This is the third post to come out of my experiences at the Acumen global gathering in Naivasha earlier this month, and there's no saying if it will be the last. You cannot spend five days with some of the most powerful changemakers in the world and not come out of it shaken and stirred (the first two posts are here and here).
There is one conversation that I am going back to again and again in the week since the gathering, because it was powerful and moving, but even more because it is so relevant to choices I make every day in the Indian political climate. This was Stephanie Speirs' talk on "Sanctuaries". Stephanie is the co-founder of Solstice, an enterprise dedicated to radically expanding the number of American households that can take advantage of solar power. She is also an Echoing Green Climate Fellow, a Global Good Fund Fellow, a Kia Revisionary, and an Acumen Global Fellow, all of which recognize emerging leaders in social enterprise.
And this is why it is important to keep talking, to keep reaching out to people outside of our "sanctuaries" (we also call these our "bubbles"). My original tendency - every time I read a friend's hateful post on social media, every time I listen to a cab-driver express contempt for a community he doesn't like - is to mentally check out of that conversation (I wrote a post to defend my desire to live a non-confrontational life in 2015). We know that people never change their minds, so why waste your breath? But here is this amazing data that Gallup collected over 20 years that shows that people do indeed change their mind - only 27% North Americans said "yes" to giving legal status to same-sex marriages in 1996, and this number went to 61% in 2016. Would this have happened if gay people stayed in their bubbles and sanctuaries and refused to engage in difficult conversations?
So here's to celebrating the loud SJW in me and all the friends who spend hours arguing and defending their point of view in the face of unrelenting anger and sarcasm. The next time I meet that neighbor who shared with me that she never employs anyone from a certain community ("sometimes they change their surnames so you have to be very careful!"), and left me depressed me for a week, I'll not smile politely and run home. I'll get out my sanctuary and ask her if we can talk about this a bit.