Reflections from the Greenhouse

by | Oct 7, 2022 | ShiftHappens

“Nothing for us without us.” 

This basic but powerful idea was the underlying foundation behind this week’s Greenhouse sessions, which explored the value of cultural capital along the path of service. 

Participants talked about the beliefs, assumptions, expectations, biases, and norms that we carry with us each day, many of which are unconscious. Through self-reflection, we can begin to understand which of these beliefs we agree with, and which inherited assumptions may be limiting our ability to connect with and serve the communities we care about. 

Marie-Claire, one of the Greenhouse participants, illustrated this by sharing stories about the socio-cultural norms and perceptions of menstruation between two generations of women in rural Mendakwe, a small village in the northwest region of Cameroon. 

Vedastus, another Greenhouse member, shared stories about differences in the cultural norms of the Masai tribe and Tanzanian societies, and how he approached them. As he worked together with his cohort members, he said, “I am very happy to be in this group and I hope that when I finish this training, I will have a better understanding of how to help my community and the world in general.”

In small breakout rooms, participants shared the ways that they work to understand the cultural context behind their social impact projects. Some of the ideas that emerged included: 

  • Deeply listening to all constituents who are impacted by the social problem at play, and involving those you seek to serve in the development of your solutions; 
  • Prioritizing work that comes from deep connection to the community, and/or whose leaders have lived experience that is aligned; 
  • Designing for systemic change rather than creating solutions that are a bandaid for a deeper, unidentified issue; 
  • Allowing for true collaboration such that the entire community owns the process, solutions, and impact. 

Later in the week, the group participated in some fun lateral thinking puzzles, which are unique tools to help develop alternate ways of thinking. (Here are a few examples if you’d like to try this yourself!) 

Lastly, the conversation turned to next week, when we will begin to explore financial capital. The group talked about their own culture’s beliefs and attitudes around money, and began to think about how these beliefs and attitudes might impact the way that each person thinks about fundraising. 

It is through the sharing of stories and the exploration of culture that we develop a deeper appreciation and understanding for one another’s cultures. When we understand and celebrate our own culture we are not only able to share it with others, we are more open to learning of others cultures and celebrating them as well. A shared cultural understanding allows us to create lasting change and a more compassionate world. 

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.