By Vicki Saunders
Building a new world starts with Wisdom from the Ages
My first real connection to Indigenous culture came in New Zealand in 2016. Theresa Gattung invited me to New Zealand to speak at a global conference for women in business: WorldWomen. She worked closely with kuia (Maori women elders) for the event and I clearly remember that the kuia entered the conference hall before the foreigners at the event were allowed into the room. It was so moving to be invited in, to have the room ‘charged’ with elders past, present and future, and to be given permission to enter the space; to be welcomed IN.
The kuia translated Radical Generosity into Maori “Manaakitanga” and said that our SheEO model was reviving the collective economy. I hadn’t heard that term before and started to learn more about Maori, Aboriginal and Indigenous cultures and to pay attention to wisdom from the ages. I researched the potlatch and realized that it was very similar to the idea of a Perpetual Fund – keeping resources in flow, moving from one person to another as the need arose. The point of giving a gift is to create a relationship – if you hold onto the gift and don’t pass it along, you cut off the relationship.
It requires leadership from the community
Then I met Teara Fraser at a SheEO event in Vancouver. She is a Metis woman, entrepreneur and warrior in her community. When she heard about SheEO, she activated immediately.
She reached out to talk about how we could work together to create the conditions for Indigenous women in business to thrive; a lifelong commitment of hers. We started to talk about what that could look like over many conversations. We moved through many ideas; from an Indigenous version of SheEO where Indigenous women Activators would fund Indigenous women-led Ventures to creating a whole new program and various other ideas. We went back and forth for about two years and dozens of conversations.
In April 2019 when we announced our first cohort of SheEO Ventures at our first Australian Summit, one of our Aboriginal Activators Carol Vale who had been very involved as an Activator from the start was frustrated that we hadn’t selected an Aboriginal Venture. She came up with a brilliant idea to invite in Aboriginal Ventures as Activators. We are a well-resourced community and using our Activator community’s influence, buying power, advice and expertise to support, connect and grow ventures so they can then apply makes so much sense. Australian Activators decided to reserve at least one spot for an Aboriginal Venture each year. At the New Zealand SheEO Summit the following week, New Zealand Activators joined in and did the same for Maori-led businesses.
We brought the idea of inviting early-stage Indigenous women in business into the SheEO community as Activators back with us to Canada. In January, we decided to start calls with Teara’s LIFT Collective and a few Indigenous women Activators and entrepreneurs to see how we might invite in more Indigenous women into this amazing community of radically generous women.
Building at the Speed of Trust
At SheEO we build at the speed of trust. We understand that in order to build that trust we need to show up for one another through listening, learning and sharing our experiences to deepen relationships with one another.
We have been doing weekly calls with Indigenous women entrepreneurs and leaders in Canada since February of 2020. Every Sunday we gather for 90 minutes. The group has grown to over 140 women who show up when they can to share resources, support each others’ leadership and to practice radical generosity. 40 Indigenous women have become Activators and started to join our weekly Canadian Activator Support Calls.
This week we are holding our first Global Indigenous Activator Call to share what we are doing in Canada and expand the community to create connections and build relationships.
Creating the space, showing up regularly, making connections and supporting each other’s businesses is the work. One by one, we have stepped into our discomfort, listened, spoken, shared our dreams out loud, and witnessed #SheEOmagic when a couple of weeks later people are manifesting things that seemed totally impossible a few short weeks ago.
We continue to learn that we have all that we need, together, and that radical generosity is a practice that deepens with effort and commitment.
This week, given the escalation of racial tensions in the US, we have heard from a number of Black women and women of colour in our community asking how we can do more to invite in women from all cultural backgrounds.
We are committed to working with all cultural groups; with Black or African American women, with Asian women, with Hispanic or Latino women, with Pacific Islanders, with Indigenous, Native American, Maori, Aboriginal women, and beyond.
- If you are an Activator in our community who identifies with one of these racial groups and would like to join calls to invite in more women from your community please reach out to us <[email protected]>
- Partnering with Wakumi Douglas, Founder of SheEO Venture S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership, we are setting up a SheEO Racial Justice Working Group to discuss and take action around dismantling systems of oppression both within our community and beyond. If you are an Activator who would like to join, please sign up here.
- If you are not yet in our community and want to be part of co-creating the conditions for all of us to thrive, please join our next public Activator Call to see what we are all about.
- If you would like to read and learn more about racial justice, check out this list of anti-racism resources compiled by the SheEO community.
We are IN to create a world that benefits everyone. We are co-creating a new world, with new organizing principles, led by amazing women innovators – our brilliant SheEO Ventures who have new models, new mindsets and new solutions for a better world.
Thank you for being on this journey with us.