Imagine a room filled with hundreds of accomplished and driven individuals. Now, picture a speaker, or many speakers, in front of the audience delivering important, often gut-wrenching, urgent and vulnerable messages. Finally, imagine the positive energy transmitted as audience members stand up to applaud each and every speaker, sending a clear message of support, love, and understanding.
Provide a safe space
Eve Ensler, the Tony Award-winning playwright, activist, and author of The Vagina Monologues, spoke—among other things—about her most recent book, The Apology, and the creative experience behind it.
Ensler candidly spoke about sexual, physical, and emotional abuse inflicted upon her by her late father. The healing journey isn’t easy and anger is its natural component. However, as we lick our wounds, hold space for our outrage, speak up, and speak out, the profound power of an authentic apology can have a truly wide-reaching effect—not just for the victims, but also for the abusers.
Ensler’s message is one of healing, but, most importantly, it is a message of togetherness: “For the past few years, we've been calling men out. It had to be done. But lately, I've been thinking we need to do something even harder. We need, as my good friend Tony Porter says, to find a way to call men in.”
As I sat in the small Palm Springs airport waiting for my flight back home, I eagerly dove into reading The Apology. In it, Ensler guides us on a journey of how she imagines her father would process an honest account of his abuse, the reasons behind it, and the pain he inflicted on her—truly feeling what she, as his victim, felt—and, finally, taking responsibility for his actions.
As our company name suggests, we have a passion for finding and capturing opportunities. In an era of the #MeToo movement, Ensler has identified an enormous opportunity in our society’s next step—providing a safe space for authentic apologies and collective healing.
The notion of calling forth those who hurt and marginalize us as co-collaborators in the healing process is unimaginably courageous. Let’s consider this message as we move toward a world where wrongdoings are not only brought to light, but the wrong-doers are given the opportunity to go through the process of an authentic apology and move toward healing together. Like Ensler noted, “...it is the only thing that will set yourself free.”
Unleash the boundless power of creativity
Creativity and the arts are often embraced and encouraged by communities and organizations during the good times. But when times are hard, art can become a low priority. And yet, oppressive governments across the globe continue to put much effort into censorship, while artists continue to create.
Art gives us a way to communicate, relate, resist, and ignite change. TEDWomen attendees had the unique privilege to hear about and witness a great deal of artistic expression. Creativity can help us build solidarity and momentum to reach our goals. Furthermore, using creativity to manage change and center teams around a common purpose, is an essential component of any undertaking—from fighting political oppression to developing a business strategy.
Reflecting on the 2019 protests, she said: “The soft power of creativity is essential in this very difficult fight against authoritarian regimes...All these innovative ways of turning emotions into art, into humor, into protest, made detestable moments bearable for the people.”
As a result of the movement, a local district election was overturned and the Hong Kong human rights and democracy act passed in the US Congress and was signed into law. Ultimately, it was an anonymous artistic movement that brought people together in solidarity to achieve significant and relatively rapid change.
Another amazing artist-activist story came from the infinitely creative Rayma Suprani, an award-winning Venezuelan cartoonist, who said, “A political cartoon is a barometer of freedom in a country.”
Like many others, Suprani has paid a dear price for having spoken up. However, she continues her work now by documenting the immigrant experience, having been forced into exile in the U.S. “For me, drawing cartoons is a form of resistance,” Suprani added.
I am thankful that she and others are able to provide us all with an honest reflection on the state of humanity.
Focus on intersectionality
Climate change, social injustice, violence, poverty—the issues we as a society face are sobering and may seem impossible to tackle. These challenges are not to be considered individually. Like most things in life, each challenge we face is a part of a larger system that is intertwined with multiple aspects of our planet, society, organizations, and teams.
“By the end of the next century, it is predicted that more than 180 million people will be displaced due to climate change,” said Colette Pichon Battle, the founder and Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy. A Louisiana native, Battle has spent the last 14 years fighting on behalf of communities facing climate change and environmental injustice.
We must admit that injustice is most often the underlying reason for the issues we face and it is our responsibility to take a systematic approach in problem solving around not only climate change, but also any of the seemingly smaller challenges we tackle on a daily basis. Only an inclusive and intersectional approach will allow us to work toward solutions and collective resilience.
Yifat Susskind, human rights activist and founder of MADRE, also employs a systematic approach by recognizing the intersectionality of both the problems we face and the possible solutions. She urges us to look at challenges through the lens of motherly love, which affords an opportunity “to plant a seed, a different seed, and cultivate what [we] want to see grow even in the midst of crisis.”
Reflect and cultivate a better future
As a child of soviet repressions and cold war; as a refugee, an immigrant, and an American citizen; as a parent raising young girls; and a certified strategy geek; I cherish the opportunities to be surrounded by people open to varying views and new learning, driven by ambition and compassion, who take the time to listen deeply and make their voices heard.
I thank the TEDWomen organizers for delivering an event that was both inspirational and humbling, practical and creative, diverse and tolerant. I hope we can all reflect and cultivate this environment in our daily lives.
To do so, let us focus on cultivating spaces to heal, taking creative approaches to problem solving, and leveraging diversity in all we do. My Opportunity Lab colleagues and I will certainly do our part.