Thursday, April 30, 2009
We started with some structured networking, and then shared changeblogging tips, resources, and success stories. My favorite story came from an organization who had a frequent, angry commenter who disagreed with their cause. They engaged with him, and in the end he became a member of their organization. To me, that is a quintessential example of why nonprofits should embrace comments, rather than fear them.
Below is a list of some of the folks who attended the event. Send them a little link love and give their sites' a click. Also, you can find more Changebloggers on the Changeblogger Network.
Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology
Black Rock Arts Foundation
Digital for Good
Foglio's Field Notes
In the Hand of Dante
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
Native American Public Telecommunications
Volunteer San Diego
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
"We want to support anyone who is interested in engagement, but we want to help them do it in a way that is healthy for them, creates community, and creates longevity, so that everyone wins, and no one gets burnt out or sick. That is not what service should be about. It should be about joy, on every level."
--Seane Corn, co-Founder, Off the Mat, Into the World.
Off the Mat, Into the World is an educational, experiential and motivational process for people interested in conscious activism and service.
On March 5, 2009 I interviewed yoga teacher and co-Founder of Off the Mat, Into the World, Seane Corn, for the Big Vision Podcast shortly after she returned from a trip to Cambodia with participants from Off the Mat, Into the World's Seva Challenge.
Seane has been featured in commercials and has appeared on the cover of Yoga Journal, Fit Yoga, and many other magazines. She utilizes her national platform to bring awareness to the HIV/AIDS crisis.
During our conversation, Seane talked about what inspired the creation of Off the Mat, Into the World, her trip to Cambodia, the connection between your inner work and your outer work, and the tools Off the Mat, Into the World uses to help people determine how they are being called to be of service.
Below is an edited transcript of our conversation, which began with Seane talking about Off the Mat, Into the World's origins, and the Seva Challenge. You can also listen to the interview on the Big Vision Podcast.
SC: I'd started working with an organization called YouthAIDS which provides services and products to children worldwide who are affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis. I came up with the slogan, "Off the Mat, Into the World," and put that on a T-shirt, which I sold to benefit YouthAIDS.
I raised a lot of money. I targeted the yoga community. I realized I had a platform where, for whatever reason, people would pay attention to me. I just thought, "I wonder what would happen if I made this shirt, sold the shirt and put the money towards YouthAIDS?" We raised around $60,000 doing very little. It was an effortless effort for me. It got the seeds planted in my head that this is an altruistic community, it's an educated community.
According to Yoga Journal, the average household that practices yoga earns about $72,000 a year. This said to me that the average practitioner has some disposable income. I thought, "What would happen if we began the process of aligning our heartfelt intentions, our energy, our time, and also our money to be able to benefit some particular causes?" I started working with other grassroots businesses, like Energy Muse Jewelry; for example, and Spiritual Gangster to create different kinds of products, and then tie those products over to benefit YouthAIDS.
It really became a win-win for everyone, because I won't sponsor an organization, or a company unless they're willing to tie the money to a cause or crisis. It benefits the grassroots business, it benefits me, it gives me an opportunity to sell and talk about the crisis or cause that I'm backing and, it also benefits the organization that I'm supporting. It seemed to be a really good and sustainable model, and we raised around $300,000 doing that kind of work.
Then, I started going around the country teaching workshops around spiritual activism: why it's important to take your yoga off the mat and into the world, and the different ways that we can get involved. The idea is now that we're getting stronger and more flexible, more conscious, more patient, and more aware, we need to take those very qualities that we're learning in the yoga room, and begin to truly apply them in our families, in our local community, and into our global family as well.
I knew that the work that I was doing was effective. I knew that I was getting everyone really excited and inspired and motivated. But every time I would leave a workshop, I would leave with this haunting feeling of, "Now what?" Now that everyone was all rallied and all inspired, it felt like I was just dropping the ball. There was nothing in place to help get these people into the place where they could best be of service in an organized way. It just felt like my efforts would fall flat.
The answer to my prayers showed up through The Engage Network. The Engage Network and Julia Butterfly Hill and Marianne Manilov and Alissa Hauser, they came to me with the solution to my problem. They came to me with the, "now what." They asked me to come on board as a social champion, and to take Off the Mat, Into the World to another level by creating a leadership training program that trained people through a process of self inquiry on how to first find their own purpose, and then how to activate that purpose through outreach and service oriented projects in an organized, and therefore sustainable way.
I went into partnership with Suzanne Sterling and Hala Khouri, we're the co-creators of Off the Mat, Into the World. We put together a week-long curriculum to really help people do just that: find their purpose and then give them the skills. We weren't interested in supporting just one crisis or cause, we were interested in helping people find what their passion is. It could be the environment, it could be educational issues, political issues, international, national. It really didn't matter to us.
We didn't want to micromanage someone's passion. We wanted to encourage them to find their voice, and to become leaders in their own right in their own local community. We were starting to build small circles within the local communities that are all doing really magnificent work in order to create change.
On one level, Off the Mat, Into the World is bridging the yogis and activism through training programs. The other thing that Off the Mat, Into the World does is that we create and model our own outreach projects, but on a grander scale. It's a model to show other people how to work together in community, how to collaborate ideas, how to create a vision, and then how to work towards that vision coming more from a truth and love aspect, than from fear and attachment.
For example, we put together the 2008 Seva Challenge. It's called the Bare Witness Humanitarian Tours. This challenge benefited the Cambodian Children's Fund out of Cambodia. The challenge was this: anyone who could raise $20,000 over the course of one year through outreach, or service oriented projects in their own local community, I would reward them by taking them with me to Cambodia where they would engage for two weeks in some very intense humanitarian efforts with the Cambodian Children's Fund, and the children that they educate, support, and house.
I wasn't really sure how this project would fly. $20,000 is a lot of money to raise. Twice a month we would get on conference calls with all the participants. We'd send them a tool kit and work with them fairly closely on how to raise the money, and stay engaged to keep them inspired and motivated. We had 100 people sign up for the Challenge. Of those 100, 20 people actually raised the $20,000, but those 80 people, who didn't raise the $20,000, still raised significant funds so that all together we ended up raising $524,000 that benefited CCF.
For me, it's a really exciting model because it wasn't me who raised $524,000, but I set that goal for myself. My goal, as Seane Corne, was, "I want to bring 20 people to Cambodia, and I want to raise $500,000." How do I make that happen? I looked towards my community. I talked about it. I got people excited, inspired, provided information, and encouraged them to break that money down to $20,000 chunks or less, and for them to work in their community to get their friends and families to do creative projects, and engage in raising the money.
We had over 2500 donors all together who participated in raising this $500,000. It was very sustainable for everyone involved. Essentially, it's raising small of money to create big money.
The people who came with us to Cambodia, they got to do some of the most intense work I think they've ever done in their lives. Because of my association with YouthAIDS, I have to access to NGOs, (non-governmental organizations), and got them to permit us to do volunteer work. Normally, unless you go to a country and are willing to volunteer six months to a year and have a viable skill that they could use (i.e. doctor or a dentist), these organizations don't want you, because you actually get in the way of programming. To come out for two weeks, everything essentially has to stop to cater to the individual.
We asked the organizations, what would make it worth your while to take us for two weeks, to get us in the trenches, to work closely with the children and their families? Of course, it came down to, as it should, funding.
I thought, "Great. We'll supply the funding. You create the opportunities. Let's leave a legacy behind in Cambodia, but also really affect the people's lives of the people who go out there."
The first couple days in Cambodia we learned about the culture, which was very important, but also very challenging for the participants. We brought in survivors of the genocide. We visited the prison camp, the Killing Fields, and explored the dark history of Cambodia because it's impossible to truly be empathic to the circumstance, as it is today, unless you understand how the culture and its people got to be in this position.
We learned about the genocide. We learned about the violence and the torture and the trauma. We also got to learn about what was not being done for the trauma, for the families and the people who did survive. As a result, you have a culture of post-traumatic stress disorder. When you're not dealing with trauma, it's not surprising that people would turn to drugs, to alcohol, and to abuse. It was important for us going in there to separate our judgment. It's easy for us to come in and say, "You shouldn't drink. You shouldn't do drugs. You shouldn't beat your wives and your children."
But, when you understand where they've come from, and what's not being done to deal with the trauma, you begin to understand why people will turn towards substances to anesthetize, or numb themselves out, or why they will act out with violence because of the violence that's been perpetuated. We had to really retrain the people in their natural thought process, so as to be able to work with the men and women in a more compassionate and loving way, and a less judgmental way, although it's very difficult.
We spent the first few days really understanding the culture. Then, we went into the garbage dumps. Cambodian Children's Fund works directly in an 11-acre garbage dump-- that's 100 feet deep, and the families work and live directly on the dump for their survival.
You can't even imagine how toxic it is. While we were there, the methane fires were burning in abundance, and you're inhaling toxic waste and garbage, everything that goes along with being in a garbage dump, plastic, etc. It's quite horrifying to be in it. Imagine living in it. It's so toxic that rats can't even thrive. You won't see a rat in this environment, but God knows you do see and experience flies. It's just devastating.
The children work. They earn about $0.30 a day. They live there directly on the dump. Only, I think, 25 percent of the children who work there actually survive, because of diseases like hepatitis and tuberculosis, and also by getting killed by the garbage dumps. That happens; unfortunately, too frequently.
CCF works directly in the dump to get the children out of this environment and bring them into one of five orphanages where they live, get educated, and get medical attention. It's not an orphanage where they're being taken from their families, and then adopted out. You can't adopt in Cambodia. It's really an educational facility, but they're never again allowed to work. They can choose to sleep there with their families, if they want to. Not many of them do. Many of them choose to stay at CCF at night and visit their families on the weekends.
CCF has managed to take 450 children out of the dump, and into these facilities. Not only are the kids getting educated, but they're also being introduced into their cultural arts again. The genocide selectively targeted the educated: doctors, lawyers, and scientists, but also artists and poets were all annihilated so as to make room for this zero culture, people with no expression, no personalities, no agendas. CCF's intention is to help this evolving culture by helping to create the next generation of doctors, lawyers, scientists, artists and poets.
It's an incredible organization that has done so much, not just for the children, but also for the families of these children because Scott, who runs CCF, recognizes that you're taking away income from the family by removing the children from this environment. Even though it's in the best interest of the children, it could impact the family. He makes restitution by providing health insurance, paying their rent, and even, in some cases, providing jobs, so that everyone is benefiting from the opportunity of the children being taken out of this environment.
We worked in the garbage dump meeting the children, talking to the families, watching the process of removing a child from the dump, and going through the whole interview process to see if they are eligible to go into CCF.
Then we also worked directly in CCF, which was the most fun ever. We brought skills in which included things like yoga, of course, and puppet-making, frame-making, dance, and teaching skills such as English and phonetics. We brought in our own skills, but we also participated in the different classes that CCF offers like social studies, Khmer, English, storytelling--typical classes that you'd find in any public school system. It was so fun. These kids want to learn. Even in their break time they're on the computers practicing their English skills. These kids want to be there, they want to learn, and are so excited for the privilege.
We spent a few days working with the children in that capacity. Then, we also worked in a different capacity working the land. CCF has acres of rice fields and a village where they take some of the thriving families off the dump and they put them into the village where they work the farm. They work in a very different way so that the family unit stays intact. Very often they take women to this village, away from the dump, who have been severely beaten and abused, by their husbands. The children and the mother are removed from that environment, and are brought to the village where they can work together more effectively in communities.
We went out to the village and we fertilized the rice fields, which was the craziest experience. Such intense, hard work. The rice is used to help feed the children at CCF. We also planted, I think it was morning glory and corn and squash. We built garden beds, again to help make it more sustainable. We worked in a variety of ways. It was really hands-on, working on an educational level, a physical level and a historical level.
I can safely say that every person who went out there --it happened to be all women by the way-- showed so much courage, intentionality, and real bravery, because everyone went outside their comfort zone. There wasn't a single day where someone was not absolutely at their edge, on many levels. Everyone thrived and we left a legacy behind, real relationships.
Sixteen children were sponsored while we where there. That means that the participants pay $100 a month to be in a relationship with a child. Meaning that 100 dollars goes towards their education, their food, and their medical services. You get to write back and forth, and basically be like a big sister or big brother to a child. I have two children and it's a joy to have watched them grow and thrive over the years.
It was an incredible success. Now that we're back, we're onto the next project which is the Uganda Seva Challenge where we will be building a birthing center. We will be building a school in a village that doesn't have access to education. We will be working on a permaculture farm. We'll be working in a series of orphanages with HIV/AIDS street children, as well working with YouthAIDS to learn more about the HIV/AIDS crisis in Uganda, and in Africa in general. We're hoping to take two trips and raise over a million dollars, that's my personal goal. I'm pretty confident we can do it.
BB: For listeners who are either involved with activism or nonprofits, and maybe they're not involved with yoga, or people who are involved with yoga, but who aren't really being of service, what is the connection between the inner and outer work? Why do you think yoga can help people be of better service to the world. and what do you think being of service brings to one's yoga practice?
SC: It's a big question. I'll talk from my own experience. The mantra I have when I go into a circumstance is, "Experience something as it is, with no attachment to the end result. And dignify the human experience with love."
Now, that being said, that's very difficult for me when I'm working with children who are severely abused. I'm very attached to the end result. But, I also have to believe that in this lifetime for all of us, no matter our culture, our color, our sexual orientation, or our circumstance, there is a certain amount of karma that's at play. There are certain challenges that we will have to face, and opportunities that can arise from those challenges. I have to hold that deep within my heart; otherwise, I can't do the work that I need to do. I recognize it's my dharma. It's my great work in this world to serve someone else's karma, not from judgment, but from love.
I recognize that someone else may have to learn certain lessons, and there are certain challenges that they have to face. I'm not there to judge it. I'm there to hold the light for them, to provide energy, food, time, or money so that I can help support them in their evolution. But, if I get caught up in trying to change, then I'm coming at it from my fear, from my ego, and not from my faith. I have to recognize that there is something bigger at play that I can't possibly understand, nor is it possibly any of my business. That doesn't leave me exempt from wanting to make a difference.
I also recognize that when there is karma at play. Sometimes for us to learn our own individual lessons, we will draw to us the thing that we most resist. My history is one of sexual molestation. It wasn't a big surprise to me that the first time that I got involved with service was with adolescent prostitutes. Children who had been severely sexually abused. When I first went into that environment, I was totally triggered. I didn't realize this until later. When I went in to meet these kids, I thought I'd teach them a little bit of yoga, help them out. I assumed they had some troubles.
Well, I met 15 girls and boys that were so defiant and angry and judgmental and rude. Just rude. I walked out of that environment thinking, "These kids are messed up. They'll never be able to get help. They're lost." It took me a good hour of projection before I realized that I had just walked into a room with 15 of my disowned self. I'm defensive and defiant and angry, and in my lifetime certainly have been shut down and rude. Everything that I had experienced in these children is everything that I've experienced in myself that I haven't been able to deal with. I am those kids.
I realized from the practice of yoga that if I really wanted to heal and grow and evolve, then I had to go back into that environment and meet myself, and love myself. Otherwise, I knew that I was never going to be able to evolve, or transcend these fears, unless I went back to understand them. Meaning that to understand and really respect the power of the light, you've got to understand and respect the power of the shadow. and all that it has to provide and teach you. I was resisting the shadow. Once I met these girls, I realized that was my shadow self, and I ran from it. I knew that for me, I needed to run towards it to understand it, its power and its lesson.
I went back to that shelter. Instead of trying to teach these kids, I just started to share, and breathe and connect, and use the practice of yoga as a way to develop a relationship. I wasn't really interested in getting these kids to learn about Triangle Pose, but I knew that in teaching them Triangle what I was able to develop was a conversation and a relationship. We had fun, we played. And once we played, and we made eye contact, and we breathed together, the kids started to trust me more. Then we could begin to do deeper work. I was able to see that their defiance was just a manifestation of their fear; what was underneath their fear was deep grief.
By experiencing the children's deep grief, I was able to experience my own deep grief in a way that was very healing for me and truly unifying. When I understood about spiritual activism it all came full circle. I do not think for one second that any of the service that I've done over the years is selfless. Meaning that the gifts that I have been given, both spiritually, energetically, and emotionally have far outweighed any of the time, energy, effort, or money that I have provided to the people, the children especially, that I have worked for.
It's me who has gotten served, always me. When I try to go into an environment to fix them, then I have an agenda that's attached to it. Meaning that I have a judgment that there is something good or bad, right or wrong happening. My ego is attached to my being right; therefore, someone else has to be wrong. It's not sustainable. It can only lead to burn out. I had to really shift the paradigm in my own head about what service was.
As my service in the world has evolved, and as I've begun to work more and more, it hasn't changed for me. I recognize that every time I'm in an environment, it's only because I'm about to meet with the shadow parts of myself, and I'm going to have an opportunity in that moment to either come from fear, or to come from love. Every opportunity that's provided to me I have a deep respect for, and I try to approach the situation humbly.
The children I work for, they are my teachers. Their parents are my teachers. The pimps, their clients, the prostitutes, all of them are my teachers. I know in my heart I cannot get fixated on the story, I have to experience the soul. To me that is what the yoga practice has brought me. It's allowed me to see the deeper connection.
The hardest relationship I have is working with pimps. It's very hard for me to understand that they too are burning out karma, that they too are working and operating from their pain, from their suffering, from their education or lack thereof. It's very difficult for me to be empathic or compassionate, but if I'm not, then I am part of the problem. If I'm not, then I am continuing this perception that there is separation and otherness. That's what's causing all the problems in the first place.
Yoga teaches us that there is no separation, that everything is connected, that everything is manifesting as a result of our projected thoughts. It's our projected fears that are continuing to create this level of dysfunction. If we can begin to connect from a place that is based on love, then we can actually heal this planet. I believe that.
I have to keep myself in check. Every time that I'm in judgment, every time that I'm projecting fear, every time that I'm creating separation, I know that I am participating on a level of dysfunction that is creating dis-ease on a planetary, and on a psychic level. In all of these environments, I go in there knowing that my own stuff is going to come up, and I have an opportunity to go back to my room to deal with my own fear, my own trauma, my own anger, to breathe into it and not act from it.
If I go to try to talk to a pimp, and I'm in my rage, there's no way a conversation is going to be possible. But if I can go to that pimp and remember to see the soul, and to breathe deep, and to make eye contact, and to try to find the connection, then maybe possibly there's an opportunity for a relationship, and therefore a real conversation that might create healing.
This is the way that Off the Mat, Into the World operates. It's a new model of sustainable activism that's intending to come more from love and compassion, than fear and anger. Whether or not it's effective, I have no idea. I do know, that I can not choose to do it any other way for myself, because I've seen the results of when you try to create change from fear.
Just recently I saw the greatest picture of myself, which unfortunately is an old picture. I just had it developed. It's from 1984 and I had it developed six months ago. I just found this random roll at the bottom of the drawer, and it's a picture of me standing on a platform at a pro choice rally. I've got a megaphone in one hand, and I've got my left hand in a fist, kind of pumping up at the air. My chin is tilted up and my mouth is wide open and my eyes are closed. In front of me are all these pro life activists. They're holding signs, and Bibles, and fists up at me. Their mouths are open, and half of them, their eyes are closed too.
I thought, "This is perfect." We're both screaming at each other, not looking at each other. I was the most ineffective activist because I was coming from my unresolved anger. It felt good to scream. It felt good to tell someone else how to live their life, but nothing was really being done. After the rally was over, I felt better energetically because I had moved the anger, but I didn't really make any change.
I look at that picture often because it's a perfect example of what I never ever want to do again. I only want to stand eye to eye with someone, never above them. I always want to keep my eyes open and I want to listen more than I speak. I think that, ultimately, is a good model for me to be an effective activist in the world.
BB: People should know that in addition to the Seva Challenge, Off the Mat also has workshops that people can attend. In the workshops, you're helping people make the connection between their yoga, and how they are being called to service.
What tools do you use to help people find that connection, and what it is that they're called to do to be of service?
SC: Well, one of the first things that we do is we talk about the mind/body connection. If you're holding onto perceptions like hate or blame or victimization or shame, those emotions are an energy. Those energies, when they're not being processed, through truth and love, through therapy, through the program, through some kind of a tool to move the energy out, if you're harboring or repressing those emotions, they're as toxic on our physical body as drugs, as alcohol, as a poor diet, and as inertia.
They manifest as tension, stress, and anxiety creating more shutdown, more dis-ease, and more dysfunction. The practice of yoga helps to, first; access the deeper layers of tension where these deeper layers of emotion reside. It's through the practice of yoga that we're able to deal with the first layer of repression, which in terms of your physiology, is tension. Then, trying to get people to understand, how did that tension get there in the first place? What is the addiction to the tension? How have they used their tension to sabotage their choices? How has it impacted their relationships, their sexuality, etc.?
There is a real investigative process that happens through yoga, self-inquiry exercises, journal writing, dyads, and conscious conversation, which also could be called satsang. These are some of the processes that we work to get people to uncover what their deepest purpose is, because we often see that their deepest purpose is also in alignment with their deepest fear or wound.
Meaning, who better to serve another alcoholic from compassionate empathy, than an alcoholic. Who better to serve someone who has dealt with domestic violence, than someone who has also walked that path of abuse. Your experience becomes your wisdom, your wisdom becomes your empathy, and your empathy becomes the tool that you use to connect with people on a soul level.
I am not feeling sympathy towards someone who I am working with, let's say in an at-risk environment, I don't feel sorry for them, I am not pitying them, I get them, and when I get them, that exchange allows us to be able to work on a deeper level.
In the process of Off the Mat, Into the World, and these leadership training programs that we give, these intensives, we take people on this journey, clear some of the resistances, and the old limited beliefs that they have. We help them to shift these limited beliefs into a conversation of empowerment, and understand how ego has impacted some of the choices they make, even around service, and how, very often, we will want to serve our environment, and fix or change other people, so as to avoid having to deal with our own issues.
These are some of the conversations that we have only because, if you are not dealing with you, working in some of these environments will trigger your own trauma. You will then want to act out by overeating, or indulging in cigarettes, or even sex, or drugs, so as to not feel, or, you will just start to withdraw and separate.
We want people out there in the activism world doing their work for long periods of time. We want to make sure that they are nourishing and nurturing themselves, on every level, mind, body, and spirit. Through the program, we discuss this a lot and give people specific tools on how they can take care of themselves so as to take care of the world in which they are living.
Then, after that process happens, we begin to work more practically, starting to vision. What kinds of projects can you do? What skills do you already have? What are your resources? Where are your weaknesses? Is it easy for you to ask for five dollars, but not five hundred dollars? How do you develop skills so that you can effectively use your voice in fund raising, so that you don't feel like you are asking for a favor?
We talk about how to do consensus training in groups. Who is the note taker? Who is the stat keeper? Who is the vibe watcher? How do you delegate responsibility? How do you shift roles? All of these things get very important when you are working in collaboration.
We also talk about how collaboration is probably one of the single most important things in sustainable activism because what we find is that the rate of burn-out just multiplies when you try to do it on your own. When you work with other people, you are challenged to step up in a different way, use new skills for communication. Also, how do you surrender your vision for a collective vision? We have found that a collective vision is often more powerful then the individual.
These are some of the things that Off the Mat, Into the World provides, both spiritual applications, as well as practical applications, so as to take a thought into form and bring an intention out into the world. Basically, it is like bringing heaven into earth. Bringing the metaphysical into the physical, so that activism becomes an act of love, an act of transcendence that impacts you and every person that you touch equally.
We use the analogy like when you are on airplane and they say, "If there is ever a problem and the pressure drops and the oxygen masks drops from the ceiling, put it on yourself first, and then put it on your child or friend." It is the same thing. You have to nurture and nourish yourself before you can truly be active in the world in a sustainable way. I have learned this the hard way.
I have been the worst activist, and I have been a really good activist. Being a really good activist has been because I have taken care of me, my health, my wellness, and my inner life. It has made me much more patient, much more effective out in the field. I am able to see the bigger picture better. I don't get triggered as much, even when I am in circumstances that are horrifying, it doesn't impact me in the same way.
I am able to hold my center. I may go back to my hotel room later and cry, and scream, and beat up a pillow, just to move the energy out of me, but that energy is not what is being brought into my work, and it makes me much more effective. It's what I recommend to everyone. You have got to take care of yourself if you really want to do this work in the world.
Is there anything else that you want folks to know about Off the Mat, Into the World, yoga, your work, or whatever you are working on in the future?
If people are interested in getting involved in Off the Mat, Into the World's Uganda Challenge, they can go to offthematintotheworld.org and click on "Seva Challenge" to learn more information. If they want to come and do an intensive with us, they can also go to offthematintotheworld.org and look at our workshop schedule.
We do four intensives a year. We are also training people how to be leaders, so they can run their own groups, not to the same intensive level that Susan, Hala and I do, but it is a seven-week program that they themselves initiate once a week for three hours. They invite their friends and we give them a whole curriculum. They follow the curriculum, and at the end of the seven weeks, they put together their own project. We give them support along the way on this. We are hoping to have hundreds and hundreds, thousands actually, of small groups like this, all across America, doing service-oriented projects, but in a sustainable way, in community.
My hope is that anyone who is interested in getting involved in service, or who is already involved in service, and want to find a more sustainable way to do it, will reach out to us. We want to provide these tools. We want to support anyone who is interested in engagement, but we want to help them do it in a way that is healthy for them, creates community, and creates longevity, so that everyone wins, and no one gets burnt out or sick. That is not what service should be about. It should be about joy on every level.
For more information about Off The Mat, Into the World and The Seva Challenge, go to offthematintotheworld.org. You can learn more about Seane Corn on her website, Seanecorn.com, and you can experience her yoga teaching on one of her DVDs, Vinyasa Flow Yoga or Seane Corn: Yoga from the Heart.
Bloggers who are participating in this year's Seva Challenge:
Tal from The Yoga That Reconnects
Katie of Being the Change
Andrea of Seva Challenge: UGANDA 2009 Andrea Pepper, Amalayoga.com
Beth of Yogini for Uganda
Tina of Yogini with a Twist
Allison of Alison Seva Challenge 2009
Britt Bravo is a Big Vision Consultant.
Cross-posted from BlogHer.com
Friday, April 24, 2009
Today, after going through thousands of entries with his wife, actress Deb Lee Furness, he announced the two winners who will split the donation (he wasn't able to decide between the two):
• charity : water, a nonprofit that brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries.
• Operation of Hope, a nonprofit whose all-volunteer medical team donates surgeries to children in developing countries born with facial deformities.
While announcing the winners on Ryan Seacrest's radio show today, Jackman said,
"It's amazing to me that Twitter has now become a way for people to start talking about things that are really important to them and making a difference."Seacrest responded,
"It started out a toy, as this little thing you do for fun, and then you realize the power that it has if you can do some good with it."
What are you favorite ways that people are doing good with Twitter?
Hugh Jackman Splits $100,000 Between Two Charities by Sadao on Ryan Seacrest's blog, What's Happening. You can listen to the whole radio interview on this post.
Twitter on the Radio: Hugh Jackman Reveals $100K Charity Donation by Pete Cashmore on Mashable.
Hugh Jackman Chooses Winning Charities For $100K Twitter Donation by Michael Andre d'Estries on Ecorazzi.
Britt Bravo is a Big Vision ConsultantCross-posted from BlogHer.com.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
On the first day, Sunday, April 26, I'll be leading an Affinity Group meetup for Changebloggers: Blogging, Vlogging and Podcasting for Good from 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm. I hope you'll stop by if you're at the conference. We'll just be chatting and socializing. No super formal agenda.
During this year's NTC, over fourteen hundred nonprofit professionals will gather to learn about the newest trends and tools in nonprofit technology, and of course, to network and socialize.
The event is sold out, but you can be a part of the conference online. Just go to www.nten.org/ntc-live to find out how to follow along on Twitter and Flickr, and for information about the webinars, streaming video, and liveblogging happening during the event.
Friday, April 17, 2009
While re-reading Echoing Green's book, Be Bold: Create a Career with Impact, I've been thinking about one of its main ideas--that people have moments of obligation.
Moments of obligation are described as:
"At certain moments in your life, you may find yourself pulled toward a path leading to work that will benefit others. If you seize these moments -- if you make a bold decision to take action-- a different world-- a better world-- is within reach. Some people can pinpoint one particular moment during which their lives took a new turn. Other people experience a series of moments that build upon one another. The key is to turn these moments of opportunity into concrete action."One of my moments of obligation came during the Green Festival in San Francisco in the fall of 2002. At the time, I was a program director for an arts education program and a facilitator of career counseling workshops for artists. For the past ten years, I had focused my personal and professional life on the ultimate importance of creative expression, but something didn't feel right. The systemic problems in the public school system I worked in overshadowed the impact we were making with our arts programming, and the lack of political and social change aspirations of my career counseling students was starting to trouble me.
A co-worker recommended that I go to the Green Festival and hear Van Jones, who was the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights at the time, speak about, "Green Jobs, Not Packed Jails." Although the video presentation and following discussion about the Books Not Bars program by EBC staff members was extremely disturbing, it was Jones’ closing remarks that resonated with me.
He talked about how progressives and people on the left were spending a lot of time being angry about the Bush administration's policies, but that we had to do more than just be angry at the people in the White House; the people in the White House were being the kinds of people they were raised to be. He said the question we needed to be asking ourselves was,
"Are we being the people we were raised to be?”That night I wrote an 8-page essay and emailed it to everyone in my address book called, "What Really Matters." In it I wrote:
"Although I believe that fulfillment of our dreams and use of our talents is important to each person’s happiness, I also believe that reaching out to others and working towards the fulfillment of our neighborhood, community, country or planet’s dreams is the other essential part.It took me 3 years to figure out how I wanted to do, "what really mattered." In 2005, I started my business, Big Vision Consulting, with the idea of inspiring people and giving them the tools and resources to support their big vision for a better world through coaching, consulting, my blog and my podcast.
In the Dalai Lama’s book, Ancient Wisdom, Modern World: Ethics for the New Millennium he writes, 'Indeed, we find that almost all the mental and emotional suffering which is such a feature of modern living—including the sense of hopelessness, of loneliness and so on—lessen the moment we begin to engage in actions motivated by concern for others.'”
A lot of things have changed since 2002. Although our world still has tremendous challenges, I think more people, especially young people, realize the importance of being engaged in their communities on a local, national or global level. Likewise, I feel like there are more books, websites, movies, classes, etc. out there to inspire people and give them the tools they need to create change. My work doesn't feel as urgent as it did seven years ago, and I suspect a new "moment of obligation" may be coming my way soon . . .
You can read more about moments of obligation on:
• Jacob Colker's post, The Vision of the Extraordinaries on The Extraordinaries blog.
• Cheryl Dorsey's post, Living Your Best Life through the Journey of Service on the USA Service blog.
• Clinton Global Initiative -- Q&A with Maya Ajmera, Global Fund for Children by Mitch Nauffts on PhilanTopic.
• Echoing Green Fellows' descriptions of their moments of obligation.
Full disclosure: I'm the host of Echoing Green's Be Bold podcast.
Cross-posted from BlogHer.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
You can listen to the show online on Echoing Green, subscribe via iTunes, or listen to it on the little player below.
Question 1. What professional resources (i.e., legal, marketing, accounting, etc.) are available to take an idea, which has received great reviews from various constituencies that I have discussed it with, from the concept stage to fruition while running a small commercial business with its daily responsibilities? Are there consultants available and, if so, how do they get compensated and how is the concept properly protected?
Question 2. When thinking about my future and what programs of higher level education will best prepare me to make the impact I want to make, I get really caught up in how long it's going to take. I get frustrated thinking about the time it takes, when really all I want to do is start NOW. Move now, and start working now to make people's lives more comfortable, and to help more children survive into adolescent and adult years. However, I know that educational preparation is important to fully realizing my goals.
Medical school takes years, and an MD/PhD program can take 8 years or more. I plan to apply for a Fulbright grant for personal research after my senior year to help me get a better idea about what my part should be in the greater scheme of things--but this sets me back a year, and I'm already behind a year because of other exciting opportunities I've taken. What can I do to start making my impact now, while I'm pursuing graduate level education (and will be strapped for cash and therefore unable to contribute financially to programs I support).
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Lori Hanna is one of four college students from the University of Dayton who founded Salud del Sol. Salud del Sol's mission is to, "provide communities in Nicaragua with the opportunity to improve their own healthcare systems while supporting sustainable development that creates jobs for members of these communities."
Lauren Vegter, a Sloan Management Science and Operations Research student, is one of the founding members of MIT International Development Consulting. MIT IDC's mission is to, "improve the efficiency and sustainability of international development efforts using the business knowledge and engineering talent of MIT students."
These young women were just three of 80 student social entrepreneurs who attended the Global Engagement Summit last week at Northwestern University in Chicago. The delegates represented 17 countries and 40 universities with projects in 43 countries.
During the capacity building conference, students took "core curriculum" workshops that covered asset-based community development, grantwriting, impact assessment and metrics, and mission and vision development. They also took workshops related to challenges in grassroots development, innovations in social change, social change tools (like blogging!), and business skills.
I was lucky enough to attend GES as a blogging workshop facilitator and student mentor, along with over forty session leaders from organizations like the Acumen Fund, Global Citizen Year, Social Capital Media, Fast Forward Fund, World Vision, GlobalGiving, Ashoka, Kiva.org, the World Bank, and many more.
Needless to say, it was an awesome experience!
I came away from the event hopeful and energized that so many young people not only have ideas for how to make the world a better place, but also have the skills, energy and support to make their ideas real. When I came back to California from Chicago it really felt like spring, not just because the sun and flowers were out, but because in spite of all the terrible things happening around the world right now, I know that there are young people who are undaunted by today's challenges, and are using their skills to make the world a better place.
If you'd like to read more about the conference, check out Nathaniel Whittemore's Social Entrepreneurship blog on Change.org. He's the founding Director of the Center for Global Engagement at Northwestern University. Patrick O'Heffernan also blogged from the event on his Social Edge blog, Dr. O on Funding.
I'd encourage you to check out fellow GES facilitator Kjerstin Erickson's blog, Forging Ahead, on Social Edge too. Kjerstin founded FORGE, an organization that works with displaced communities in Africa, when she was 20 in 2003. Like most of the young people I met at GES, she is a *sparkly* person.
Cross-posted from BlogHer.com.
Global Engagement Summit
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I wanted to let you know that next Tuesday, April 21st, I'll be on a panel about Networking for Everyone presented by the San Francisco Bay Area YNPN (Young Nonprofit Professionals Network). The event is from 6:15 PM - 8:15 PM at the YMCA - Embarcadero (169 Steuart St) in San Francisco.
My fellow panelists are:
Gayle Roberts, Development Director, SF LGBT Community Center
Barbara Saunders, Communications Consultant & Writer
Sherry Berman, MA, Owner, SWITCH
And here's the event blurb:
"Do you want to learn how to network or build upon your networking skills? Are you nervous about approaching a room full of strangers and making connections? Want to understand how to use social networking sites to build your professional contacts? Networking is an important asset for jobseekers and jobholders alike! A network of trusted contacts can give you an advantage in finding a job, getting access to important individuals or organizations, and is a strategy for ongoing professional development.If you would like to attend, be sure to register. Tickets are $7 for YNPN members and $10 for non-members.
Our panel of skilled nonprofit, education, and business leaders will discuss these topics and more. You’ll learn proven networking skills and have the chance to join a unique hands-on activity that will build your confidence in networking and give you an opportunity to connect with other professionals in your issue/sector of interest. Business casual attire and business cards are encouraged!"
See ya there!
Thursday, April 09, 2009
I've posted 7 questions to ask yourself before setting up a Twitter account for your organization on my post Twitter Has Gone Mainstream. Should Your Nonprofit Jump on Board?, on Social Actions.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
I started volunteering at a San Francisco based arts education organization, Streetside Stories. The program teaches autobiographical writing in Bay Area public schools using storytelling (oral, written, digital).
One or two mornings per week I would ride the bus to a public middle school and help students write a story about their life. It was the highlight of my week. Not only did hearing their stories help me put mine in a different perspective, it was fun!
After volunteering for about 6 months, Streetside asked me if I could do some subbing for their instructors; after about a year they offered me a job. I ended up working there for six years. Many of the friendships I made with staff members then I still have today. I met my husband during that time as well.
I think my experience at Streetside is why I'm such a big proponent of volunteering. I believe that it can bring magical changes into your life. The changes might not be as dramatic as mine, but volunteering will transform you in some way.
Next week, April 19-25, is National Volunteer Week. What better time to start looking for a volunteer opportunity? Sites like VolunteerMatch, Volunteer Solutions, Servenet.org, Social Actions, Transitions Abroad, One Brick, Network for Good, Idealist, HandsOn Network, GuideStar, Global Vounteers and 1-800 Volunteer.org are great places to look for opportunities.
You might think you don't have time to volunteer, but volunteering can take many forms: in person, virtual, long-term, one-time, during a vacation, etc. You can also volunteer in your own community, rather than with an organization, by doing things like taking care of a friend's child once a week, or running errands for an elderly neighbor.
Have you had a transformative experience from volunteering? I'd love to hear about it.
Related posts and articles
Volunteering Generous Job Search Strategy by Rachel Emma Silverman on the WSJ Blogs.
Unexpected Payoffs: The Benefits of Volunteering by Lane Wallace on No Map. No Guide. No Limits.
5 Reasons I Love to Volunteer by Roger Carr of Everyday Giving.
Benefits of Volunteering on Energize Inc.
Cross-posted from BlogHer.com. Britt Bravo is a Big Vision Consultant.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
As many of you know, in addition to writing for Have Fun * Do Good, I am also a Contributing Editor, with Beth Kanter, for the Social Change and Nonprofit section of BlogHer.
I have also written for The Extraordinaries, NetSquared, the Stanford Social Innovation Review Opinion blog, WorldChanging, and The Huffington Post.
I'd love to add a third blogging gig to my schedule. If you have any ideas, lemme know!
It's easy for me to write about nonprofits and social web stuff, but it would be fun to branch out and write regularly about do-good career/work topics. I've been a creative career coach for 10+ yrs, and am the host of Echoing Green's Be Bold Podcast: Create a Career with Impact.
I'd also be up for something arts related. Many of my coaching clients are artists, I worked for six years in arts education at Streetside Stories, and I produce the Arts and Healing Podcast.
Thanks for keeping an eye out for me!
Photo of butterfly at Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix by me.
Friday, April 03, 2009
Did you know that six genocides began in the month of April? According to the Genocide Prevention Month's site, the genocide in Bosnia began April 6, in Rwanda April 7, in Cambodia April 17, in Darfur April 19, in Armenia April 24, and the Holocast began April 21st.
To raise awareness during Genocide Prevention Month, The Genocide Prevention Project and the American Booksellers Association have created a list of Books of Conscience, "a list of fiction and nonfiction, memoir, history, and reportage, which presents the historical realities and human tragedies of genocide."
If you would like your community to participate, the Genocide Prevention Month blog has instructions for how to Organize Your Bookstore or Library, and their site has guidelines for how to organize a book club or reading series.
For additional titles and ways to take action, read Martha Bixby's post Make a Difference for Darfur this April on Change.org, and Chris Michael's post, April: Genocide Prevention Month on The Hub blog.
It's difficult to read these kinds of books, and to acknowledge the violence humans are capable of inflicting on each other, but as we're seeing with the economic situation, and global warming, it is important to remember that all of our actions our interconnected.
As Martin Luther King, Jr wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."