of care together across our networks—to keep building our relationships and supporting one another, particularly our Black and Native colleagues who are not sufficiently resourced due to historic and current systemic inequities?” So we reached out to some partners and friends to see what they might be needing—financial resources, amplification of their work, or support for the transition to virtual work, or something else. We didn’t come up with a budget in advance or a bunch of parameters to adhere to. Instead, we were guided by our relationships and our intuition (and our many teachers including the book Braiding Sweetgrass quoted above) that we could either starve together or feast together. We centered in our abundance mindset and saw what emerged from the offering.
“Money money money money, money–From “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays
Some people got to have it
Some people really need it
Listen to me why’all, do things, do things, do bad things with it
You want to do things, do things, do things, good things with it
Talk about cash money, money”
Over the course of the year, as we continued to watch inequities play out across the nonprofit industrial complex, our team decided we needed to do something bigger and bolder to redistribute more of the fiscal abundance we experienced in 2020—and our governance team was an active conspirator in this commitment to step more boldly into our move to prefigure interdependence and asked critical and important questions that pushed us to think about what more we could do.
Guided by our value of equity, we came together as a staff to create a proposal to bring to our governance team. This coming together was complicated. We all have different histories and experiences with money both personally and organizationally.
Following some shared breath work, we did some individual reflection with these prompts (h/t Heidi Lopez):
- My first memory of money was…(fully embody this memory – smells, sounds, music, where were you)
- My socioeconomic class growing up was…and I know this because…
- And now it is…and I know this because…
- My current relationship to money / resources is….
We listened to our emotions, centered in our bodies, and reflected on our stories. Then we connected to each other and the organization, creating shared understanding about the organization’s relationship with money—past and present. Then we dreamed into the future and our vision of equity, abundance, interdependence, and a thriving justice ecosystem. Together, we created this collage of the future:
This embodied learning set us up to ideate about what we might do with the funds that would support us living into that liberating future. We reached out to our networks again to see what support might be needed. In the end, we were able to support all 8 people who responded to our offering with various kinds and sizes of meaningful support ranging from two “lessons” in online facilitation to fundraising coaching, to housing support, and a one-time gift to a new healing and restoration initiative in the U.S. South that is Black trans-led.
Image credit: Collage made by Change Elemental team using google image search within a google jamboard. Initially intended for internal purposes. If you know the original sources, please let us know!