The last two years of the pandemic have been a test of our commitment to building longer-term relationships with our fellow collaborators – students, teachers, charities, and funders – that center reciprocity.
We exist in a much broader ecosystem consisting of teachers, students, school administrators, charities, and funders and it is our responsibility to be aware of and responsive to its changing needs. Beyond doing so under the banner of “research & development”, which is ultimately in service of furthering our targets, we need to commit to reciprocity that shifts beyond transactions (i.e. teachers sign up to deliver our program, we send them our curriculum resources, and we meet our metrics) and is rooted in a deeper understanding of our interdependence. Teachers are a vital part of our ecosystem and when they are not flourishing, the entire system feels its impact. Our work, and our curriculum, becomes almost instantaneously obsolete if teachers are burnt out and do not have the capacity to facilitate these critical discussions with their students. Likewise, having access to our resources (e.g. our YPI curriculum, Student Care and Ethics Guide, Virtual Launch workshops, webinars, etc.) helps teachers initiate difficult yet important conversations in their classrooms that they may not otherwise be able to support entirely on their own. We need each other.
Whereas transactions tend to be short-lived, reciprocal relationships are built over time and endure the test of time. Under a transactional model, one could make a case for abandoning a school that chooses not to deliver our curriculum this calendar year. They are not giving us what we need (e.g. enrolling their school in our program), and therefore they are no longer of use to us. It treats people and our relationships with them as disposable, as replaceable, and as commodities. In a model of reciprocity, one year is just one cycle within a much longer arc of time and relationship.
Under a model of reciprocity, we foreground care.
We take the time to understand how the ecosystem has shifted and how these shifts have impacted our fellow collaborators at the schools, charities, and funding bodies with whom we are in relationship. And, because we do not exist in isolation or outside of this ecosystem, we seek to adapt in ways that not only guarantee our survival, but also support the survival and flourishing of our fellow collaborators in an altered landscape.
This exploration is a multi-part look at some adaptations we have made since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a part of our commitment to centering long-term, reciprocal relationship-building:
- Make conscious shifts away from models of relating that are based on transaction (“I choose to be in relationship with you because I’m getting something of equal value in return”) and/or (“I choose to be in relationship with you because it makes me feel good about myself to help you”) SO THAT we can work toward building relationships that center reciprocity rooted in our inherent interdependence (“I choose to be relationship with you because I understand how our lives, livelihoods, and liberation are deeply and intricately intertwined”).
- Allocate time, resources, and energy towards understanding how our fellow collaborators are impacted by massive and/or ongoing shifts within the sectors we work in, SO THAT we can adapt in ways that not only guarantee our survival, but also support their survival and flourishing in an altered landscape.
- Understand where and how we are uniquely positioned to make adaptations in a crisis SO THAT we can leverage our power to support our collaborators to repair and rebuild, while upholding our commitment to cultivating equity, justice, anti-racism, and anti-oppression in all aspects of our work.
- Take time to pinpoint the ways in which we are experiencing strain, tension, and/or pressure as an organization and the sources of that strain, SO THAT we can take steps to relieve this pressure at its roots rather than downloading it onto our collaborators.
- Keep abreast of the consequences of the adaptations that we as an organization make SO THAT we can be accountable and responsive to both the intended and unintended impacts of our actions.
- Adopt an approach to funding (including fundraising and grantmaking) that prioritizes the needs of our organization while also accounting for the most pressing needs within the sectors we work in SO THAT we can respond to changes in funding priorities.