“Be kind, not nice”: Reflections from the 2015 Academy

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June 24, 2015

A guest post by Amika Dayal of the Tarsadia Foundation

Vini Bhansali and Amika Dayal at the IDEX Academy

I had the privilege of attending the 2015 Thousand Currents Academy in Santa Barbara, California. As a young philanthropist, I was surrounded by people with great life experiences and knowledge that opened my eyes to the possibilities that we – as individuals, a family, and a community – can contribute, in a more meaningful and impactful way.

It was a unique experience with the perfect balance of exploring our personal goals as well as our work in philanthropy. Over the five-day course, we had the opportunity to explore topics of self-determination, community determination, ecological resilience, solidarity, impact investing, balance, and more.

A topic that I felt especially intrigued by covered the power dynamic between a funder and a grantee. As a foundation we provide resources and support for various movements in communities in need, privileging us with the ability to make decisions that we think we are important. In reality, and in order to best serve those communities, we need to take a step back and really listen to the needs of the community. The space and relationships we create should be reciprocal in learning. This is only one example and a surface level summary of the problems we attempted to collectively address.

A few of my fellow participants were activists from the global south or grassroots practitioners who dedicate their life to the work we as philanthropists, only dip into. They are the ones who know the in’s-and-out’s of how to handle a local community in the Global South and a resource we should value.

At times, conversation was uncomfortable and heavily emotional, while at others it was thrilling and motivating. The entire experience and range of dialogue enabled us to better understand each other’s perspectives and share wisdom.

In order to be better philanthropists, we must notice the path we are taking and notice what other paths cross our own, rather than narrowing our views to an end goal. Everything we touch along the way has a ripple effect.

Thousand Currents helped me put into perspective how my personal and professional work connects to my work in philanthropy. I now feel like I have earned the title of an “Impact Influencer,” what we were called as participants of the Academy.