{discovery} Kota Expert Insights for Non-profits!

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I’m a proud Board Member of The Kota Alliance, a NYC-based 501c3 that aims to establish an incubator space for women’s non-profits in the City.

In late Spring 2015, Kota organized an event,  #KotaDayto offer opportunities for networking and co-learning — in essence, to showcase its core mission. The day featured keynotes by Dambisa Moyo,  Economist and Author;  Lopa Banerjee, Chief of the Civil Society Section at UNWomen; and Sheryl WuDunn, Author of A Path Appears. Some hundred participants also attended 14 interactive workshops, topics of which ranged from girls’ rights and women’s in conflict situations, to fundraising and legal issues.

I did a series of interviews with some inspiring and insightful workshop leaders, featured in these blog posts. Hope you find them useful for your non-profit or related work!

{teaching} To learn and to contribute.

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The 4th Generation – Digital Human Rights course for the Helsinki University just ended.

The course was for me a first, an exploration on human rights directly related to the media and communication technologies, as well as supported by communication and tech.

One of the core learning objectives was to empower theories — and students — to work in practice. The philosophy behind this goal was the urgent, real-life need for communication and research expertise in the field; as well as the desire to give the students an opportunity to contribute, to help, to inspire, to enhance the work of organizations working on these issues. Theories can make a difference as applied in to the world, a scholar can make a difference in contributing his/her skills.

To stress these points, the final project was a question of choice: Either a scholarly paper or a consultancy project of sorts. (See the final project instructions here.)

Below are some examples of the final projects.

(There were many more great submissions – applied and scholarly work – but these final projects are by nature public = live online.)

(My co-facilitator Rune Saugmann and I are in the process of writing a reflection of this experimental course, between theory and praxis.)

All-One, or, on Pitts, Maps, Cakes, and Soaps

After a blogging break, a little rant that has been brewing inside of me for the past weeks: A set of thoughts inspired by travel, dogs (of course), sustainable living, and finally, soap. I’ve been thinking of the road to knowing and self-awareness.

I used to do yoga. I used to do, and talk about, almost nothing but. My name was Minakshi. I was the happiest (and the most desperate) when practicing, both the physical and devotional paths. I had moments (and realize this is merely my personal sentiment) of divine clarity and intense belonging to the world. So I felt I was a bit more ‘aware’ of what life is about, than the average person.

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Then I adopted the Mu, kind of by accident or because of temporary insanity. All of a sudden I didn’t have so much time for practice and reflection. All of a sudden I had left my yoga community.

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But suddenly I begun to feel, like this blogger on HuffPo, about her adopted pit bull:

Even if you don’t believe in a God above, this bond will feel like it was magically planned many moons ago, where the stars aligned perfectly and placed you two exactly where you needed to be to find one another. And you will be so blessed.

Nobody tells you your heart will change. But it does. You judge less. You care more. You learn how to accept life a heck of a lot better than before. You learn how to forgive and how to let go and how to live in the moment.

They should have told me I was going to learn how to love better. That loving this Pit Bull was going to change my whole life.

Even now, that I’m about to write something quite skeptical about the text above, and about my own experience, I’m taken by emotion, knowing exactly what the blogger means.  And feeling like, yes, I know a bit more about life than those without a dog, particularly those without a pitt bull or two.

Recently, I’ve also felt that I’m wiser, more experienced, than a certain someone from my past. That someone contacted me, having found an Indian guru, and hence wanting to apologize about a long-forgotten conflict between us (signing off the message: “All in One”).

My thoughts: Oh, that’s sweet. And: Oh, I’ve been there. (I have — I’ve sent a couple of intense emails when I had started to practice yoga etc., wanting to clear old misunderstandings and share kindness.)

And yet, as David Sedaris wrote a few weeks back in the New Yorker,

As I grow older, I find that the people I know become crazy in one of two ways. The first is animal crazy—more specifically, dog crazy. They’re the ones who, when asked if they have children, are likely to answer, “A black lab and a sheltie-beagle mix named Tuckahoe.” Then they add—they always add—“They were rescues!”

The other way is  to become food-crazy (look at this New York Times Lemon Ricotta Bundt Cake I just made for the first time).

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But there have also been moments lately when I’ve felt I don’t know as much, I’m not as much aware as Mr X and Friend Y, or Ms. Z. That is when I’ve looked at the maps people share on Facebook about the countries they’ve visited. I haven’t seen anything compared to them!

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… Until someone noted (on Facebook as well) that those who tend to consume organic kale, wear recycled/vintage clothes, and clean their apartments with eco-friendly detergents, tend to have huge carbon footprints as they travel so much… And I felt a bit better, perhaps again more in the know.

What do we really know, then? What makes us wise about ourselves and the world? Who knows.

Or, maybe… When taking a bath today, I read once again the crazed rants of Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One soap bottles. (For those who don’t know, Dr. B was not only a maker of organic soaps but a very spiritual man — and he included all kinds of good messages in the label of his soaps.)

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One message went like this:

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves.

While not a unique message, today I read it as new. It made me think that self-realization, and world awareness is actually simple. While the negative of the web is true (if we destroy others, we destroy us), it goes in the other way, the way of caring, understanding, and knowledge. Whether we love a dog or downward-facing dog, a guru or bundt cakes, or distant shores we haven’t visited yet — that love we give to ourselves. When we feel we know something big and fundamental about the universe, that knowledge is, at the end, our knowledge about us.

We have these different triggers, maybe different at different times in life, that open us to see. Travel, or friends, or spiritual practice, or soap bottles.  All-One.