Experiential Capital: The Value of Experience

by | Oct 21, 2022 | ShiftHappens

This week in Greenhouse, our community came together to explore the idea of Experiential Capital; in other words, the perspectives and knowledge gained from firsthand experiences. In this form of capital, our cohort of grassroots volunteer leaders is undeniably wealthy, bringing an abundance of accumulated lived experience that meaningfully informs the work they do in the world. 

It is this lived experience that makes grassroots work so enduring and impactful; those closest to a challenge are best positioned to understand the most effective potential solutions- in all their nuanced complexity. 

Even still, work framed through a lens of lived experience will still encounter challenges, and the group reflected thoughtfully on the lessons learned through those experiences that may not have played out in the ways in which they had initially imagined. Participants shared stories of tackling complex social problems and the incorrect assumptions, poor community responses, and other hurdles that they overcame along the way. Even these perceived failures, or “successes-in-progress” as one participant put it, were unique learning experiences that in some cases were extremely valuable in iterating better solutions. 

We talked together about the relationship between experience and impact, asking profound questions such as “What difference does our work make in the world, and how do we know?” In small groups, we talked about narrative framing, impact measurement theories, and ways in which we can better capture, illuminate, and articulate the broader systemic impact of social change work. 

In our Harvest Call, we continued the discussion around impact and incorporated “The Five Whys”. Often, the whys are a powerful tool for exploring an issue in an effort to understand its root cause and/or solution. However, we chose to use this tool to deepen our understanding of the impact of each individual changemaker’s work; what our grassroots leaders discovered was an inspiration.

Kennedy, one of our participants, summed it up perfectly when he said, “Writing down the whys looks like creating a “Theory of Change”. They look like building blocks or KPIs that lead to a North Star.”

Once they had examined their individual impact and why, participants came together in small groups and were given an activity.  The groups were invited to explore how they might assess impact in a situation that was outside of their project focus – though a few of the participants had experience with the scenario in the activity. Together, they discovered that the diversity of their perspectives and experiences combined with a clear understanding of what impact looks like within their work allowed them to develop innovative strategies for overall impact assessment. As these changemakers continue to dive into these topics and apply their knowledge to their work, they are – as one participant stated – “changing the future.”

Next week is our final week of this cohort of Greenhouse, and we are excited to welcome The Pollination Project co-founder Ari Nessel to share his perspective on Spiritual Capital. Join us for the community call on Tuesday, October 25th at 10am EST for a Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83514121449?pwd=QmVtQ2RuTngyMXV1UjBHeDlBUVFnZz09.

About Greenhouse

An outreach of The Pollination Project, Greenhouse is designed to expand the consciousness of participants in ways that promote connection, community, resilience, and collaboration for grassroots changemakers around the world.

When we think of development in a non-profit context, often we think only of ways to invite more financial capital into our organizations. But what if other forms of wealth exist that have the opportunity to catalyze our work in ways that strengthen not only our missions, but also our individual capacity to see those missions through? Reflecting our belief that social change requires inner transformation, together we will map the nonprofit ecosystem in ways that explore social capital, material capital, cultural capital, experiential capital, spiritual capital, as well as financial capital.


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