The Compassion Union

This is the third installment of a series (see Thinking Big, Living Small andNandan’s Experiment with Shoes).

I will use questions from Mazarine’s comment to my second piece as the stimulus for this piece: “I love the idea of growing horizontally, and living simply, but can you give us some clues about how you did that? Are you a cooperative now? Do your workers have a union? Are you organized differently?”

Growing horizontally: Thinking back, I feel our biggest concern was “branding” (it goes hand-in-hand with “trust”), not just within the organization but also outside. We were not able to completely rely on delegation of work to others. There was always this unknown sense of being responsible for everything that happened at the organization. Everything had to be under our control, because we thought we knew better. Measuring the steps that were taken, assuming the impact it would cause and producing a result that we thought would be most appropriate became our preoccupation. In short, we were working “only” from a pool of knowledge that we had and limiting it to that. A very dear friend puts it very well: “How can we trust what we know, when everything we know, depends so heavily on what we know”. :)

If a volunteer came in, we would steer him/her in the direction of our work, not leaving them much room to try something new. If we did any collaborations with other companies or organizations, we made clear what our deliverables were and what theirs for us would be. e.g. We host the “I am the change film project” every year. Until 2008, it was all about the sponsors, media partners, newspaper partners, radio, television etc. And we always found ourselves telling them what we needed (from our limited knowledge) and what we can give in return. Again “interpreting knowledge from interpreted knowledge”.

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