Growing Together: A Q&A with our new Director of Learning and Innovation

By Sayra Pinto, Thousand Currents Learning and Innovation Director

Why did you want to work for Thousand Currents? What made you apply to the organization?
I am delighted and humbled to become a part of the Thousand Currents’ team as the new Director of Learning and Innovation. I am very moved by Thousand Currents’ generosity in acknowledging and embracing my personhood and allowing me the privilege to bring my voice, skills, and experience to the task of engaging its board, staff, partners, collaborators, and donors in the process of learning, synthesizing and inventing.

A young Sayra with her uncle Carlos Mayorga at the end of a jungle excursions in the northern coast of Honduras in the early 1990s.

Over the past year and a half, I have served as a consultant for Thousand Currents leading the development of the new Theory of Change as well as the next iteration of the Thousand Currents Academy, the Academy for Collaborative Philanthropic Leadership. I have been deeply impressed by Thousand Currents’ board of directors, Solomé Lemma’s leadership, and most importantly for me, the work of the Thousand Currents partners throughout the Global South. I can think of no better way to do what is called for in this historical moment than serve to support Thousand Currents’ vision.

What will be your new role at Thousand Currents?
As part of this new role, I will be collaborating with others on staff and organizations to lead several aspects of Thousand Currents that need to be expanded or created. Among these are:

  1. Updating Thousand Currents’ organizational strategies as part of the Theory of Change Process and developing the new iteration of Thousand Currents’ Learning and Evaluation Process
  2. Leading the Thousand Currents Academy offerings and supporting other Thousand Currents’ innovations development processes
  3. Sharing our learning through engagement in philanthropic consulting

What gifts do you hope to share in your new role?
I bring with me the capacity to truly accept my past long enough to meet each moment for the possible future it presents—to move into this possibility and work to make it come true—as a strength. This is how someone like me surfaces in an unlikely place such as philanthropy with an open mind, heart, and hand offering the generous, joyful spirit that makes my people capable of enduring centuries of struggle for the preservation of humanity.

Sayra’s first march with other indigenous queer activists in 1997, holding the sign to the right of the picture.

What traditions, rituals, philosophies, or histories inform your work?
Having spent my childhood in Honduras in the 1970s, I learned about the sacrifices the Honduran people have made since July 30th, 1503, when Columbus arrived on the Honduran shores to manufacture fantastical stories of a “new” world, despite the fact that we were already autonomous, sovereign, and abundant peoples. The pervasive narrative of colonization, genocide and resitance cemented the ethos of community, caring, and the struggle to change systems for me.

Louis Armstrong’s legacy of tapping into freedom through creativity shaped me as well as I learned to speak English in New Orleans when I first arrived in the United States. I became a youth organizer as a teen and continued to work and build young immigrant leaders throughout my 20s in Greater Boston.

I have also been most definitely influenced by the embrace and continued love of native people of this land. In particular, members of the Haudenosaunee, Wampanoag, Tlingit, and Cherokee nations. I have been blessed by the generosity of teachers and friends who have swaddled me with their love. Among these: John Mohawk, Chandra Maracle, Bhanu Kapil, Harold Gatensby, Winnie Hernandez-Gallegos, Peter Senge, Toni Gregory, Dalila Hyry-Dermith, an unsung hero of those Honduran people, committed to the struggle our partners continue to wage in Central America, and my beloved partner, Rajasvini Bhansali.

What is your vision or hope for the communities you work with and the work you’re doing?
Given who I am, I believe that we must not let our ways of thinking get in the way of our embodiment of our power. We must not let our guilt and shame get in the way of the clean and clear practice of solidarity. We must not let our fear prevent the enactment of nimble systems through which we can move the money now. I believe that the Thousand Currents community must continue to courageously and unapologetically wield its power to further support the grassroots movements throughout the Global South that stand as the last line of defense for the planet and for all of us. We are needed and we have to move money now. We must have our strength be felt now.

My best hope is to bring this indomitable, hopeful spirit to everything that touches our leadership development and learning processes at Thousand Currents.

Hanging out with the next generation of powerful women in her family, Ilka Mayorga and Corina Pinto.

What do you do when you are not working at Thousand Currents?
I am usually taking care of family and home, puttering in the garage and the garden and hosting community at our home. I go back to Massachusetts and North Carolina to see family and friends and support women of color doing amazing work in both states; in Massachusetts with the Massachusetts Women of Color Network and in North Carolina with proto-organizations developing quickly with the recent growing Mexican and Central American immigrant communities. I also continue to collaborate in the building of the University of Vermont’s Master’s in Leadership for Sustainability Program and its nascent Crossroads Leadership Lab. I occasionally hold circle processes when called for. And in my artist life, I write and occasionally sit on art-related dialogues when I am asked to do so by Bhanu Kapil.

 

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