Soul on Deck

by Becca Krantz and Julie Andersen
 
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. — from Letter To A Young Activist During Troubled Times: Do Not Lose Heart, We were Made for These Times by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
 

On Deck Together

Come, gather in Circle and Celebration! We invite you to join us on Thursday, Dec. 13th to reflect on where we have been, let go of what is ready to be released, and live into the future together. We will share highlights of CORE’s story and invite you to share your own; what Pinkola Estes might call “sparks” or “signal fires” from our efforts to bring “soul on deck.” What have we been learning at the “core” of CORE, what will stay the same, what changes are ahead, and why? In case you can’t join us in person on Thursday (and even if you can!), please read on to learn more.

Your presence in CORE’s expanding community is invaluable and we continue to trust in you to hold courageous space together: to witness each others’ aspirations, “polish each other’s wisdom,” and re-inspire each other when we falter. Please join us for Circle practice and a delicious dinner to mark this moment in our collective work, December 13th, 4:30-7:30pm at Threshold (RSVP requested). 

 
Since our earliest activities in 2010, CORE has been an experimental project, exploring new ways of being together and working for personal and social transformation. As our world grapples with great challenges, we are making a shift in CORE to embrace its role as an operating arm of Katz Family Philanthropies. We will continue to focus on spreading and deepening core practices that heal and transform individuals, communities and the world. Our work of funding, relationship-building, accompaniment, and reflection will serve our vision of a beloved community of caring connection across difference, where we mutually support one another and the interdependent flourishing of all. 
 
As leaders of CORE, we’ve continued to do inner work on understanding what our role should be as white people with access to economic privilege. Our desire to align our work where we can be most effective is alive more than ever. In these times when so much is at stake in our world, we want to channel as many resources as possible into individual and social transformation in South Central Wisconsin, to help, as Pinkola Estés says, “proper matters to catch fire.” That means mobilizing expertise and relationships to skillfully give away the money we have, while letting go of asking others to contribute money to our programming. 
 
CORE will now be the conduit for more funds from Katz Family Philanthropies, including the Transformational Training Fund (TTF). Our grant-making will continue to be by invitation only and will focus on individuals and organizations working at the intersection of inner and outer change. Core practices we support will foster presence, compassion, creativity, purpose, participatory engagement, power awareness, personal ecology, and community organizing. We are maintaining the invitationonly aspect in order to keep overhead as low as possible and direct more money into the community, specifically to people who have traditionally been marginalized/de-centered in society. Our programming will include some accompaniment with grantees, to support people and organizations in discerning powerful next steps on their journeys.
 

We will continue to gather in circle, to create spaces where “struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.”  People and organizations who receive grants will be invited to share their learnings with the wider community in CORE Circle and other formats. We will thoughtfully continue to deepen and broaden relationships to learn and connect with people who are not in our immediate networks. We will continue to rely on you, our expanding and deepening network, to show up to share your fire, to learn, reflect, practice, and grow together, to let our collective souls shine on our journey towards the beloved community

Please read on to learn more about the sparks, flares, and signal fires that led to this moment.  

Sparks

It is 2007. Becca Krantz is sitting at her dining room table with her husband Don Katz and their colleague and friend Bob Hudek, who share a yearning for more powerful, effective, and sustainable work for a better world. Bob has brought an idea — a way for Don and Becca, in their role as funders, to support training, consulting, and coaching for an emerging network of progressive organizations. “CORE” is conceived. 

Fast forward to 2009: The Grassroots Leadership College is seeking a new approach, listening to what is wanted in the community. They hear a desire for training that goes beyond the introductory, “100-level” they’ve been providing; some way of supporting people who are already working together in organizations.  

In 2010 when leadership guru Meg Wheatley challenges participants in a conference at UW Madison to announce what they want to “Walk Out” of and what they want to “Walk On” to, Becca senses an opportunity to bring all of herself, her deep experience and skills as leader, consultant, and funder, together. She stands up, and many others step forward to join the conversation. CORE is born. 

Flares

The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires … causes proper matters to catch fire….Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. (Pinkola Estés)

In 2011 during the Act 10 Protests and Capitol Occupation, CORE shines as members of its emerging network of change-makers help the Grassroots Leadership College create and deliver “Prepared + Peaceful,” nonviolent civil disobedience, meditation, and self-care trainings to thousands of protestors in and around the Capitol. 

Beginning in 2012, CORE fledges and explores, envisioning a strategy for more effective and transformational connections among social change organizations and consultants. Using volunteer “Connectors, experimenting with visual and somatic practices, and offering matching funding to support the resulting projects, CORE pilots three rounds of “Match for Change.” As Becca said in her CORE Limerick, “If we know who’s who/and what they love and can do, we can make better recommendations.” 

In 2013, Julie Andersen joins CORE as staff, bringing her deep experience with social justice, community organizing, leadership training, and social innovation. CORE expands through the CORE Action Café, our hybrid of Circle practice and pro-action cafe, providing opportunities for organizations and individuals to explore with peers questions that matter deeply to them and their transformational work. Innovative projects are born, fresh perspectives are gained on established patterns, and new connections and avenues are opened for practicing participatory and empowering methods. 

Throughout 2014-2018, CORE‘s emerging culture, our way of doing things, invites authenticity and provides opportunities to practice the inner work needed to make outer change. We host gatherings, coming together in Circle with community members, organizational leaders, consultants, and funders to build relationships and reflect and learn together. These Circles have been known by a variety of names like “Consultants’ Xchange,” “Consultants’ Circle,” “Funder Confabs,” and “Circle of Transformational Practice.”

Signal Fires 

Showing up with one’s soul on deck can be both startlingly beautiful and surprisingly painful. And, sometimes it’s challenging just to find the deck!  Learning as we try to live into connecting inner growth with systemic social transformation has involved a spectrum of experiences. Throughout these growing pains, we keep our eyes on the vision of the beloved community, even when we’re not sure how to get there.

Some of the brilliant “signal fires” that grew from sparks in the CORE community came through the CORE Action Café. A small work group explored and articulated deep longings for healing and transformation as well as desires to figure out what our role is in offering these processes to those in our community who are most impacted by inequities. While we have not yet fully achieved this (and many, many groups are still wrestling with similar questions), through the Action Cafés themselves, sparks caught fire that are illuminating important projects. One such spark is Romilia Schlueter’s work through Supporting Families Together Association to create a community of practice focused on diversity and inclusion affecting early childhood programs around the state.  

Striving to address racism and privilege within ourselves and in society has been a central value of CORE‘s work toward our vision of beloved community.  As white people in the process of understanding what this means, we have unfortunately and unintentionally ended up reinforcing both racism and privilege at times. Our Exploratory Journey in 2016 was a comprehensive assessment and strategic planning process. It carried our intentions of making CORE more inclusive and widely relevant and brought out beautiful moments of connection, reflection, and intention. However, we at the core of CORE did not have a clear understanding of our own leadership or authority, and did not set clear enough expectations for follow-up. As a result, the process left us and others wandering and wondering for awhile as we tried to make sense of and take action on our learnings. 

Another deep learning experience was CORE’s event in April 2017 “Belonging, bridging, building:  Creating connected and collaborative space around racial justice work,” facilitated by visiting trainer Sonali Sangeet Balaji.  We had good intentions of bringing together racial justice educators and facilitators to explore the connection between inner and outer transformation, and the gathering was skillfully facilitated by Sonali. However, we failed to include local people of color in meaningful ways early on in the planning process, and as a result there wasn’t a strong foundation to lead to sustainable work afterwards. There was both beauty and pain in the experience, for many involved.  As Shelly Tochluk says in her book Witnessing Whiteness “[as white people] we want to face the effects that privilege has had on people in our country, but our relationship to the work remains strained. Our lack of resolution and our incomplete recovery from the guilt can … create problems even in our efforts to face our dis-ease.” 

Similar struggles and learnings have been part of our efforts to collaborate with more diverse community projects, to diversify our steering committee and leadership team, and to diversify sources of support for CORE. Bringing new voices into the inner circle prompted us to rethink a lot of the ways we do things, and we have benefited from this fresh thinking. 

Some of our fresh thinking came from our work with funders that included powerful and reflective gatherings which sent sparks across the gaps, allowing people to share ideas, build connections, and reflect on funders’ roles in supporting organizational capacity-building. Over the years, CORE has received some important financial and moral support from individual donors, for which we are deeply grateful. However, apart from in-kind support from Community Shares of Wisconsin, the large institutional funders in the community have not chosen to participate in CORE in an ongoing way. 

One of the lessons we’ve taken from all of this is to ask and answer the question, “what is the core of CORE?” Jasmine Timmons, who joined our leadership team meetings for much of 2017 and 2018, repeatedly said to Becca and Julie, “you two are the core of CORE,” and encouraged us to bring Don forward into more active decision-making, since his inherited wealth has been the main source of CORE‘s funding. 

Through much searching of our own souls, as well as receiving coaching and input from others, we have been facing into the realities of our privilege, and continuing to ask, what is the most effective use of our economic resource? Becca has shifted from wanting to bring all of her diverse roles together, to focusing her work more narrowly on writing and funding, for maximum effectiveness. As one grantee said, this allows us to “stay in our lane” as funders, and not be creating confusion by mixing roles. By shining our light as funders more clearly, we can more effectively support the signal fires of others. 

Thank you for being in community, in circle, with us as together we have explored and cultivated core practices to heal – ourselves and our communities – as we transform towards a more just and peaceful world.

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