Learning Journeys 2023

This year took us to three exciting field visits to rural communities in order to discover and broaden our perspectives on what equity could really look like. We carefully chose the projects to visit because they provide us a different point of view of the real experiences of communities marginalized by our institutional system.

Our travels permitted those who participated to enter as a group in an unknown context to explore and have a personal learning experience with impact on their work. On March 23rd we met a community group led by working-class women, on June 29th a collective led by queer artists, and on September 8th by youth from a community of color. However, each project visited works on unexpected topics such as mutual aid, historical memory and nature tourism, respectively.

Learning Journeys are one of our initiatives to build collective capacity skills, knowledge and expertise while creating valuable and awesome experiences for our members.

It is important to understand that these trips were not meant to be “tourist tours” or “site visits” but rather learning opportunities to integrate systems thinking into our philanthropic work. We followed MIT’s Presencing Institute framework, based on Otto Scharmer’s Theory U, which integrates systems theory, neuroscience, and movement organizing for leadership in social transformation. Our staff designed the activities using these social transformation tools of deep listening and collective sense making hoping to encourage the adoption of high-priority transformational practices among our members.

The Experiences

The emerging organizations we visited are creating innovative social solutions worth taking a look at. They were chosen thematically by stakeholder groups to get a wider sense of perspectives and social contexts. It is through the cracks of the economic and political system where social innovation flourish and emerges. Filantropía co-created each unique experience with the project leaders and reimbursed their time and materials with the UPF Rural mini grant.

In our visits we had the opportunity to share everyday work with community members and held spaces for listening to success stories from the leaders and program participants. This approach allows us to learn firsthand about their social innovation solutions directly from those who are creating them. This way we strategically build capacities for transformative practices for the philanthropic sector that advances equity in Puerto Rico.

Our first visit was in March during Women’s Month. The women leaders at the Centro de Apoyo Mutuo Las Carolinas in the rural hills surrounding the town of Caguas, welcomed us. They provide mutual aid and care services for the community elderly and their caretakers from a rehabilitated cafeteria at the long closed local school building. We touched transactional topics of alleviating poverty, women issues and housing justice, very current in our philanthropic dialogues. You can see the highlights of our journey on this link: Learning Journey – Las Carolinas

The second visit in June was during Pride Month. A queer artist couple invited us to explore their efforts to preserve the natural, material and oral history of Manatí municipality with an interesting approach to rethink history to create inclusive spaces for diversity today. They rehabilitated and currently sustain two historical buildings, a cultural memory archive and a queer centric artist gallery. Our members interested in arts and culture integrated with gender and urban issues enjoyed this intimate experience. You can see the highlights of our journey on this link: Learning Journey: Barrioization

By our third visit in September we were in the middle of Hurricane Season. A group of young people of color taught us about their cultural and natural heritage vulnerable to climate change at the coastal municipality of Loiza. Centro Esperanza’s social enterprise initiative provides work for the local youth through nature tourism while supporting their community education and cultural programs. Economic and youth development, the environment and culture were the main topics explored through the eyes of these young people. You can see the highlights of our journey on this link: Learning Journey: Centro Esperanza

The Outcome

Using a systems theory approach, allowed us to experience a deep understanding of these distinct realities that could very well influence future grant programming for our foundations. These events made these particular community efforts visible to our members and encouraged them to be curious about social innovation from unexpected contexts and origins.

Holding conversations in these spaces with our members about equity and how it is advanced through social innovation by the people who have been left out at the margins of institutional support is key to our capacity building goals. The practice of listening to grantees and community stakeholders is one of our current philanthropic transformational practices priorities. The Learning Journey program has been successful in achieving this core strategic objective this year.

You can see the highlights, videos and photos of all visits we made in the 2022 and 2023 Learning Journeys on these links:

2022 Learning Journeys

2023 Learning Journeys

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