People say that if you really want to get to the core reason for something, you should ask (and answer) why five times. So, here is my attempt to explain why I am volunteering my time to learn from women to reimagine the future.
1ST WHY: TO BRING FUN AND INSPIRATION
Back in March, I was teaching my annual module on London, People and Planet at Ithaca College when COVID-19 reached the UK and the lockdown happened. All my American students had to fly back home and I had no other option than to migrate my classes online.
In previous years, I had Laura Somoggi as my guest speaker to talk about the Sustainable Development Goal on Gender Equality (SDG-5). This year, the logistics meant that we had to do something different. The dynamics of online classes led us to pre-record a video-conversation between the two of us so that the students could watch it before the seminar class.
We enjoyed the experience so much that after the recording, we started talking about how great it would be if we had similar virtual conversations with like-minded women around the globe, who are working to make the world a better place. We agreed that such conversations would bring fun and inspiration to our lives, something that was very needed to cope with the challenges brought by the pandemic. This is how it all started.
2ND WHY: TO BROADEN NARRATIVES
One of the reasons Laura and I enjoy each other’s company so much is our shared experiences of life. We are both Brazilian women, in our mid-forties, who came to London about 15 years ago to do a masters at the London School of Economics (LSE) and ended up settling in the UK and working in sustainability.
Besides all those common elements in our lives, we both have a few career changes under our belts. In Brazil, Laura was a journalist and worked in several renowned business magazines, and I was an engineer at an oil company. Here in the UK, she worked for a multinational consumer goods company, and I worked for a blue-chip consultancy and a few non-governmental organisations (NGOs). All these are now part of our past lives. Laura currently works with a foundation, leading a programme on prevention of violence against women and girls and I have become an independent consultant.
Our shared experience includes having to deal with conscious and unconscious bias towards us along our journey. When I wrote about this before, I only mentioned how, about 30 years ago, an American tried to explain to my teenage self what rain was, and how a couple of years ago, a British colleague considered that I might not have known who Jeremy Corbyn was. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Maybe one day I will have the patience and energy to write a book about it. In the meantime, I want to focus on connecting with women (and those who identify as women) who bring a different perspective on how to solve the issues we are facing in the world, and sharing their stories with those around me. I hope this project will contribute to broadening the narratives. I hope it will highlight how women are prototyping new ways of working and new ways of being, in harmony with people and the planet, and that by doing so it will help the next generation of women to face fewer barriers than I did in my life journey.
3RD WHY: TO REIMAGINE THE FUTURE
As I sit here in my home office, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, witnessing social movements such as Black Lives Matter and with a planetary emergency – with climate and biodiversity crisis at my doorstep – I feel I need to do something meaningful with my life.
Contributing to broadening narratives, reaching out to women in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East In countries without a very high Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index is a small, but concrete step I can take.
At the start of the pandemic, Oasis developed the 5 Responses Framework to help individuals and organisations locate themselves. I immediately got hooked by the fifth response: Reimagining the Future. Joining the initial idea of having more conversations with women and exploring what reimagining the future can look like was a no brainer – a match made in heaven.
When Laura and I took the idea to Oasis, they welcomed it with open arms. Chris Taylor and Nick Ellerby became our speaking partners for the project. We formed a group of critical friends: Claire Maxwell, Heather Barker, Liz Goold, Marion Ragaliauskas, Mary Godfrey, Rick Trask, Sonia Mayor, Su Hemming, Susan Ralphs and Valerie Monti Holland.
The project grew and other people joined forces with us. Charlotte Ellerby and Wallace Nogueira Santos Silva provided guidance on our visual identity. While Cecilia da Fonte, Amandine Goisbault are our video editors, Lucy Florah Atieno our sign language interpreter, and Patricia Moura e Souza our translator.
4TH WHY: TO BUILD BACK BETTER
Reimagining the future is a necessary step to building back better (after the pandemic). Rather than jumping into solutions, we want to observe more, listen more, and reflect more before taking action.
This does not mean reinventing the wheel. On the contrary, it is about embracing existing concepts and ways of working that are out there and creating a jigsaw with possible answers to our myriad crisis.
There are two concepts that we love and that we are embedding into the project:
· The first is the Whole Person Learning approach. We believe that magic happens when we recognize the four elements that exist in each of us – mind, heart, body and soul – as well as acknowledging the connections between the I, We and All of Us; and
· The second is the Doughnut Economics model. It is so simple and yet so difficult to find the balance between satisfying our social foundations and at the same time respecting our ecological ceiling.
We hope to learn from the stories we collect and that they become a mosaic that can inspire action and steer humanity’s direction into a “safe and just space” (i.e. within the doughnut model).
5TH WHY: TO MODEL POCKETS OF THE FUTURE
Finally, all of the above is a chance to model pockets of the future we want to create. Initially, our first round of conversations will include five inspirational women. They will be working in Education, Business, Community Organisations, National Government and Cities. At this phase, our budget requires the women to speak English, Portuguese or Spanish, and to have access to online connections and/or technology.
Our ambition is to expand the project. Whatever comes next can take many shapes and forms. Of course, there are already ideas floating in our heads. Examples of what we want to explore further includes:
· To hear from more women in more countries
· To extend the conversations into other languages
· To have a round of conversations with women with disabilities
· To have a round of conversations with women from indigenous and marginalised communities
· To create a searchable database with inspirational stories with the examples women will bring of the pockets of the future
· To connect the many women in the project (virtually or face-to-face)
We are open, and we will be looking out for what emerges. Watch this space!
You can get involved too! We would love to hear from you. Would you also like to learn from women to reimagine the future? What are your five whys?
If this project makes your heart beat faster, please recommend amazing women who are creating pockets of the future. It would also be great if you can help us find people that would be keen to contribute (in-kind or financially) so that we can scale the project and explore some of ideas above. Get in touch with us via our social media channels.