Categories
Transformative Ideas

If These Streets Could Talk

Chloe Doesburg on Driftscape | Photo Provided

There’s something special about exploring a city on foot. Whether you’ve lived in the same place for twenty years or are visiting someplace new, going for a wander—headphones in, music on, people watching, popping into shops, turning down a side street and discovering a hidden gem—is a consummate pleasure. 

What if, though, you could engage more intimately with the cityscape by accessing information about it—events, history, restaurants, music—as you move through it? That’s the idea behind Driftscape. Co-founder and CEO Chloe Doesburg calls the app a “cultural discovery platform,” which allows the user “seamless connection” to the physical spaces they occupy. 

Driftscape offers a selection of topics—from architecture to history to arts and literature. As users approach things that might interest them, the app on their cellphones will send a notification. This could be a piece of trivia, a festival nearby, or what Doesburg calls the most “sophisticated” option: an immersive experience such as a Jane’s Walk, free urban tours inspired by Jane Jacobs, who penned the classic, The Life and Death of American Cities, and advocated for mixed-used, walkable streets; or First Stories, which documents the rich Indigenous history of Toronto; or Queerstory, which will leads to sites in Toronto’s vibrant LGTBQ2S+ culture.

Driftscape, which now employs six, officially incorporated in 2017 but had been “in the works” for at least a year before that and involved a lot of “serendipity,” says Doesburg. She was inspired by a “location-specific project” called Murmur, which existed before smartphones: You could dial in and hear a story about a specific place. She was also working with a musician friend who was recording an album of location-specific songs set in Toronto; they created Track Toronto, which allows users to listen to music associated with places in the city as they pass through them, now used by Driftscape.

“People were super enthusiastic” about the experience, says Doesburg. While working on that concept, she met programmers working on a similar project, and together they dreamed up Driftscape.

The project has evolved significantly since its inception, adding more layers of information by becoming a subscription platform. For a fee—Driftscape partners—which range from not-for-profits to private content producers to businesses and municipalities—provide content for the app, such as visitor’s guides, self-guided tours[1] , and digital walks. There’s a sliding scale for partners, ranging from $1,000 to $4,000 a year. More content draws more eyes to the app, which draws more users to the app and, in turn, more partners subscribing, creating a positive feedback loop.

Says Doesburg: “We’re working with municipalities who are layering these things with tourism information so that we can become (their) digital visitor’s guide, which is even more relevant now, in the time of COVID-19. People want to do more digitally. People are looking for self-guided tours, for ways they can be their own guide, and also just looking to rediscover their own city and places nearby, the way the way you would as a tourist.”

“We’re working with municipalities who are layering these things with tourism information so that we can become (their) digital visitor’s guide, which is even more relevant now, in the time of COVID-19″.

Chloe Doesburg

That style of subscription service, however, is not without issues. Open the Driftscape app and you’ll be presented with a map of Canada, with Driftscape’s points of interest and services— loaded by its subscribers. The first thing you’ll notice is that most of the content is based in Southern Ontario, and the vast majority of that in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), making the app, at present, tremendously urban-centric. In Northern and rural areas, programming options include things like Historica Canada and its Heritage Minutes, providing a perspective that can skew to colonial, cis-heteronormative Settler norms. That’s a very different experience than users can access in the GTA, where Driftscape offers more of a mosaic.

This discrepancy is due to growing pains, Doesburg says. Driftscape can’t offer a wider variety of content in more remote areas until they bring on a wider variety of partners. “That’s certainly something we’ve spent a lot of time talking and thinking about and we’re trying to layer in other perspectives wherever we can. We are especially working to grow the Indigenous voices on the app.”

“We would certainly welcome organizations anywhere in Canada and in North America to host their content on the platform,” she adds.

In April, Doesburg participated in Fifth Wave Labs, a four-month feminist incubator geared towards supporting women-identified digital media entrepreneurs in Southern Ontario. She says the program provided mentorship and networking in a time when, due to COVID-19, everyone was feeling very distanced from each other. It also altered the way she thought about her business practices. 

Although Doesburg doesn’t necessarily consider Driftscape a specifically feminist enterprise— “We haven’t really been using that word”—she thinks of it as being in keeping with those values.

“Before doing the Fifth Wave labs program, I didn’t really think about feminist business practices,” says Doesburg, “but certainly while we were part of that program I was like, ‘Oh, this is what we already do.’” 

Doesburg says she thinks of Driftscape as a social enterprise. That “seems very, very similar, although not identical (to feminism) but certainly in terms of just looking at business as something that has profit as one of its goals, and not its only goal.”

The company’s social values, she says, include “a commitment to supporting the cultural community and being part of that ecosystem” as well as “how we run our business, that we’re committed to making the best place to work for employees. “We’re committed to having a really transparent company where we involve everyone at all levels of decision making. We’re really open about what we’re doing and what our values are, what our challenges are.”

In contrast to multinational social media giants serving up information, Driftscape features diverse local experts. Says Doesburg: “We boost the voices of local organizations who are creating fantastic content, and we create a place where users can access a wide-range of otherwise hard-to-find local information on an ad-free platform at no cost to the user.”

Driftscape is Doesburg’s first entrepreneur venture. Until 2015, the University of Waterloo graduate worked as an architect, a profession that obviously gives her a special appreciation for cities and the nature of place. “Being an entrepreneur certainly offers more freedom and flexibility,” she says of the change. “Buildings take years to complete so, compared to architecture, working on software is refreshing because it’s possible to iterate quickly, see what works, and make changes easily.”

With Driftscape growing, adapting and adding new directions, Doesburg is content knowing what entrepreneurial path she is on. “I don’t have any next steps in mind. For now, I’m focused on growing Driftscape.”


Contributor’s Bio: Lori Fox is a queer, non-binary journalist based in Whitehorse, YT. Their work focuses primarily on issues of class, gender, sexuality and environment, and has appeared previously with Vice, The Guardian, CBC, and The Globe and Mail. You can find them on twitter @fox.e.lori.


Publishers Note: Driftscape is a participant in Canada’s first feminist accelerator program for womxn in digital media, Fifth Wave Labs. The Fifth Wave is a year-round program offered by CFC Media Lab and its partners to support the growth and development of women entrepreneurs in the digital media sector in southern Ontario. All enterprise founders in the Fifth Wave community are selected for both their potential and commitment toward weaving intersectional feminist ideals of equity and fairness into sustainable and scalable business growth strategies. Fifth Wave Initiative is committed to 30% participation by members of underrepresented groups. The Fifth Wave is a LiisBeth Media partner and ally. Apply here.

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Categories
Transformative Ideas

She-lutions for a stalled economy

Dr. Wendy Cukier, Academic Director, Diversity Institute; Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub; Future Skills Centre at Ryerson University, Toronto

 

Dr. Wendy Cukier, the founder and director of Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute, is one of the principal authors of the State of Women’s Entrepreneurship in Canada 2020, published by the Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) last month.

LiisBeth spoke with Cukier about the recommendations in the report, the challenges presented by COVID-19, the support women need moving forward and what women’s entrepreneurship should look like in the future.

LiisBeth: What was the process of pulling off such a mammoth report during a global pandemic?

Wendy Cukier: We had the report ready to go when COVID-19 hit, so we shifted gears. We did a lot of work with the government and others to get information out on supports for women entrepreneurs. We ran webinars, and we also very quickly did an analysis of programs and consulted with close to 300 groups and entrepreneurs on where the gaps were. So, we took on a bit of an advocacy role for self-employed women and those who were falling between the cracks. And then with COVID-19, what we showed very quickly and very clearly was that COVID-19 was amplifying inequality in a very significant way.

LiisBeth: What was the process of collecting this data?

Wendy Cukier: I’ve done lots of work on things like the wage gap and the impact of unpaid work. When COVID-19 hit, just with my own eyes, I saw the impact on people in my office, on entrepreneurs. I was working with the data that was coming out of different places, but even on Zoom calls, you’d be bombed by little kids all over the place. And it was so very obvious—the difference in terms of the extent to which women have always borne the lion’s share of the unpaid work.

The impact of COVID-19 on…women entrepreneurs’ self-reported productivity…layoffs, the extent to which women entrepreneurs reported negative impacts on their ability to run their business and even their mental health—all of those things are very much supported by the empirical data from different surveys, but quite honestly, I saw it all with my own two eyes.

LiisBeth: What are some of the key findings in the report?

Wendy Cukier: The big thing is the burden of unpaid work, and that is just crushing. Not just for women who are in the workforce, but women who are self-employed or entrepreneurs. It doesn’t really matter if you’re rich or you’re poor. Certainly, people who are lower on the socioeconomic front are often less well equipped—they often don’t have access to high-speed network…a workspace. But even wealthy middle-class women have lost their caregivers and other kinds of supports that had previously enabled them to pursue their entrepreneurial activities. So, the experience of the crushing burden of unpaid work and childcare is pretty severe, right across socioeconomic classes, across sectors, across size, across everything.

When we look at what’s happening with women entrepreneurs and the programs they need to support them, we need to recognize self-employment across a range of sectors—not just tech—as well. If we don’t tackle that definitional problem, we’re effectively ignoring the needs of 900,000 women entrepreneurs. Because we know that women are more likely to be in services, in social enterprises. So not recognizing that excludes a big percentage of women.

We also recognize there are big differences in the experiences of women who are racialized, women who are Indigenous, women who are in rural communities, women with disabilities. And what we showed was COVID-19 was exacerbating all of those.

One of the things that makes me apoplectic is there’s been a ton of stuff about how women have been leading the battle against COVID-19. Jacinda Ardern (the prime minister) from New Zealand. In Canada, leading medical officer, Theresa Tam,—we see her every day reassuring us, it’ll be fine. It’s women, women, women on the frontlines. Yet, if you look at who is being consulted and testifying before the parliamentary committees on what we need for the recovery, 51 per cent of the population (women) is pretty much missing.

I think what’s hugely important is that we have a gender and diversity lens for recovery or we’re going to lose decades of progress.–Wendy Cukier

LiisBeth: What are some of the recommendations of the report?

Wendy Cukier: Well, we have enough information to prioritize certain things like thinking about childcare and homeschooling; making sure that we have intersectional lens; that we understand that access to broadband and infrastructure is absolutely fundamental; and the impact of COVID-19 is highly differentiated based on where you live. It’s a whole cluster of things, and if you don’t have those basic needs, then it’s pretty hard to engage in economic activity. Those things are pretty straightforward.

One of the things I have a preliminary sense of, but we haven’t dug into as deeply as we need to: There are a lot of funding opportunities for incorporated companies that are already at a certain level of sales. So while there may be gaps there and … bias in financing… especially the venture capital space, what I’m really interested in right now is how we deal with pre-revenue, small revenue, micro-businesses that seem to have fallen through the cracks. If you think about the fact that women’s businesses tend to be smaller, newer, and under financed, it’s almost like chopping down all the seedlings. We have to really be attentive to nurturing those early-stage organizations, some of which may never grow, some of which may remain side hustles or supplements to traditional employment. If you care about growth, you also need to care about the fact that these new startups and micro-businesses that women tend to start are being crushed.

LiisBeth: Thank you so much for speaking with us!


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How to unlock billions of unrealized growth led by entrepreneurial women

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Categories
Transformative Ideas

Why the World Needs Feminism, NOW

Photo by Jimena Roquero

Upon my last check-in with my daughter to see how her online exam went, I learned that her pet Betta fish, Obie, had died. With as much compassion as I could muster, I said, “How? What happened?”

“Fin rot,” she replied. “But I got a new one.” She told me she went online and had her replacement pet delivered by a local breeder—in a bag of water in a box—curbside for a fee of $5. “That’s how it’s done nowadays, Mom.”

This little anecdote got me thinking about how much our day-to-day lives have changed since COVID-19 impounded us in our homes. And yet how so little has changed at the who we are as a civilization level.

For instance, while small businesses scramble to reinvent themselves to survive and 26 million Americans lost their jobs, US billionaires somehow added $308 billion to their wealth.

It is this paradox, not the threat of contracting COVID-19, that keeps me up at night.

On a street level, it is heartwarming to see community-led mutual aid networks popping up over night, especially in cultures where individualism ruled. I love that people are using this pause to rediscover homesteading crafts such as baking and pickling. As a feminist, I have found it validating that the corporate media has been, for a change, reporting on the women-dominated need economy (health, food, caregiving) and local enterprises more than the greed economy. It is exciting to hear people talking about wanting to emerge, post-lockdown, into a “new normal” rather than returning to the status quo.

Tactics in the air include reducing carbon-spewing business travel and excess consumerism; increasing work-from-home options and reimagining education (ideally without surveillance technology); shortening supply chains (good for local enterprise); rethinking housing and rental agreements to accommodate micro-communes consisting of perhaps two to three couples with kids and elders versus the traditional nuclear family; and accelerating the mainstreaming of urban agriculture.

These initiatives are all good for people, local economies, and the planet.

But will these small changes lead to the kind of fundamental, civilization-level overhaul required for everyone—and Mother Earth—to survive the the coming “Black Swan” era let alone flourish?

We have witnessed first-hand in recent months that when those with power and political will are tightly aligned, we can move our socially constructed walls and mountains, poof, just like magic. Our sense of what’s possible has changed. But what’s probable? There, the jury is out. I suspect we will still have to fight—despite one hand tied behind our backs due to COVID-19—to advance foundational levels of change-like gender equity and equality globally.

The feminist movement, in all it’s diversity, is needed now more than ever.

If we look to the past as a teacher, the roots of patriarchy and its persistent, enabling systems have survived all major global shocks: world wars, famines, numerous pandemics, depression, recessions, and even progressive revolutions. While the most oppressed and distressed among us—plus a handful of well-positioned women—are tossed a new deal or human right in the thick of the crisis, the same old systems of inequality and dehumanization bulldoze through, creating an even greater inequality and bringing the world to the brink of environmental collapse.

Sadly, early indicators that this pandemic “pause” could be the tipping point we have been waiting for accelerate social, political, economic, and environmental stewardship change needed are not encouraging.

Illustration by Graham D Brown, World Future Society

Reality Check #1: Patriarchal-Enabled Violence is on the Rise

Feminist organizations around the world predicted that domestic, gender-based violence (the “shadow pandemic”) would skyrocket—and it has. Reporting countries show increases as high as 200 percent since COVID-19 lockdowns began. In Canada, calls to domestic crisis hotlines early on increased by up to 300 percent and are now reported to have decreased; women in isolation find it hard to get to the phone when he’s at home all the time, along with the kids.

This month, Canada suffered its worst mass murder in history when a Nova Scotia man assaulted his female partner and then went on a 12-hour-plus shooting spree, killing 22. A group, Nova Scotian Feminists Fighting Femicide, pointed out in a press release that “most mass murders begin with violence in the home. It is often wives, partners, and children of men who kill who are their first victims . . . it is now clear that the murderer began with acts of torture and violence toward the murderer’s female partner.” Sickeningly, one male tweeted this explainer: “Push a man to the edge and shit happens. Never any mention of what women were doing to provoke this.” There were a lot more tweets like this that followed.

Misogyny—expressed in the form of domestic violence—remains deeply embedded across all cultures and countries around the globe. And it is flourishing along with the virus.

Patriarchy enables and validates the propagation of toxic masculinity that deforms men and kills women. At present, media and governments are broadly acknowledging the scourge. Opinion leaders talk about the need for more funding for shelters and higher pay for frontline workers but say nothing about what it will take to dismantle the root cause, patriarchy.

Reality Check #2: Tech Surveillance Tightens

We pay a price for the privilege of citizenship. We disclose a lot about our personal identity in return for benefits such as health care, financial support, and legal protection. Will the price soon be cell-phone tracking surveillance while inside your home? Or perhaps even a chip embedded in our bodies to track our virus status and every physical movement?

According to The Guardian, “Governments in at least 25 countries are employing vast programmes for mobile data tracking, apps to record personal contact with others, CCTV networks equipped with facial recognition, permission schemes to go outside and drones to enforce social isolation regimes.”

Corporations have already been electronically mining, harvesting, and reselling our personal information to increase their wealth and power over us. Think of what they will lobby for next under the guise of public safety.

As a leading indicator, Google recently announced a new advertiser policy that, in the near future, will suspend the accounts of advertisers who do not provide proof of identity, including W9 forms, passports, and other personal identification and business incorporation files. That’s a corporate grab at a level of personal data and now private company ownership data that puts Google on par with governments. Or would that be “Google-ments”?

AI technology can be leveraged as a tool to benefit our world, but never forget that male-dominated and governed tech companies built the network on which it relies, a network that is now growing up and teaching itself to “think” like their creators: a privileged, mostly white, patriarchal man.

Reality Check #3: New Pandemic Power Grabs Entrench Old Systems

Turns out, the one-percenters somehow easily generate more of it during pandemic times. Meanwhile, the next level down, the 10 percenters, are working hard from their lakeside cottages lobbying #MeToo for their share of government business subsidies.

Some of this activity makes the news (see the growth of billionaire wealth in COVID-19 times). But some of it doesn’t. Might as well see it all.

For example, during an ordinary April Zoom meeting between the National Angel Capital Organization of Canada (NACO) and Mélanie Joly, who serves as Canada’s Minister for Economic Development, one investor complained about how much time and effort he had to put into coach startups for no wages. His recommendation and ask from Minister Joly? The government should adopt a COVID-19 policy to support accredited angel investors (read: millionaires) by matching their investments in high potential startups (read: disruptive tech) to the tune of 30 percent (approximately $43.5M based on last year’s collective investment number) to help angels like him avoid losses. NACO also suggests it should be the arbiter of what startups should receive these matching public funds, suggesting those funds would flow only to “high potential” vetted startups participating in their “accredited” 40-member incubators. Problem is, there are 200-plus amazing incubators and growth accelerators in Canada if you include independent, women-focused, Indigenous, newcomer, and social enterprise programs.

We need to support startups. And angel investors play an important role in their development. But we don’t need public money, once again, disproportionately going towards the male-dominated startup-oriented investors, incubators and accelerators who favour extreme growth, venture-capital oriented startups. Recent studies tell us clearly how status-quo thinking in this space turns out for this nation’s one-million-plus equally aspiring and talented women entrepreneurs innovating differently in largely undervalued essential sectors.

Note that there is a precedent for direct support. In 2018, the Canadian Women’s Enterprise Strategy fund processed 3,000 applications and deployed $30 million directly to qualifying women-majority-owned and -led startups and early-stage enterprises in record time. We know how to do this.

So, how do we advance a brighter future?

We start by acknowledging grief. Hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions more may well, whether from COVID-19 or the economic devastation that has yet to land. We have suffered massive fear and a deep-system shock that has revealed how terribly vulnerable our patriarchal economies and governments have made us.

Understandably, immediate policy and strategy ideas will come from a place of denial, anger, and bargaining for a time. And some of these, like investing in the care economy, will go a long way to improve resilience, advance equity, and better individual lives.

But sooner than later, we will need to turn our attention back to the root causes of suffering. What values, visions, and ideas that have been repeatedly pushed aside as too radical and unaffordable do we take more seriously now? What do we resource and what needs to fall away? And how do we deal with the middle millions, used to being insulated by privilege, who are now outraged and no longer comfortably numb by the sweeping changes to the status quo that worked so well for them, at least, for so long?

So, as solutionary feminists, we need to consider: What does feminism and feminist work look like in a post-COVID-19 world (increased collaboration with other intersecting social change movements)? What advocacy tools and skills do we need to develop in a world where gathering becomes luxury (digital activism)? And how can my personal superpower be of service?

Then, we must gather up the wisdom of generations before us, the spiritual depth of our superhero goddesses, the strength of the sisterhood and we must press our feet to the ground and get running.

Because we must emerge from this rupture working fiercely to make the kind of deep foundational change required to achieve, finally, equality between genders, and between people and the planet.

Or, put another way, we must create the conditions that enable all people and the planet to flourish.

This is, and always has been, the purpose of feminism.

As author Sarah Ahmed wrote in Living A Feminist Life, “It’s sweaty work.”


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Related Reading

https://www.liisbeth.com/2019/05/30/the-revolutionary/

https://www.liisbeth.com/2019/10/29/how-can-we-collectively-build-a-better-future-for-all/

Categories
Our Voices

Dare to Dream in Pandemic Times

Sabrina Dias (left) and colleague Boniface Shuuli in Ngara,Tanzania

Outbreak.  Pandemic.  The world halting.  How do I feel? Where do I feel it in my body?  What wants to break out of me?  What I really want to say is, I would like the world to stop spinning. To reverse its rotation. And to go back to December.

No, that’s not true. I don’t want that at all.  Why would I want to go back to 2019?

We needed to stop. We needed the tipping point before now.

We needed to wake up years ago. To see ourselves and to see each other. To connect with ourselves and with each other. Something needed to give.

Immediate satisfaction. Fast fashion. Disposable smartphones. Human trafficking. Child labour. Modern slavery. Climate gambling. Mass refugee migration. Fake news. Cyber attacking. Instant messaging.  Online bullying….

Sabrina Dias, MineAfrica March 2020 during PDAC week in Toronto – Moderator (with microphone), Bertrand Montembault, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP

Social distancing was already happening to us. We stopped caring about each other. We stopped seeing our collective whole; instead, we saw only our individual desires.

My heart feels heavy for the fire we must now walk through together. We must. My hands feel stiff from the tension of searching for others to walk with. Will we have enough of us? Will we build an army of Hope and Decency to create a new world in 2021? And who, and how many, must we lose on this journey?

I desperately miss my grandmother. A feeling that directly contradicts my selfish gratitude that she is no longer here to suffer through this crisis. This catastrophe. This painful transformation of our civilization.

She was an elder. My elder. The elder. Every word she spoke was strength, wisdom, and assurance. We need our elders.

My favourite people are old. Did I ever tell you that? Several years ago, I met a 92-year-old gentleman on the Yonge subway line. He wore a hat and carried a cane. I make it a habit to never talk to anyone on the subway, but we spoke for nine stops. He rode the Yonge subway every day to have his coffee and pastry at a downtown café. Every day. I loved him immediately like he was my own grandpa, and I still regret not ditching my appointment to join him for a coffee and pastry that day, for more time with this gentle elder.

We will lose these wise souls. The ones who relish subway rides and pastries, who read real books while commuting, and sneeze into their handkerchiefs. I love old people. I miss my old people. We need our old people.

Some may feel a virus that targets the old and the vulnerable is a good virus or a ‘not so bad’ virus. They are wrong. A ‘good virus’ is one that takes the assholes, the rapists and the pedophiles, the abusers, the Trumpers and the Koch Brothers, the dictators, the racists, the misogynists, the polluters, the sport hunters, the ocean dumpers, the cruise ship operators, the drug lords, the gang leaders, the road ragers, the fucker who hit my first car and didn’t even leave a note…

Now that would be a ‘good virus.’

The only good that can come from this virus is what we make of this moment. If we can emerge from this social isolation, joining hearts, holding hands, walking towards Hope and Decency.

Rant over (for now).

Love Sabrina Dias

Sabrina Dias is the founder and CEO of Soop Strategies


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Related Reading

https://www.liisbeth.com/2019/02/28/this-woman-rocks/

 

Categories
Our Voices

A Feminist's Response To COVID-19

Illustration by Cactus Creative Studio. On Stocksy.

As feminists, we know this about the COVID-19 pandemic:
It will show, with brutal clarity, what the 5000-year old patriarchal system and this modern incarnation of capitalism really is – a social construct created for the privileged few it serves and devastating for everyone else, including the planet.  It will also lay bare, especially for our friends in the United States, how fragile democracy has become in the face of unprecedented concentration of power and wealth.
Both history and lived experience tells us that this crisis will disproportionately affect women who will take on the bulk and danger of caretaking, as usual.
The crisis will divide us in two:  Those who believe this crisis is short term. A Blip. And those who believe it marks the birth of a new world.
More on the positive side, we will be astounded, even in this age of deep political and social divisions, by our capacity to reroute our lives, give and minister to disruption. The meaning of the term inter-independence is now on full display. Social cohesion, which we usually take for granted, is the platform that supports all of us. Self-interest overtakes long defended beliefs. Just watch those neo-liberals, meritocracy disciples and anti-government libertarians rush to fill out forms for government help.
As we enter into police or drone enforced lock downs, we now also know that this is not a simple interruption of business as usual.
This is a historical trigger event, an event so powerful that the entire world takes an abrupt turn down a new political, social and economic path.
Will it be a turn for the better, as when the bloody French Revolution gave birth to greater equality, expansion of human rights and political participation, and new ways of thinking about how government and economies can work better — to serve human flourishing rather than the other way around?
Will it be a turn for the worse, as when the scapegoat fueled evil of Nazism took hold of Germany during the world-wide economic collapse of the Great Depression.
The current pandemic, projected to sicken and kill in the millions, has delivered a severe shock not only to the global economy but our faith in the values that have been driving it. The trigger has been pulled. The question now is, how will we react to it?
A critical majority of people may well be open to new ideas previously thought too bizarre to challenge the current status quo or to change thought too painful to implement.
For feminist leaders, entrepreneurs and creators, our work in this new very moment is critical. We can’t unpull the trigger of the pandemic. But we can certainly summon our unique foundational strengths and serve as death doulas for the old; Midwives to the new.   We can shape the future that will emerge from it.
Consider this from Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower:

In order to rise

From its own ashes

A phoenix

First

Must

Burn

 
So what to do at this critical moment, beyond social distancing, washing hands, keeping sane, staying afloat economically?
All of that is important, of course, but I want to talk about the future – or what kind of work we need to embrace if we are to create the kind of future we want to emerge from this shocking, painful rupture.
I have five suggestions — informed by the thought leadership of such feminists as CV Harquail (feminist values), adrienne maree brown (Emergent Strategy and pleasure activism) and Octavia Butler (Parable of the Sower; God is change) — that I believe can help us find our feet during this cosmic interruption and work with others to shape and accelerate a world without partriachy, greed and gross inequality.
1. Create a new-world vision board: Pull out that Bristol board (or the online version). Take the time to think deeply and engage in wide-ranging conversations about the world you want to see emerge in the next 24 months. Consult with friends and family. Make it a staff and team activity. This is a given: Pandemic measures will be with us now in some way for up to 18 months and this experience will change the world irrevocably. Everything we do now and moving forward is based on assumptions we make about the world, what and who we are, what and who will be here for us, what systems we can rely on and what systems have failed us. Our assumptions need a reset, so a few questions to ask: What role does/should government have? What are/should be its priorities? What policies matter/should matter most? How will enterprises and communities change/should change? As feminist entrepreneurs, we must ask ourselves this: How relevant is my enterprise and creative work in light of the change I want to see? Is my lifestyle in step with emerging realities and opportunities? What inner work do I need to do in order to figure out how to engage with new opportunities and ways to serve?  We don’t have to finish this work in a week. In fact, we can’t. So let’s put time into creating a new vision board for our world, enterprises and ourselves. Read visionary fiction to open your mind to possibilities. Step back from the process. And repeat the process.
2. Take action because activism matters, now more than ever: With the pandemic, critical issues did not suddenly disappear overnight. Climate change, Indigenous rights, the rise of hate, racism, ageism and weakening democracy in many parts of the world will, in fact, be more amplified by this crisis. We need to continue fighting for a world in which all can flourish. As feminists, we need to be vigilant — to speak loud and clear — to ensure that the specific needs of womxn and other marginalized communities are appropriately addressed in government aid packages. They must apply a gender and social-justice lens — rigorously. If you don’t have time for activism, support organizations whose mission is to advocate on your behalf. The Canadian Women’s Foundation and the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce are just two of many (and yes, LiisBeth too). Go ahead and sign one of the many important petitions going around, but they come and go. We are better off strengthening organizations who will advocate for us over the long haul.
3. Respect and value the dynamics and power of inter-independence: If you have never mapped out or “pod-mapped” your personal and enterprise ecosystem, now is a good time to do so. Pod-mapping is a term that arose out of specific transformational justice work but is now broadly relevant. Even if you are a sole-preneneur, you have clients, suppliers, professionals, colleagues and numerous others who make up your enterprise pod or web. Map them. Analyse them. Find ways to strengthen this ecosystem. Think about ways to lift all boats as we transition to a new world. Consider each action, as Harquail recommends, by asking these three questions: “Who might benefit? Who might be hurt? Who might be left out?” Or, using management guru Mary Parker Follet’s framework, ask “who do I have power over, where do I power under, and where can I exert power with.” If you have power (and we all do, to a degree) use it fairly and in ways that serves many rather than one or a few. Remember, this moment will change but people have long memories.
4) Spark generativity: The world has just cracked open, and paused in many ways! What a tremendous time to apply your imagination, experiment and play. Get out the paints. Make art. Journal. Connect with strangers (at a socially distant space!). Join a new think group such as LiisBeth’s Feminist Enterprise Commons. Create a group by inviting 10 people from your social media lists you have never met but always wanted to get to know. Get creative in how you engage online. Interact in new ways. Take chances. Play music together or share poetry. All this can lead to uncovering new opportunities, connections, interesting solutions and recovery ideas. For example, Catherine Chan, founder of Fit-In, was inspired by conversations she had on social media and subsequently pulled an all-nighter to come up with a new service for her customers — a live feed during business hours that keeps kids engaged while parents work at home.
LiisBeth advisory board member Valerie Fox now actively looks for international futuristic think tank conversations and Zoom talks that have popped up online. “I didn’t have time for this before. I just love what I am hearing and learning—it gets me outside of my bubble.”
Creating new conversations and tapping into communities you don’t normally hang out will generate a sense of greater belonging and maybe even the “AHA” you need in your life right now.
5) Focus on Pleasure: In her prescient book Pleasure Activism, adrienne maree brown writes “I touch my own skin, and it tells me that before there was any harm, there was a miracle.” Allowing ourselves to feel pleasure, intimacy, desire, and lead erotically powered lives — even in times of pain — is a precondition towards becoming truly liberated from oppressive narratives. It will break open what limited our imagination, will lead us to live in right relationship with our full personal and collective potential. Now is the time to explore our desires as living, sensual beings capable of accessing incredible relational, creative and communal power. Don’t worry, shelves will get stocked with toilet paper. Free your mind to connect with long-forgotten or new sources of joy. Surrender. Adapt.
Afterall, what is a better world, if not one that capable of generating danceable levels of joy.


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Related Reading
https://www.liisbeth.com/2019/10/29/how-can-we-collectively-build-a-better-future-for-all/
https://www.liisbeth.com/2020/03/13/how-do-we-remake-the-world/