In recognizing all of the incredible women (and men) who work tirelessly every day on the issue of gender parity, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on a phrase that I heard in meditation almost three years ago - “Currency of Mind”. I practice meditation to become clearer in every decision in life, but particularly with regard to Rockflower. At the time I was unsure exactly what this meant, but had a feeling that it was to encourage me to go deeper into the research and development of crafting what we hoped would be a fund of collective action and implementation.
At Rockflower, we believe in the power of locally-based and, in most cases, women-led Grassroots Women's Organizations (GWOs). Finding ways to reach out and connect with these organizations has always been an important part of Rockflower’s mission. We regularly receive messages from all over the world, seeking help, advice, money or just an opportunity to share a story.
This idea of connecting with communities of women, regardless of their location, or what the connection appears to bring, is paramount if we are to achieve real and substantive change. Marissa Wesely and Dina Dublon in their essay “Empowering Women at the Grassroots” for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2015, underscore the value of treating these communities of women as the key, and not simply a cog, in the move towards women’s economic empowerment. Wesley and Dublon address their article to corporate leaders, but it applies at all levels of funding, particularly philanthropic.
Whilst Rockflower continues to pursue both large and small investment to fund projects around the world, an unexpected consequence of these direct connections with the “other end of the funding chain”, has proved to us that mind motivates and endures more often than money. The true meaning of “Currency of Mind” lies in an understanding of the undeniable power of connection and the immeasurable value of believing in something not yet seen - in other words making a difference by being willing to do things differently, and even when you don’t know why.
Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, Secretary General of Civicus: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, describes this mindset as going "beyond the question of 'development impact'...to how prepared donors and others are to disrupt the current development model.” Mr. Sriskandarajah goes on to say that sustainable development is undermined when donors shy away from “funding in a different way.”
“Currency of Mind” is all about “funding in a different way”, for example, investing in connections first and foremost, regardless of funding. By going where the need manifests, regardless of whether we have the money in hand, Rockflower has connected directly with ginger farmers in Uganda, sex trafficking advocates in India, and women’s health centers in Pakistan, to name just a few.
As each new connection appeared, we focused, more and more, on the quality of the connection, knowing that we, as well as our partners, want real, in depth connections that allow for continuing conversations and a dialogue of mutual respect and understanding. Through dialogue, we began to see unexpected ways to connect the needs of women and girls to local partnerships, thereby creating direct and measurable impact.
But then something truly unexpected happened. The pattern of need, in some cases, began to take on a pattern of cooperation and assistance. Here is where I believe the phrase “Currency of Mind” fulfills itself.
Through continuing connections with so many different people and organizations, even where the possibility of funding seemed far off or uncertain, we discovered people felt inspired and encouraged, just because we were willing to engage and believe in something, even where it had no tangible existence - at least not yet. We began to see that the power of connection, itself, brought a return on investment, even where cash was not immediately available, and in most cases, especially so. Where we focused on a “currency of mind” instead of just currency, we laid the groundwork for a community of trust and shared vision that eventually translated into measurable help.
Brendy from Zimbabwe, who wanted to be a nurse, but who had no formal education and could not determine her best course of action, contacted Rockflower, to inquire about the possibilities of midwife training. By coincidence, we were also in conversation with Mary in Tanzania, who runs a not for profit, working on peace and development within her community. Mary is also a registered nurse, who had studied in the United States. When I mentioned Brendy, during one of our conversations, Mary offered her assistance as a mentor and guide. A connection was made, and an exchange of ideas, and of course, hope and love, ensued.
In India we have been working with Mangesh, who wants to train young women to better deal with sexual harassment at university and work. Very soon, we will connect him with Dhara, who has had first hand knowledge of these experiences and wants to be part of the solution.
In Pakistan, an offer of pro bono help from a young journalist, Ammarah, provided us with an opportunity to connect her with Mr. Siddique in the province of AJ&K in northern Pakistan, an area close to my heart, having spent time there after the 2005 Pakistan earthquake. The result, will be an in-depth account of the enormous value a Rockflower funded Maternal Health Care center proved to be for the women of the rural Chiran village through the winter months.
In a world focussed heavily on dollars and data - both of which we certainly know to be critical - connections such as these, have proven to be invaluable as well as inspirational. Relationships were created and sometimes by just being at the other end of an email, or a Skype call saying “Don’t worry, I’m still working on this.” You can do a lot with only a currency of mind. If you believe the results will come and you create the structure around it, when the money comes, everything is set like a glorious meal at a table, simply waiting to be eaten.
As we come together on International Women’s Day to celebrate the gains made on behalf of women and girls everywhere, and to acknowledge how much more is still to be done, it’s important to recognize the power of shared vision and the immutable value of connection.
By Tine Ward, Rockflower Founder & CEO