Unexpected Value

upon the invitation of public allies, a leadership development program which i am a 10th yr alum of i spent the last two days in a training on fundraising facilitated by the Grassroots Institute for fundraising training. i was sort of ambivalent about going to this training even though i voluntarily registered for it. i guess i was thinking that it never hurts to pick up a new skill. a fundraiser i am not, a fundraiser is not something i've ever had the desire to become and furthermore who isn't perpetually annoyed by being asked for money right? but hey, i'll go and see what knowledge i could gain....there are initiatives within my own job that i don't have the funding to do and i have my own ideas for organizations and social enterprises and can't do it for free. what i wasn't prepared for and was pleasantly delighted by was the paradigm shift and analysis of the political framework of money + fundraising. we even had an exercise where we examined our first memories of money and where our fear of asking for it comes from. i shared with my partner about my first memory being when i was about 7 when my parents finally got divorced after several years of separation. we spent some time without utilities and it was the first time i understood that you needed money for almost everything. my mom told us that we were going through Jedi training so what could have been a really embarrassing and uncomfortable experience got shifted in our minds to something special and fun. so, it was also a time when i learned that you do NOT need money to have fun or be happy. anyway,

the biggest things i walked away with were:

a) working class people give more of a percentage of their money than wealthy people
b) people who give usually give to 7 causes or organizations.
c) i too am a philanthropist! this year already i have given over 1500 to 5 orgs.
d) more giving comes from individual donors than foundations or corporations
e) we need to OWN our own liberation and not depend on capitalist enterprise to fund social change.

i connected with some interesting folks. and had some compelling conversations about the impact that public allies alum are having and could have. one thing of interest i found was that at this event, in the context of mostly community organizers i felt (either because of my own self consciousness or because of the quizzical looks following my introduction of name and employer) obligated to explain what working in public education has to do with social change. this seems odd since there is an education for liberation conference going on right now that many of the same people will be attending...but still, i followed with "I'm doing this because i want to connect students studying architecture and construction in their schools to neighborhood redevelopment corporations in the same community so that students can become engaged in the physical redevelopment of their communities...eventually, i'd like to work with youth to start a youth-advised-oriented development corporation that designs + builds affordable housing in re-developing areas." i don't know, maybe i was telling myself as much as telling others what my purpose is and how its related to the grassroots struggle. education is as much an empowerment issue as any other, employment is not just about capitalism but about empowerment too...we can talk about all the social justice we want but if people don't have jobs and aren't able to put food on the table...its hard to get people to hear what you're talking about...and housing. whoa. one of THE most critical issues. i was even listening to a program about ending violence against women and girls and it was noted that the SINGLE most important factor in a woman or girl exiting protitution is access to but safe and affordable housing. that really hit me. not trying to get off on a tangent but its true...as activists we cant just take the outsider approach to everything. we have to work both within existing systems+institutions+policies to push agendas of change as well as outside those paradigms. we also have to invest in our own issues...and not just with time.


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