Global Grassroots: CELEBRATING EARTH WEEK ~ 2023
Guest post by
Sara Taggart, Global Grassroots
Over the years, and increasingly so, folks interested in Global Grassroots have asked, “How does your work connect to the issues of climate change?”
With Earth Day approaching, we have been thinking a lot about this question. While Global Grassroots did not start as an “environmental” organization, we certainly believed (and continue to see) that the root causes of so many issues faced by the grassroots women we ally with are intertwined with their ecological contexts.
This became increasingly clear as teams began to focus on sustainable access to clean water as a strategy for addressing multiple barriers to wellbeing, from health and hygiene to gender-based violence to childhood nutrition to economic and educational inequality.
At our recent Wisdom Lab presentation, Women, Water & Wisdom: Mapping the Ripple Effects of Conscious Social Change in Rural Rwanda, we shared different ways that women changemakers are creating sustainable solutions to the challenge of water scarcity in their villages.
As the chart below illustrates, when teams create a water source that is clean, close to home, safe to access, affordable and available in the dry season, the interdependent processes by which community members experience positive changes in health, nutrition, gender equality, education, family harmony, economic well-being, and even infrastructure development are profound.
Conscious Social Change in Action – Principle #4: Engage Mindfully
Last month we looked at the importance of ensuring balance within ourselves, so we can be more present in the moment and more effective in our interactions with others.
As we cultivate the capacities of mindfulness, we become adept at setting aside ego, assumptions, and bias to inquire and listen. We are less likely to think our way is the only viewpoint, less likely to create division and blame, and more likely to seek out understanding across difference so as to identify common ground.
Drawing from a broader set of perspectives and inviting greater participation across whole eco-systems gives us a more comprehensive understanding of an issue and stakeholder needs, ideas, and priorities, which we can use in collaboratively designing for change.
Mindfulness trains us to look at reality with greater curiosity.
Instead of seeing failure, mindfulness encourages us to examine circumstances with an eagerness to learn so that we evolve our solutions for greater efficacy. Rather than getting fixated on pushing forward our own narrow agenda or thinking it is all up to us to fix, mindfulness drives us to lead with more openness, question our thinking, seek out more diverse expertise, and be willing to compromise as a strategy towards progress.
This fuels innovation and drives sustainability, informed by all voices who are more likely to feel a level of ownership in a creative solution’s outcomes, rather than an unwilling subject of its implementation.
The goal of conscious social change should really be the sustainable wellbeing for all, including quality of life, economic, social, mental, spiritual, physical, and material wellbeing, as defined by the person themselves.
It is thus critical to ensure the poor, vulnerable, marginalized, and exploited should come first and lead the process of defining and achieving wellbeing for themselves. We ask what is helpful and determine our unique way to serve as an ally – not overly control, not abdicate control, but partner.
We use presence to stay attuned to the changing needs of those we aim to serve, so we do not stay stuck on our own agenda or abuse our power. This transformational paradigm is inner-driven with a focus on serving the highest common good. Finally, conscious social change invites us to examine our role in the systems that uphold the status quo too.
What we didn’t know for sure – or at least didn’t have the words to explain – was how Global Grassroots’ mindfulness-based model might be having an additional impact on the inner qualities of the women changemakers and their community members, particularly in nurturing the kinds of mindsets we may all need in order to navigate increasingly daunting climate crises, wherever we happen to be born or live.
Participants in our Ripple Effects Mapping inquiry pointed to powerful changes — such as an increased sense of agency, compassion, individual and community resilience, collaboration, solidarity and a sense of belonging — all of which seem to be contributing to the sustainability of their efforts and a recurring theme of optimism and hope for the future.
While we cannot yet prove that Global Grassroots’ Conscious Social Change model is causing these shifts, participants’ reflections on their lives over the past six years gives us real reason for HOPE as well!
Over the coming week on social media, leading up to Earth Day on April 22, we will share key insights, photos, and mindfulness practices to help illuminate the connections between the work of these amazing women and our collective global responsibility to secure a healthy, safe, vibrant and sustainable planet for ALL of our children’s children, and beyond.
Practices to Help Us Engage Mindfully
Deep Listening – One of the most powerful practices we can develop is learning how to listen, really listen, to others. This can be much harder than it sounds. It can require that we set aside the many possible distractions outside of ourselves (devices, noises, etc.). But the real work comes in setting aside the distractions within ourselves as we tune into what another is telling us. Try this during your next important conversation:
- Take a deep breath in, and an even longer exhale
- Relax the muscles of your face and jaw
- Allow your breath to slow as you begin to absorb what someone is saying to you
- As they speak, notice when your mind has wandered away. Are you thinking about what you will say next?
- Without self-judgment, gently lead your mind back to the present moment (feel your feet on the ground, or press two fingers firmly together)
- Recommit to deeply absorbing what is being said
When the other person has finished, perhaps say, “Thank you so much for sharing this with me. I want to take a moment to let it all sink in before I say anything more.” Then do this! Take your time before speaking or moving forward. See what happens.