Blog : Sustainability

Feminist business principles

Feminist business principles

I’d like to share these 12 feminist business principles which I wholeheartedly subscribe to and which I think are an important key to emerging out of the mess humanity is currently in.

They were put together by Jennifer Armbrust, founder of organisation Sister that teaches about the feminine economy. Running a company for the past two years has given me ample opportunity for testing and practicing these principles. I have personally found this way of doing business to be completely in tune with my natural way of doing things when I manage to forget the pressures of the very un-feminist business world that currently shouts out very loudly around me. I keep returning to them as a kind of 12 commandments gently guiding my way.

Here they are:

12 PRINCIPLES FOR
PROTOTYPING A FEMINIST BUSINESS
1. You have a body. 
2. You are connected to the earth, the plants and all living beings. 
3. Integrate!
4. Institutionalize empathy: build frameworks that support feelings. 
5. Embody your values. 
6. Reclaim happiness: make new definitions of success. 
7. Consider everything an experiment. 
8. Free yourself from the myth of the meritocracy. 
9. Tell the truth. 
10. Cultivate abundance consciousness. 
11. A business can be a healing for yourself & others. 
12. A business can be a model for a new social & economic order.

I really recommend the Sister website as a great source for anyone looking to create a business or organisation that embodies feminist wisdom.

“Brag about your escape”

“Brag about your escape”

This kind of started while I was at The Mill in Birkirkara earlier today, enjoying the last hour of Maxine C Attard‘s excellent In Between Obliterations. Talk turned to feelings of helplessness in actually making some kind of change within the situations we find unacceptable around us. For me this means things like the current full-speed-ahead economic growth at the expense of reasonable consideration to actual longterm survival, let alone wellbeing. It means people being completely resigned to the idea that money opens up all avenues. It means the prevailing culture of ‘keep your head down, act humble and don’t you dare criticise in public’.

After a fair few rounds of getting rants off our chests we kind of agreed that the simple acts of doing your own thing (nurturing what you find it meaningful to create) and being vocal about your thoughts, ways of doing things, ideas, at the very least have the effects of highlighting a divergence from the status quo.

Which really reminds me of Toko-Pa Turner’s Black Sheep Gospel, an extract from her most excellent book Belonging and an ongoing source of encouragement for me.

1. Give up your vows of silence which only serve to protect the old and the stale.

2. Unwind your vigilance, soften your belly, open your jaw and speak the truth you long to hear.

3. Be the champion of your right to be here.

4. Know that it is you who must first accept your rejected qualities, adopting them with the totality of your love and commitment. Aspire to let them never feel outside of love again.

5. Venerate your too-muchness with an ever-renewing vow to become increasingly weird and eccentric.

6. Send out your signals of originality with frequency and constancy, honouring whatever small trickle of response you may get until it becomes a momentum.

7. Notice your helpers and not your unbelievers.

8. Remember that your offering needs no explanation. It is its own explanation.

9. Go it alone until you are alone with others. Support each other without hesitation.

10. Become a crack in the network that undermines the great towers of Establishment.

11. Make your life a wayfinding, proof that we can live outside the usual grooves.

12. Brag about your escape.

13. Send your missives into the network to be reproduced. Let your symbols be adopted and adapted and transmitted broadly into the new culture we’re building together.

——–

About Maxine Attard’s exhibition In Between Obliterations that closed today:

(from the exhibition event page on Facebook)

‘In Between Obliterations’ is an exhibition of six works each of which contains debris collected from a different building site where in the majority of cases, an old building was demolished and a new one raised in its place. Each work is titled after the site from where the debris has been collected. The debris is then organised in a grid and enclosed within a glass and wood frame.

Notes

– …

– They were there for a long time, even before I was here, but now they are almost all gone. The buildings. The new ones have replaced the old. They were all within walking distance from my house and they were there for decades.

– Now, what is left are dust, fragments and my memory of them, which will get distorted and fade away with time… I am already starting to forget the details.

– This is not about nostalgia.

– The old buildings were touched by people who passed through them and by them. I have occasionally encountered these people in the past, but the buildings have witnessed a lot more than I have. They have seen, heard and smelt the entire lives of the people who lived in them. And I have not experienced these entire lives. I only have witnessed bits and pieces. And I want to know more. These people have brought me into being and I grew because of them. These lives have formed my identity and collectively, that of a community, a society. The buildings were all that was left of these lives.

– My seeing and touching these buildings were my only connection to the ones that have seen and touched them before me.

– The debris that is there now and which is getting crushed by the new, may contain some ‘touched’ particles and fragments although some bits and pieces seem to have been brought in by the new building already. The new building disregards the old. The purpose of the new seems different because it looks agitated and frantic.

– …

Maxine Attard

On activism, belonging and shades of grey

On activism, belonging and shades of grey

Some coping strategies for a very confused Malta

Never have I felt a bigger need to ‘do something’, than in these last few weeks since the horrible assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. I’ve been struggling quite heavily with the state of the country for the last few months, frustrated particularly with our national fear of open criticism and real public debate about the things holding us backward.

I work within the arts sector, one that is traditionally rebellious, free thinking, a leader in successfully pushing for change. Yet I’m frustrated with the close ties art has to the public sector where the vast majority of artists in Malta somehow depend on the government for their daily bread. Any activism within the arts comes at great personal courage and the knowledge that you will be seen and treated like a traitor by the institution you work for and all its networks. We expect people to be chastised for questioning, for speaking out, for challenging the status quo, and they often are. Caring for jobs became the holy grail of artists grateful for being able to live off their craft, never mind selling their soul in return.

I expect that the situation is similar in other sectors given that this country is so tiny that everyone knows everyone and we tend to react to opinions voiced in public with attacks on the person voicing them rather than on the arguments put forward.

The pattern often goes like this: person writes article / makes public comment.

If person is foreign we tell them to go back to their country since if they chose to come to Malta, they must now love all its flaws and not in any circumstances talk about them or try to change them.

If person is local, we accuse them of being pl or pn supporters, because of course affiliation with a party immediately invalidates the person’s capacity to think freely. They are now simply puppets furthering the party agenda, unable to make their own personal judgement on any issue. And don’t get me wrong, many are just that.

As humans, we want to belong. We can sense the strength of the group and the protection being part of a crowd affords. We want to be part of something bigger than us.

Here in Malta we cling to our clans with fervour. Families, band clubs, festas, the church, political parties. We’re used to public shows of unity and standing up for those within the clan without question. Upset one of ours and our inner mama bear pounces. Never mind what we think about the argument.

The thing is though, many of us are feeling the cracks in this process and struggling with them. We’re looking around for our clan, for our people, our leaders, our heroes and there are none. We long for a virtuous strong leader to get us out of this mess, we long for impartial orators who can help us make sense of the mud we’re living in, yet we reject everyone who dares enter the field. And many times for seemingly good reason. Dig for 5 minutes and find a scandal. A political affiliation, a link with ‘the enemy’, a history of lack of honesty, a public flop, flaws big and apparent that take centre stage and invalidate every argument.

Suddenly there are no heroes to look up to. No person we can hand over our thinking capacities to and get on with our crazy busy lives. Everyone is a shade of grey. Some darker than others but none without a tint of some kind.

We feel we’re doomed.
How can we cope?

To be honest my most automatic reaction is to shut it all out. I can’t cope with the contradictions, I feel like I can’t possibly trust anyone and I know that everything I say or do is being watched by a mob ready to point out my flaws and motivations. And of course everything gets recorded in the little black book that will at some point come out to haunt me. The easiest thing to do is to sit at home and avoid the news. It’s all fake anyway and we’re all doomed. Or destined for glory, depending on your viewpoint.

Yet there’s a bubbling inside me that I cannot shut out. A frustration, an itch I can’t reach. A mountain of naivety that refuses to budge. A sense of possibility that keeps singing resolutely. And every day I see signs of other people who hear the same song. I see people following their values despite the difficulty, I see people being brave and truthful even when attacked, I see that every shade of grey is made up of white and black in varying degrees and I cannot ignore the good things that are inside the mayhem. Which of course brings me to a state to confusion over which direction I’m supposed to be throwing rotten tomatoes at.

The following are some strategies that seem to help the situation:

Sticking with discomfort.
When frustration bubbles, breathing and giving yourself time to feel out your own biases to the situation rather than running off. Some things are so entrenched they need serious effort to overcome. Like our national resistance to activism. Our inability to protest. Our need to discredit the speaker before the argument. What if we choose to act differently? What would that feel like?

Building open, inclusive communities.
We’re at a place where our sense of belonging feels homeless. We see serious cracks in practically every organisation. We see and feel more struggle in doing the things that we took fore granted a few years ago. Like drive to work. Or be able to afford a house whether rented or bought. Or be able to make a living out of things that don’t make us feel dead inside. This is a time to stick together. This is a time to collaborate, this is a time to have conversations over how we want to live and work on making that happen. This is a time to come outside of our work-home comfort zone to do the things that feel important to us. To examine what strategies help us live better, help us be more ourselves, help us engage with those around us to be able to see what resources we have available and make better use of them between us. How we can better support each other. How we can give our sense of belonging a meaningful home. This is a time to get off our phones and hang out in the streets more. This is a time to fully support good initiatives, even if we feel we’re different from the people who started them. By joining and participating we can create something better.

Embracing not knowing.
Let’s face it, we’re in crisis. Our water resources are dwindling as is our ability to produce local food. Our economy is based on dubious practices, many of which rape the little resources we have available at the fastest pace possible with zero thought about long term consequences. We’re losing our ability to provide affordable housing for ourselves. Our institutions are dinosaurs that have no idea how to cope with the fast changing pace of things. Our politics are tribal and all over the place. Our law enforcement is a joke. Let’s all accept that things are not pretty at the moment and that we mostly don’t have solutions. Or at least not the fast simple ones we all crave. They are just not there. The more we get comfortable with not knowing, the more we can openly speak about things as they are rather than feel the need to sugar coat them because we’re afraid of admitting we don’t have a solid plan. Guess what? No one does. The whole world is in the same boat and we’re all trying to swim through murky waters. Mostly obstinately pretending we can see the way or worse still not realising that our navigation tools are just mirrors looking backwards that are absolutely no use now. Let’s all accept that we have no idea where we’re going even if we can feel that things can and should be different, better.

Encouraging courage.
Rather than throw things at whoever dares speak out, let’s listen and engage truthfully. Let’s give each other our ears. Let’s lend each other the platforms we’ve built to make ourselves heard. Let’s build a culture that encourages people to speak out truthfully. Let’s create space for that in every place we have an influence on whether it’s at home, school, work, social media, public life. We must have patience. People need time and encouragement to find their voice, sometimes we will be met with silence, sometimes with confused voices. Let’s leave space for that anyway and have conversations that help focus, question, improve our arguments. Let’s collaborate publicly together. Let’s train ourselves in the art of accepting criticism publicly, of making criticism publicly, of separating the idea from the person and accepting that ideas change, transform, expand, contract and migrate to unexpected lands. Let’s challenge each other to bring out our best.

Taking time out.
These are testing times and we need our wits on. The solutions we need are multifaceted, systems oriented, needing overviews and big picture approaches. We need to find ways to drop the barriers to collaboration and connection. The more we exhaust ourselves in the hamster wheel, the less we can work together to build a new solar powered structure that runs without the need for us to spend all our time struggling with it. Walk, read, stare, do nothing. Be resolute in your decision to make space for yourself. Identify the practices that slow time down for you and be ruthless in making sure you make time for them. Play, dance, sing, paint, sleep by the sea in the sun, do the things that make you feel alive, for this is the most important thing you came here for. The next piece of the puzzle will emerge when you let it.

Valletta old girl, we’re killing you.

Valletta old girl, we’re killing you.

This morning I came across this article from two years ago (don’t ask my why the photo is there, perhaps Valletta’s face is changing so much it’s now not Valletta anymore). It speaks of rents driving out people who can actually afford to live here, the loss of hawkers and small shops that make the city a pleasant place to live in, not to mention breathe life into the stately streets. A quote by Malta’s then prime minister, “The profit motive must not become the predominant one: look at Sliema, Dr Gonzi said, with its seafront all taken over by the profit motive.”
 
Two years down the line the situation is many times worse. Every day more tiny rooms get a fancy renovation including a colourful door and a quaint name and a listing on AirBnB. Every day more of the old shops disappear making way for character-less chains and imagination-free tourist products.
 
The soundscape is now 70% construction noises, 20% traffic and 10% everything else. The pigeons still rule the overground, the cats and cockroaches compete for the underground kingdom that has not yet been turned into overpriced weekend accommodation. The rubbish still piles up in the corners day in day out.
 
Once in a while I encounter some signs of life. Some signs of humans who are interested in more than just money. Humans who own property that they prefer to rent out to those who will actually be living there (shock, shock, horror, horror!). Shops that seem to want to do things ethically and creatively. Artists still managing to exist within the madness of the old city. People going about their daily business as if none of this madness even exists.
 
Most days though, I walk the streets trying to ignore the development notices on every second or third door because I cannot bear to see another pool on the roof, boutique hotel or residence to offices conversion happening. Sometimes I complain about it to whoever might be inclined to listen but to be honest I’m even tired of my own rants, void of some sort of solution as they are. 

Can we not, for once, decide that perhaps we have enough?

That perhaps we can actually afford to leave a portion of that block of flats available to those with a lower income who will contribute to the place feeling like home rather than 3 sets of tourists rolling in luggage every week? That perhaps it would be beneficial to all if we look around to make sure that we manage to keep the things that make the city a good place to live in? The little food shops, the ironmongers (possibly the only non-endangered species thanks to all the construction going on), the workshops with people making and repairing things often with their shutters open, the random bazaars, the tea and pastizzi shops, the old stationeries.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should press the stop button on time or change. That never works. But neither does this do-nothing approach that lets market forces decide which things die and which live. Yes, in 50 years time perhaps people will realise that a museum city is not really that interesting and the bubble will burst. Perhaps Valletta will just become another Venice, a sinking relic in the midst of throngs of day-trippers on the hunt for cheesy souvenirs. Perhaps we’re already practically there.

Or perhaps we can use the experience of countless other cities and do something about that which is inevitable unless we drastically change course. It’s not like we don’t have clear examples of what gentrification does to cities without even glancing at the many local studies conducted. Can we possibly not create something different for ourselves? Are we actually so incredibly unimaginative as to simply plod along known roads to mediocrity?

In a small island like this one, where it’s practically impossible to avoid eventually swimming in the sewage you have yourself thrown out, can we not actually work together to create something we actually want? Valletta is a city born out of a collective effort of some of the best local and foreign minds and purses of the time. A city planned out meticulously before it was built. Surely over 400 years later we at least owe the old girl some thought over what will make her once again truly alive rather than a polished shell for a rotting interior fabric.

Endnote:

And in case you’re wondering what you yourself, tiny person can do, there’s plenty.

If you own property, consider capping the rent to what you feel is enough, whatever that means for you not the estate agent. Consider renting to people who will live in the city and make it better.

If you’re renting, speak out about unacceptable prices for tiny dark rooms. Create a relationship with your landlord.

If you’re visiting, stop by one of the small shops or peer into the workshops. Wander beyond Republic Street.

Have conversations with tourists, locals, builders, garbage collectors, bar owners, developers, share a cup of coffee with a stranger. You never know what new realities you might learn about.

Read some of the development notices and decide whether they are helping create a more liveable city. Act on those thoughts by contacting the Planning Authority or even searching out the owner and having a good old conversation where you might agree to disagree.

If you’re an architect dare to give the feedback that’s on the tip of your tongue about how to make a better living space and why it’s not ok to turn every square metre into tourist accommodation. Dare to have standards for yourself.

If you live here, get some plants going, take the garbage out at the right time, speak to your neighbours and see if they are ok even if they seem grouchy.

Seek out the artists and support them, they make the place better for everyone.

If you’re in a position to influence even small things, use it well. Have that conversation, check that situation out, do your homework and stand up for what you feel is right instead of repeating the same old excuses everyone is tired of. You can actually do better.

We can all actually do a lot better.

Putting fear in the backseat

Putting fear in the backseat

Yasmin De Giorgio’s paths of courage

One of the people I’m lucky to call my friends, Yasmin De Giorgio founder and CEO of The Grassy Hopper and Theobroma Cacao Collective, is a person who seems to have endless fountains of courage. Armed with an ambitious vision of a business that transforms clients, employees and the local environment through healthy, sustainable, locally-sourced food and unshakeable values, she has stepped up from her first vegetarian food truck to now also run three food outlets with a fourth opening soon. I sat down with her at the Gzira restaurant to pick her brains about her relationship with courage.

 

So, Yasmin, what is courage for you?

Courage is the ability to do something even though it scares you. Rather than seeing it as the absence of fear, I really identify with the way Elizabeth Gilbert talks about it,

“is fear in the driving seat or is he at the back?”

Courage is not letting fear drive.

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A day in the life: Piracanga

A day in the life: Piracanga

Inspired by Gigi Griffths’ (awesome travel blogger and person) day in the life posts I thought I’d pick out a Piracanga day and follow myself around with a camera and a notebook. Unfortunately I got a little excited about my day and the camera part evaporated in the evening.

So I’m currently staying at Piracanga, an eco village close to Itacare, Bahia, Brazil. I aim to write more about this place and how it works sometime soon but for the moment just picture a beautiful river and beach side village that works completely in tune with nature.

I would not say this is a typical day cause routine is not really the order of the day here and every day brings new discoveries, meetings and events. But here’s what happened two days ago:

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Baobba, Gustavo Tanaka and Open Business (Empresa Livre) in São Paulo

Baobba, Gustavo Tanaka and Open Business (Empresa Livre) in São Paulo

So here I was in São Paulo, fresh (?) from a 14hour flight all the way from Istanbul. All of 10,583 km if the board near Istanbul’s Basilica Cistern is to be believed.

I came here with very little knowledge of the place. I had not looked up the sights, I had not learnt any Portuguese and I was about to meet my lovely host, Carolina, for the first time after having had not more than 5 short conversations with her on Facebook. Yet it all felt strangely good.

My journey to Brazil feels like a bit of a journey into my own self. I came here because it kept coming up while meditating and I decided to just go with it without thinking too much (a process I often indulge in).

I specifically started with São Paulo to connect with Gustavo Tanaka and the group of people he was working with. I discovered (like Colombus and America) Gustavo through one of this articles that I really identified with. I have given up being employed, live a somewhat nomadic life, am embarking on the purposeful entrepreneur journey where business is a lot more than just a means of making money, eat a vegetarian and where possible organic diet (mostly because of the better impact that this has on the planet) and am increasingly opening up to spirituality. In short I am (almost) everything the article described.

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José Mujica’s philosophy of life

José Mujica’s philosophy of life

This interview from the Human film project, manages to be heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Never have I seen such insight, humility and no-nonsense attitude from a human, let alone a politician. A humble background and 7 years of solitary confinement should be politics pre-requisites.

Here are a few amazing quotes, watch the full video for more:

 

Either you’re happy with very little, free from all that extra luggage,

because you have happiness inside,

or you don’t get anywhere.

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Rubbish Is The New Black

Rubbish Is The New Black

My experience working on waste (or rather resources) management at Earth Garden 2015.

I guess you could say it all started last year when I was absolutely horrified at the post-Earth Garden (a 3-day festival in Malta) photos showing overflowing bins and rubbish all over the Ta’ Qali National Park. Appalled, I posted a rant on Facebook as I felt that this should never happen at a supposedly Earth-friendly festival.

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Lyf Shoes – Creating the digital cobbler

Lyf Shoes – Creating the digital cobbler

My favourite story coming out of Sustainable Brands London (a conference where big brands talk about their sustainability initiatives, network and learn from sustainability experts) was definitely Aly Khalifa and Lyf Shoes’ as it managed to combine several of my favourite things: shoes, sustainability and localisation together with an unlikely hero.

I was introduced (and intrigued) first by this tweet which came up on the #sb14london feed.

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