Q: What is the Culture Shift Masterclass?
M: First, I’d like to say something about culture. Culture is what people use to maintain the social fabric – beliefs, ideas, etc. and most of the time it’s invisible. It’s like air. You breathe it, but you really don’t see it.
With that said, why shift? What’s the shift about? Scarabys as a consulting firm is looking to take some of the core ideas, principles, perspectives, and tools that we’ve used in our work as the Kheprw Institute to have a positive impact on our communities and increase our own agency. If you look at what’s going on now in the world – of course the issue of climate change, growing inequities, poverty, race/class/gender challenges – all these social matters seem to be getting worse and not better. As these challenges apparently grow, people are coming to us asking questions about how we’ve done what we have, and so we decided to bring some of the ideas together to figure out how to share with a broader community the processes, tools, and thoughts for doing this transformative work.
Q: What kinds of experiences can participants in the masterclass expect?
M: The first month is a deeper dive into what’s becoming a common term – social capital. I’ll start by saying some about how we define social capital. First off, there are all kinds of capital – monetary capital, intellectual capital, cultural capital, material capital, etc. But it’s social capital that we believe is one of the most valuable forms of capital. Put simply, our definition of social capital is the depth and breadth of your social network, with that depth and breadth being grounded in your relationships with other people.
Participants can expect activities and examples that demonstrate how to build your own social capital network, to recognize your existing social capital, and how to utilize your social capital to create solutions and address challenges that you find in your community – work community, social community, and play community. We also hope to create an environment where we can demonstrate the importance of establishing non-transactional relationships.
Q: Who is Scarabys Consulting?
M: The driving forces of Scarabys Consulting include Diop Adisa, Alvin Sangsuwangul and Mimi Zakem. Other participants include the co-founders of Kheprw Institute – Paulette Fair, Pamabana Uishi, and myself, as well as a handful of other Kheprw team participants serving as consultants for Scarabys, including some of the KI Equity Fellows such as Tabitha Barbour, Scott Janz, Aghilah Nadaraj, Rasul Palmer, Keenan Rhodes, and Stacia Murphy. It’s an intergenerational team with a deep and wide social network and varied expertise. Skills include but are not limited to leadership development, organizational development, creatives, marketing, business acumen, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and of course entrepreneurs. These team members are extremely passionate, resilient and committed to the practices and values necessary to create the cultural shift we talked about earlier.
Q: What are some of the values of the culture you are trying to shift toward?
M: In a word, relationship development. It is our view that the current culture we’ve created perpetuates monetizing and commodifying any and all of our activities, even our relationships. So the cultural shift we are advocating for places more emphasis on re-establishing relationships with each other and re-establishing authentic relationships in our communities.
Q: Why were the four focus areas selected?
M: Well we already spoke to social capital.
We chose social entrepreneurship for one, because it’s an area of expertise. It’s a particular platform that we use to build social relationships and address concrete challenges in our community. It’s also our belief that the characteristics of entrepreneurship, while not the end all, are highly important for agency, self-reliance, and self-determination.
As for the equity session, the truth of the matter is equity has become the new buzzword. Everybody is using it, but few people are trying to define it and look at it’s role in building fair and just communities. We want to utilize this part of our Masterclass to provide space for people to dig deeper about what is equity and how do we work toward creating communities that are more fair and more just.
Art and community was selected because artists are often the oracles in our communities. They can see the dystopias and utopias that potentially lie in our future. They are critical in assisting us to create and experience the world we want to create. Art also, when done well, whatever that means, can connect to the other aspects of our being – synthesizing the left and right brain experiences of being human. Art also is a tool for inspiration and so we felt it important to make sure that we take a deeper dive into art’s role in bringing about the cultural shift.
Q: Kheprw has been doing free community programming for 15 years. Why is the team charging for this Masterclass?
M: Put simply, this particular class serves two primary roles for us. One, of course, is expanding our social capital by providing space for us to share our work with a larger audience with more intentionality in our processes. If we do this well, folks will be able to take these concepts and help create similar cultural shifts in their own work and social communities. Secondly the registration fee is a way for us to generate additional revenue, utilizing a skill set that we believe has something to contribute. Like our other enterprises, our web design company KI NuMedia for example, we charge fees for services, providing a valuable product and supporting our work. The masterclass is another fee for service initiative to allow folks to support our work financially. We realize that the cost could be prohibitive to some, so we have created some scholarship opportunities, like we have always done for our summer camp program.
Q: Ok, let’s end with a story. Can you tell me more about how you have used social capital to create social enterprises and build community?
M: Wow, there are many, many examples. Social capital has been foundational at every step along the journey of the Kheprw Institute, and we honor and demonstrate that every day. One simple example that you can see almost every day is our relationship with Duo’s Kitchen. We facilitate a compost system for their food scraps, which we utilize in our youth and community gardening programs, and Duo’s provides us with their excess delicious food at closing, which we redistribute in our community. This whole operation was born out of the relationship and connection we have with their leadership.
KI NuMedia is another great example. This social enterprise was launched when one of the young people in our program, Arie, was studying web design at Ivy Tech. Through relationships with the Urban League – social capital – we were connected with a client who needed web design. Arie was working toward mastery of the skill, the economic opportunity was there – boom. KI NuMedia was born. Seven years later, KI NuMedia is one of our flagship enterprises helping to sustain our work and provide a living learning lab for training young people in multi-media, project/team management, and leadership skills.
A more recent example would be our Community Controlled Food Initiative (CCFI), that was launched by a group of folks who came together at our youth-led community forums when the grocery stores in our community closed. There was no dollar investment on the front-end, other than folks wanting to buy their fresh food through our community program. The people who came forward to participate and the team of CCFI organizers was extensively supported by the existing social capital of the Kheprw Institute, as well as social capital built through Good Food Feast community events and building relationships with farmers at markets. Through this approach that relied completely on people and their passion to create and be a part of a fresh food program, CCFI was born and has now been providing fresh food from local farmers, over 10,000 lbs, for more than two years in our community.