On Thursday April 9, 2015, I took my first step into practice as a Caring Economy conversation leader by convening with a small group of community activists in a renovated urban home in an area of Cleveland, Ohio known as the Slavic Village. The house, designated “Goddesses Retreat One,” is owned by a non-profit organization Goddesses Blessing Goddesses, which offers transitional housing and services for veteran women. Slavic Village is in the heart of the industrial part of the city, and that was once populated by immigrant steel mill workers and that in recent years had been considered by many the epicenter of the nation’s foreclosure crisis.
My talk, entitled: “Introducing the Caring Economy Campaign: A Community Conversation,” was publicized as the first in what will be a series of monthly conversations hosted by GBG. I began by leading the participants through a short centering exercise. I invited them to let their “heart’s memory travel to images and feelings of the care” received during their lives that made them who you are today. Then, I invited them to “write down the names of one special person (or perhaps a short list of people) whose care has made a difference to your life.” I invited participants to mention the names of their caregivers out loud and expressed gratitude so as to “bring their presence into the room.”
During a round of introductions, I asked each participant to “Name one thing you’ve received recently for which you are grateful and that money can’t buy!” I was impressed by the variety of responses evoked by this powerful question, and found it noteworthy that, despite this variety, all of the responses had something to do with interpersonal relationships.
For the next 20 minutes, I gave an oral presentation about Dr. Eisler’s background and work, and the current strategies of the Caring Economy Campaign. I spoke about the Partnership continuum, and root causes of the domination culture, emphasizing in particular the many subtle (and not so subtle) ways that gender inequity has become our common inheritance. I reviewed some of the studies that were used to “make the case” for a caring economy, and introduced the concept of Social Value Indicators.
As a lead in to the conversation phase of the evening, I took about a minute to set our intentions for dialogue and to offer a perspective that this process was an opportunity to engage in a way that is different from the way issues are typically discussed in society. My aim was to create an interpersonal space sustained by mutual trust that allows us to speak from our authentic voices and honor diverse perspectives, practicing our listening skills, speaking to the center, and allowing the dialogue to flow freely where it might. Several themes started to emerge: the need for better intergenerational communication, valuing the contributions of youth and elders, shifting our awareness so that see into the “blind spot” and recognize all the many ways that we are sustained by caregivers in everyday life, changing our attitudes away from zero-sum thinking and learning that when we give to others we are really also giving to ourselves. At the end of the session, I opened the floor for any reflections on the process itself.
The ideas emerging from Eisler’s work and the Caring Economy Campaign invite us to question the foundational assumptions of the market capitalist economy, as well as much of the libertarian dogma that has shaped our public discourse in recent years. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to share these ideas with people within my network who are social activists working in the non-profit sector and in the area of community revitalization. In this context, the ideas of the Caring Economy Campaign can empower people whose work is systemically undervalued. In addition to planning more formal conversation events, I plan to share these ideas in informal conversations, over coffee or at networking events that I routinely attend in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.