Our support for community challenges

COVID-19 Racial Injustice

Report date
May 2020
Learning Log

It’s 8 pm and I am exhausted on so many levels and it feels hard to sit and reflect in the world of COVID-19. There is a quote from Rumi that sits on a post-it on my laptop. The quote is “Out beyond the idea of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field, I will meet you there.” This has been a guiding thought for me in the last year as I wrestle with the concept of good and bad in leadership and impact and change-making. And so reading that, I am settled into the question of what I have learned about the “how” and the “why” of leadership in the last year. Learnings on the How: The usual transitions between work and home have disappeared in the last two months, and I only now realize the sanctity that those transitions were. As COVID-19 continues to upend our communities, our businesses and organizations, our homefronts, those unrecognized rituals trigger yearning. My four year old screams loudly as I am on a big strategic call, I cringe and then I drop my shoulders and embrace the moment to be my full self, to be authentic and vulnerable in all of this. Simply put I don’t pretend that I’ve got it all together, even to potential investors. The last two months have been chaotic and scary as I scramble with my teams to figure out how to keep things going and keep people safe. In all of this, it has been when I am vulnerable and real about the unknown that the way opens to figure it out and to see interesting new opportunities. My leadership journey over the last year has been grounded in the concept of “yes and.” And so I have a list of all the challenges to figure out on one side of my desk and a list called “weird upsides of COVID-19” on the other. I sit comfortably in this seeming paradox and I can feel in my gut that sitting in that paradox is the brave thing to do. This comfort stands out to me as a new comfort in myself, realized in the last year. I think I used to be scared of being positive and not respecting the trauma and harm in our world.
Throughout my Fellowship, I have considered doing a training called the “Warrior Training” which focuses on preparing leaders throughout the world to lead communities in light of the coming disasters related to Climate Change. My understanding is that it moves beyond thinking of how to change the current system and looks to how to build out of the ashes of the coming chaos. I decided not to do the training as I thought I was not ready fully go into the mindset of disaster, and yet I was surprised by how just taking the time to explore the Warrior training and reading the trainer’s book prepared me for the unknowns of COVID-19. I have always seen myself as extremely positive. Yet I have been surprised to recognize how comfortable I am with exploring the worst case scenario. It is in putting on the worse case scenario that I can feel the fear and see myself managing disaster. It is this visualization that makes me feel okay in the fear and then comfortable to find the “weird upsides.” This recognition grounds me more in being comfortable with saying “I don’t know” and to bring people into the hard questions. I think sometimes, in leadership, we have a tendency to protect others from the hard stuff because we want to protect people but we also don’t want people to see when we don’t know the answer because then they might not trust in our leadership. And yet, sharing in sitting in the unknown can have an exponential effect in creating resiliency. The response of our teams at Eureka during COVID-19 has been the fruition of that authentic leadership journey, that is by no means perfect or complete.
Learnings on the Why: I thought maybe COVID would halt the big questions about impact that I was thinking about in terms of my journey. I thought maybe the day to day of the now would change that. Finding an old paper from college about comparative revolutions made me realize that I have been obsessed for a long time with this question of how big scale change happens. As scary as this moment is, I am recognizing how comfortable I am with risk and that I need to lean into that asset to tackle this question of scale and now is the time to move into totally new concepts. There are whole new models of organization and financing to explore that could scale social enterprise impact greatly. And to explore these means risk and potential failure. My comfort with chaos and risk is something to lean into and yet how do I do this with compassion and core values and not go too far. The Rumi quote on my laptop seems to be the guide. “Out beyond the idea of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field, I will meet you there.” As I sit between many worlds and many perspectives as part of my leadership path and as I try on new risks and opportunities, this concept has been key. The first year of my fellowship felt at points not cohesive, and yet when I look back I realize that I was reconnecting with old or establishing new guideposts and bumpers to go to as I jump into the risks of the questions of scale. In connecting with old friends and mentors, I was reconnecting those roots and those guideposts to feel grounded to jump into the unknown. Even though the present moment feels so challenging, it also feels like the moment because everything is upended.