Last weekend, I was honored with the opportunity to speak at the 8th annual Women Moving Millions (WMM) Summit in New York City. This year’s Summit explored a variety of topics from immigration to culture to leadership through a gender equality lens, all centered around a call to action to activate individual leadership and “The Power of You” in support of the movement for gender equality (by gender I mean all gender identities including, but not limited to, transgender individuals, cis women, gender diverse individuals, and those who identify as nonbinary).
Over the past several days, I’ve found myself returning to the conversations and moments that I witnessed at the event and the knowledge that I garnered as a result. I’m inspired to share these learnings in the hopes that we can keep the conversation and thinking moving forward. Here are five key learnings that I’m taking away from the 8th Annual Women Moving Millions Summit.
- Women know what they need. New Profit believes that leaders who are proximate to diverse communities and complex challenges are most poised to design the sustainable high-impact solutions we need for equitable well-being. We believe that proximity is a powerful source of expertise. We invest in Black and Latinx leaders because we understand that these leaders’ proximity to communities of color leads to recognition of the communities’ assets and talents as well as a better understanding of the needs. The same is true for women. Women know themselves, their strengths, their bodies, their communities, and their needs and as a sector, our success depends on our ability to step back and truly listen.
- Intersectionality is key. Sometimes when we talk about giving through a specific lens, for example, the lens of gender or racial justice, we start to create a false narrative of competition between movements. When we operate from this scarcity mindset or silo movements we miss the beautiful and inherent intersectionality between them. We forget that a movement to support Black and Latinx social entrepreneurs is also a movement to support women. For those of us who care about equitable well-being, we have to abandon our addiction to binary views and notice where we are dependent on each other in order to thrive
- Solidarity, not charity. Author and activist Lynne Twist reminded us that while money does not have a soul, we do. The intention behind the dollars is just as important as the dollars themselves. As a sector we must abandon the concept of “charity” and move towards giving as an act of solidarity and power-sharing.
- Culture moves faster than politics. Darnell Moore, Favianna Rodriguez, Sam Feder, and Jamia Wilson taught us this on their panel, “Who Determines Culture?” They reminded us that policy and practice often shift only after a larger change in culture and therein lies the power of storytelling, narrative, and the arts for social change. As we do this work we must learn to give as much weight to culture and storytelling as we do to policy and practice.
- Focus on the implicit. In my remarks and later the workshop that I led, I spoke to the six shifting conditions that bring about systemic change. Through a conversation with a group of Summit participants, the piece that most resonated was that in systems change work we often focus on the explicit conditions that bring about change– policy, practices, and resource flows – but equally important is the implicit:relationships and connections, power dynamics, and mental models. While all six conditions are important, it is essential that we prioritize the implicit so that we learn what it takes to shift power dynamics and relationships in ways that can transform outcomes and ultimately our world
Call to Action: This final piece is not necessarily a key learning, but rather a call to action and a question that I believe we all need to collectively grapple with. What does the future we imagine look like? What will our world look like when our efforts are successful?
As a sector and as a society, we often focus our efforts on reacting to inequity, fighting against the structures and policies that are causing harm. Essential work, yet imbalanced if that is all we do. We are not well practiced at articulating our vision for what a better world would look like. As humans, we can only get good at the things we practice. We need to make a concerted effort to consistently name how the world will be different when we are successful in our efforts. We need to practice sharing our vision –our “end game” –often and with precision.
I invite all of you to join me on a journey to radically reimagine what the future could be and explicitly name our intentions.