“There are hundreds of people and now thousands of people who created the conditions for all of this to work. What I hadn’t done was receive that memo. Nothing we are doing here is about one person alone. It’s about all of us together.”
— Vicki Saunders, Founding Activator at Coralus
In this episode
This special episode of the Ripples of Radical Generosity podcast was recorded live at the 2022 Coralus Confluence. Join us to hear from Founding Activator Vicki Saunders to learn more about our new name, and how we’re shifting our focus from supporting individuals (SheEO) to the collective (Coralus), as we enter a phase of regeneration and transformation.
We invite you to join us as an Activator.
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The podcast is being transcribed by Otter.ai. (there may be errors, run-on sentences and misspellings).
Vicki Saunders 0:00
There are hundreds of people and now thousands of people who created the conditions for all of this to work. What I hadn’t done was receive that memo. Nothing we are doing here is about one person alone. It’s about all of us together.
Danielle Cadhit 0:19
Welcome to the Ripples of Radical Generosity podcast by Coralus, a global community of women and non-binary people making real progress on the World’s To-Do List. Together, we’re transforming the world to become more equitable, and sustainable.
Vicki Saunders 0:39
Hi. For guests that are on the call and don’t know who I am. I’m Vicki Saunders, founder at Coralus. And I’m joining you tonight from the unceded territory of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples. And it’s now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. I’m also calling in from Toronto, which is covered by Treaty 13, with Mississaugas of the Credit. So here we go. From SheEO to Coralus. I, first of all, want to thank all of you for bringing forth this new name. When I was going on sabbatical. I love it. I love especially how it’s grown on me. From first hearing it without a story. I got a phone call from Danielle, what do you think about Coralus? I was like, tell me more. And as I watched and learned more about the concept, heard the process that you went through, and the power of it as I engaged with it. We learned this a lot here, right? When you engage with something, and when I’ve played with it, I can really feel the energy of that ruling in me. And it’s feels like it’s transforming the way that we’re doing things already. By the way, it is pronounced Coralus, not Corral-is. Go see your doctor about Corral-is. Not that not coral, corral-us pulling us all together. That’s not it. It’s coral plus us. In fact, Miah, are you here? I was talking to Miah, who’s an Activator I hadn’t met before about some partnerships she thought would be worth pursuing. When she all of a sudden started talking about coral, and why it’s exactly the right name for us. She was a former microbiology educator. So Miah, can you come on up here and tell us a little bit about what coral means to you?
Miah Shull Olmsted 2:29
Sure. So um, I should let you all know that I’m a scuba diving instructor and have been for quite a long time, I’ve spent about 5700 hours under the sea. So I know corals fairly well, and are fairly comfortable in that environment. I’m really excited and expressed that I was really excited to hear that this was going to be our name, because I think that there is nothing that I can imagine that is more indicative of our own ecosystem. So just to give you a little bit of context, corals have existed for 240 million years, one would think that there’s a lot of adaptation that has been necessary for any species on the planet to adapt, and to survive for 240 million years. So I would like to think that we will still be here, with our ancestors in spirits 240 million years from now, that would be amazing. They are one of the most important and also one of the most complex ecosystems on the planet. They provide 25% of the biodiversity on the planet, just to give you a sense of that scale. Billions of people depend on coral reefs for their very survival. And coral reefs are both individual corals and the polyps as well as the entire ecosystem that is created as a result of their activity. So I think the juxtaposition of being both individualistic, as well as communal in nature and mutualistic in nature, is a perfect choice for us.
Vicki Saunders 4:01
Thank you so much, Miah. Appreciate that. I learned something every time someone talks about this a little bit more to add in and weave into the story. So let’s just go back a little bit in time to when we started. Seven years ago, we amplified a conversation and a set of statistics and spread it around the world with lots of other people about the injustice of 4% of capital, going to 51% of the population. At the time, I would stand up in rooms and ask people if they could name three women entrepreneurs. And no one could. Doesn’t that seem wild? Like that was only seven years ago, people would be like Oprah? Maybe the woman who started Spanx? So anyway, a lot has happened during that time. It’s hard to even remember back to what it was like when you couldn’t name entrepreneurs. Now we can name so many. We launched a whole new model into the world. That reorganized all kinds of capital. Financial, social, community. And we normalize a weird thing called a 0% interest loan. And disrupted power by having a 14 year old have the same power as her CFO mom. But the larger vision and concept, creating a new economy, and a whole new way of being in relationship with one another, an ecosystem based approach, literally reorganizing resources that we have already in front of us to get better outcomes ended up kind of getting reduced over time as people tried to explain it to, oh, it’s women funding women. And as we created more and more impact and all these spillover effects, well beyond venture support, I kept asking what’s really going on here? We have something deeper, we’re more than just a fund for women. And so we invited in Dark Matter labs, to help us examine what was underneath the surface. More on that later. As we journey together in this community during our racial and social justice work, decolonization, Indigenization and disrupting power, we have come to understand the difference between where we started, and where we are today. For me, this quote really sums it up. “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, let us work together.” Lilla Watson. That is the transformation we’ve been going through. We’re starting to understand how bound we are to one another. How working on our ventures projects is really working on our collective future. Since I returned from my sabbatical, I’ve been guided to a new path forward by many of you. Remember, in my reflections talk, if you were there, when I said I had to empty myself and literally nothing came through when I was walking. Well, now it’s coming through like a firehose. I pay attention to what comes into my mind books to read people who come up in my thoughts, and I follow that energy. First was Val Fox, an Activator, who has been here since the beginning and was one of our first board members, who’s an innovation guru at IBM, and then started the Digital Media Zone, which is a renowned incubator in Canada. Val came and sat in my backyard and shared with me what’s exciting her these days. She’s hosting circles for entrepreneurs to work together to share their experience along the way, and to support one another’s journeys in small groups. Yep, that sounds right, getting into smaller groups would solve for this collaboration practice we all need to receive and give to one another. And then Danielle Cadhit said, we’ve been working on these small group facilitations for Confluence with an activator from Greaterthan, and we could flow right into small groups after that. Of course we’ve been. There are many other nudges in that direction pointing to getting into smaller groups so we can advance one another’s goals and projects contributing when we have, so we can all be part of creating the new world. Then MJ sent me quotes from a book she’s reading called Us by Terrence Real. And these quotes are wild. This one, “The price we pay as a society for our toxic individualism and patriarchy is our permanent estrangement from one another.” And another, “The left hemisphere is the adaptive child.” This is the science. “The left hemisphere is the adaptive child stuck in individualism. We only can get into our wise adult when we’re in our relational right hemisphere.” Another message to get into relationship with one another, so we can be wise adults. And this other quote, which really hit me, “Disconnection sickens us. Reconnection restores us.”
Vicki Saunders 9:01
This is very personal for me. Because for the past seven years, I’ve been transforming myself in the most profound of ways, because this community. Because of this community, I feel like I’m a really different person. When MJ shared the phrase toxic individualism, it really took my breath away. Because during the first few years of SheEO, I sat on a chair in my room for more hours than I care to count, feeling alone, steeped in how hard it is, and was. For not hitting the numbers for the challenges of keeping the doors open for the wild ways in which the systems and mindsets came at us trying to change our model. I remember being on a call with a small group of people saying that I really needed to work on building my co creation muscle. And Pat, an activator from Nashville said what? You’re an amazing co creator. Look at how you brought us all together to work in create this community. It stopped me in my tracks. And I’ve never forgotten it. Until I heard this phrase toxic individualism, I couldn’t really get it. The narrative of do it alone, and you’re doing it alone is so strong, that I couldn’t even receive that we were all doing this together despite the fact that I was surrounded by everyone. I was so worried about my contribution and letting people down and conversion rates and holding venture success so tightly I could barely breathe. And the reality is, there are hundreds of people and now 1000s of people who created the conditions for all of this to work. What I hadn’t done was receive that memo. Nothing we are doing here is about one person alone. It’s about all of us together. All around us. People are storytelling about our model. This has confused me for so many years. Why do we only have 9000 followers when everywhere I go, everyone says oh, I’ve heard of SheEO. Literally 1000s and 1000s of people who have never Activated, who love what we’re doing, have shared this story everywhere they go. Amazing. Another toxic individualism story is, I haven’t done enough as an Activator. I feel guilty because I don’t do more. I should just leave because I’m not contributing enough. I couldn’t make the calls. I forgot to vote. I was too busy to vote. I don’t know if I’m being useful here. This is that powerful toxic individualism at play, keeping a separate pulling us away from what heals us from what we need, which is belonging and contribution to create the world we know is possible. And then there’s this one that we talked about last week. I’m not sure I fit. I’m not sure I fit. When Arden heard this a very wise soul on our team who’s on this call today. She said, What? No one fits here. That’s Coralus we’re a community of people who don’t fit. It’s just made me laugh. I love it. All of you, on your own terms showing up how you want when you want in the spirit of the credo you we together are the antidote to toxic individualism. Yet another thing we get to unlearn in practice. I was recently on a call with a venture another story around this recently on a call with a venture who was having a really hard time, she needed to come to Toronto, a city she doesn’t love, and work with a business partner who is being problematic. I’m going to have to spend all this money on a hotel, she said, and be there for two weeks, and I stopped her. What? You’re going to stay in a hotel when you come to Toronto, why would you take away the chance for activators to host you, there would be dozens who would love to when you stay with them. You get to see what they get to see what’s going on here the crazy challenges you’re facing. They get to support you energetically. Then they’ll tell their friends about how wild Your journey is be more in remembering why they activated realizing how just being in this community gives us all a lift. Oh yeah, I gotta remember that. She said, Don’t we all. We’re so conditioned to isolate ourselves and do things alone. Remember that science. Disconnection sickens us. reconnection restores us.
Vicki Saunders 13:24
In the past seven years, we’ve created a working model of regenerative capital. Thousands of ventures have presented their dreams, their visions, their struggles and their challenges, and sought the support of this very small, incredibly focused community. And we’ve responded in the spirit of radical generosity, offering connections, enthusiastic feedback, support, advice, and high fives for the courage and commitment you all have when you follow your calling. Over time, it became really clear that fusing all these forms of capital, navigational capital that we learned from Maria, for how we get around systemic barriers, linguistic capital, to amplify our stories and voices, social capital of our connections, our collective knowledge, and our shared trust and our generosity, fusing all these forms of capital, created spillover benefits well beyond the original intention to support vendors working on the world’s To Do List, those benefits have accrued to all of us. So now that we’ve seen what’s possible from the modeling of ventures in our community, what’s next? All of us working together, bringing our dreams, our goals, our leadership, our hopes to lift one another up to keep creating the world we know is possible. What are you working on to create the new world? Bring it here and let’s collaborate. What are you curious about unlearning uncovering bringing forth. Let’s do that together. Many activators have found the others in this community, the ones who can help you along the way. And it’s as simple as friends to collaborate with accountability partners, I was talking to Tania who said, I just sent a text each day with what I’m grateful for to someone, I’ve never even had a longer talk with them. It came from give week, it can be that simple. And she’s got that connection. We are going to follow that energy of the self organizing that’s happening, of what came from give week of what’s happening at confluence, to design ourselves for collaboration going forward. We’re introducing a pilot today, that will call us into small groups with a host. Most of these are a one hour commitment per month, for three months. That’s all we are going to simplify our programming, we commit to stop overwhelming you with a million things going on each week, all of our lives are so full, we’re so overwhelmed, we do not want to have you standing at the end of the cereal aisle every week, trying to figure out what you need to buy. Less is more, we’re going to simplify. This first group of hosts, there’s 20 of them, have put a prompt in place to call in people around a specific topic. If there isn’t anything that speaks to you, that’s fine. This is just phase one. It’s an experiment, more will reveal itself. As we get into this, we see what works. And we see what else is missing. Note to all of you. These circles are not school, they are not a content delivery engine. This is a place for each person to advance their thinking and doing to achieve their goals by supporting one another, listening to one another’s approach blocks opportunities, and sharing insights and learning so that everyone is lifted up together. We need to practice to remind ourselves we’re not alone. We forget it all the time I forget it all the time. It’s a muscle that we have to build, to remember that everything that we need is around us even if we don’t ask because these groups are going to be set up to pull out of you with permission that which is holding you back.
Vicki Saunders 17:02
Working on things alone is what keeps the world the same. The narrative that we have to do it alone is a crude control mechanism of our insidious systems. It’s only when they come together that we experience how much easier it can be. And when I work on someone else’s project, I always get insights on my stuff. It’s inevitable, we all act as a mirror for one another. And when we share our struggles, and we find others that have the same issues, maybe even some answers for how to navigate. This frees us to do the work we’re here to do. So small groups. Together, it’s a pilot, the links to apply will be in the chat after this. And you need to be an active activator. So join. MJ is also going to be delivering a collaboration skill building track in parallel to circles. And Loren has an entrepreneur track happening as well. For other programming, we’re still going to circulate our community capital to ventures each year that is not changing. This shared project is a constant reminder and a practice for all of us to experience the behaviors we need to shift in order to create the new world.
Vicki Saunders 18:12
When we select ventures, We’re disrupting power. Did you know that? In the other world, decisions are made by experts are making these decisions based on what was successful in the past. We are decentralizing decision making. So another future can actually be possible. If we only find what was successful in the past, those who have been pushed to the margins and haven’t had capital will never get it. Now, if you’ll follow me into the future for a minute, we’re not quite there yet, but that’s where we’re going. Our goal is to only fund our own community members. Right now you can apply to this community for funding if you aren’t an Activator. I’d like to propose that our community’s capital is for our community. It’s for people who want to be part of a collective experience. For those who understand that supporting others is part of supporting myself. Remember, Lilla Watson? If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, let’s work together. One thing we’ll have to change to enable this vision is a sliding scale for Activation fees. We’d like to lower the entry point and also encourage those who can to contribute more. For those who are interested in getting involved in how do we do this? We’ll share that more later in the year. Remember, we’re still in the future don’t have the details yet. I also want to be clear, you do not need to be an entrepreneur to be in this community. We welcome all who have a desire to be part of building a new world. To rethink our economy, how we work together, how we unravel our conditioning, how we Indigenize and decolonize. Participating in this community is where I get my hope every day by doing something moving from inaction, which I see all around me to being in action. Our community is a signal to the world that it does not need to be this way. We have imagined in a new reality by taking action, as Anastasia from Dark Matter Labs says to us, you’ve done it, this community has created a working alternative economy, that’s regenerating capital. Now, the next part of the work is to become aware of our behaviors in our community. What made this possible? Our disruption of power, collective decision making, trust and generosity. Much of this is non habitual, and it needs to be practice. You can’t just read the Notion pages in our documentation, replicate this model. I saw this week that another Women’s Entrepreneur group created a new thing and their thing called Give and Take. Right like missing the point, we’re good at taking all over the place is giving and receiving, asking and giving. We’re gonna be working with the best in the world at learning how to do this, the Greaterthan team, Susan Basterfield and her team, the originators of Enspiral, and their brilliant workbook on co-creating are going to help us get better and better at working together. We’re also working with Criterion to understand how to better how to disrupt power dynamics for the kind of world we want. And we really need some help unraveling our HQ mindset. I want to delete HQ this headquarters thing this like core team thing, we have to redesign how we’re organized so that we are co-creating more with the community. That’s a big transition for us. And we need your help. During know our community, the know our community project, we surfaced a couple of hundred activators, who want to be way more involved in this. And so we are starting to like unwind ourselves to figure out how we’re going to make that happen. And we’d love your help.
Vicki Saunders 21:46
And we are here to share our experience with other communities. If there are communities out there that you know, who want to create their own micro economy, to experiment with regenerative capital, putting their money to work for the kind of world they want, we welcome them in. Let’s go find them, invite them, practice with them, we can all learn together. Our original idea of scaling this all over the world does not feel right anymore. That’s an old model of go back and do it on your own SheEO, we are now Coralus. And a collective approach is sharing our learning with others. We need thousands of experiments out there. As we witnessed the crashing of our global economic model where five men own the same wealth as half the planet and take 45 cents of every new dollar. We have shown that another way is possible. Like the coral in the ocean, that only 1% it has the impact on 25%, our little group of 1400 activators. That’s all we are, are having an outsized impact on the planet, on mindsets on people’s belief that another way is possible. They hear about it, let’s invite them in to experience it. And a note on the economy — every single day, we uphold this economy that’s not working for us, it’s harming us by putting our money into it. Every day we buy from companies with bad practices that keep the world the same. Every single day, we uphold the tragedy of the economy by where we spend our money. And yet everyone here we have a unique opportunity with Coralus to put our money to the kind of world we want to live in and create a new economy. I love that about this. I am so excited that all of the capital that I’m putting into this community is creating the kind of world I want. It’s such an amazing experiment. Each of us selects the kind of Ventures we want to see. And it is like our collective imagination has created a beautiful, beautiful economy that looks so different. It’s full of Maori and Aboriginal and Indigenous, and Two-Spirit LGBTQ+, Indian, Pakistani, African, Japanese, Middle Eastern Korean Asian founders, with meaningful, transformative dreams for a just and sustainable world. To remove plastic to heal oceans to create products and services that include those put to the margins to heal our bodies and minds and fuel our lives. We’ve done this together. None of this happens without all of us. That’s the message we need to keep front and center. Your liberation is bound up with mine. Thank you for being here and for listening and for all that you are.
Danielle Cadhit 24:17
Thank you for listening to the Ripples of Radical Generosity podcast. Let us know what you thought of the episode and share this podcast with your friends. We invite you to join a global community of radically generous women and non binary folks at www.coralus.world.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai