A big week

It’s been one of those weeks that I want to capture for posterity. So that once I have a chance for some sleep, distance, reflection, and clarity, I can return and say, “Wow, that was the culmination of so much work over the past few years.”

Yesterday, my organization launched its new brand:

This…this represents two years of vision, of partnership, of teamwork, of listening and organizing and driving and responding all at once. Probably the most important undertaking of my career so far.

So what does it take to lead a 30-year-old organization to change its name and brand to reflect its values and its future on its external face? Brave leaders, past and present. Committed partners, who freely share ideas and feedback. Beloved community, who see themselves in what you create. Darn it, I’m so proud that I work at Thousand Currents!

I explain more about our name change in The Guardian Global Development Professionals Network, ‘International development’ is a loaded term. It’s time for a rethink.

“What hasn’t changed in 30 years is that the people living and working closest to these problems are the source of the solutions. Currents, like visionary grassroots leaders and locally-led solutions, have force and direction and are part of a moving, interdependent global picture.”

I shared this with my former Georgetown students, who co-created with me The Development Element: Guidelines for the future of communicating about the end of global poverty. What we aspire to at Thousand Currents is to apply this in all of our external-facing work. I continue to be schooled by my colleagues and our partners, and that learning is exciting. Shifting narratives is vital, hard, constantly humbling work.

And if you’re having a good week, reading internet comments on a newspaper’s website is all you’ll need to do to humble yourself – ha!

Speaking of humility, I also share on Medium’s The Development Set how U.S. exceptionalism may hinder activists’ ability to see learning opportunities from people around the world who have been resisting autocratic regimes for years, in some cases, generations:

“The U.S. resistance does not need to reinvent the wheel. It needs to remain humble and prioritize learning and cooperation across organizations, movements, and issues. Grassroots leaders…are currents of change on all continents, teaching us what it means to lose, mourn, and then organize in new powerful forms to win for food sovereignty and climate justice; teaching us that these steps backwards are painful and historical, and that we must become even more courageous and creative for the struggle ahead.”

And just in case this wasn’t a big enough week…

Next Monday, May 8th, at The New School’s Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy, we officially launch our book, Smart Risks: How small grants are helping to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, which really is a culmination of five years work!

Erica Kohl-Arenas, author of The Self-Help Myth: How philanthropy fails to alleviate poverty, is graciously hosting us and we’re so excited! New Yorkers, kindly RSVP here.


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