Practice Makes Progress: Lessons Learned at The 2023 Academy

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August 21, 2023

by Cindy del Rosario-Tapan, former Director of Communications

There’s an unmistakable feeling of serenity when one hears frogs trilling, crickets chirping, and sees horses, goats, and pigs roaming about peacefully. Such was the scene for this year’s Academy, where 26 of us from 13 organizations and 6 countries came together to learn how to practice solidarity with global movements.

We were here because Thousand Currents acted on a mandate from our movement partners to share what authentic partnership looks like with the rest of the sector. The Academy, our signature training course for philanthropists, is now in its 9th year of service to movements. Since 2014, we have hosted 12 different cohorts with more than 220 participants from across the world, influencing more than $10 billion in giving.

As we began our time together, the air was crackling with the irreplaceable magic of in-person connection. Though a bit nervous about sharing physical space again after the COVID lockdown, we were reminded by Maria Estela, General Coordinator of Social and Economic Development of Indigenous Mexicans (DESMI), and an eight-time faculty member of the Academy, that in our dreams we are not alone—and that dreams are a mandate to action.

From there, our work explored the theories and practices of change as we engaged in an interactive lesson on the intersections of global history, international development, and philanthropy. Maria introduced the ‘hydra,’ a multi-headed monster that symbolizes all of the corporate, systemic, political, and social barriers that stand in the way of transformation. By asking questions like, “Am I fostering change or just feeding the monster?” we reckoned with what it means to accompany change in today’s turbulent times.

By Day 3, we were ready to shift into practice and learn how to operationalize the principles of love, trust, accountability, inquiry, wisdom, collectivism, and solidarity. We were challenged to expand our consciousness, embrace the power of no, and to engage in managing our fears. By learning how to utilize our lived experiences, we were given time and space to reflect on where we need to go from here.

After a joyful few days together, the smiles, giggles, and enthusiastic head nods became something more powerful, a shared commitment to:

  • ‘center movements’
  • ‘be bold in our decision-making’
  • ‘share our whole self’
  •  ‘bring values of movement building and solidarity to the core of our work’
  • ‘create space where everyone can show up authentically with trust and love’
  • ‘let go of control and perfectionism’
  • ‘Direct more funding towards movements’
  • ‘seek and build communities of practice’
  • ‘bring the perspectives of Indigenous movements’
  • ‘stand tall for what is right and sing truth’

“I commit to being in community so the hydra does not devour us,” Maria Estela.

A large board with hand drawn illustration on it

“May our collective work be in service to realizing the dreams of beauty, justice, and solidarity,” Kate Morales of As The Crow Flies Design.

Kate’s visual scribe represents a powerful synthesis of our time together. 

See more from this year’s Academy:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Interested in attending next time? Send a message to our Donor Education Manager Crystal Des-Oguagua.

Featured image photography by Katerina Serdiuk and Sebastian Lindstrom of What Took You So Long