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An excerpt from The Weaver’s Way highlights how a different approach to shaping change may be just what we need to get us out of the impending climate crisis. Reprinted with permission.
As the cofounder of a UNESCO award-winning organisation called SERES, where I now serve as a board member and senior advisor, I spent over a decade working in close proximity with impoverished and marginalised communities in Guatemala and El Salvador. I’ve lived in places where there is no justice. Where impunity reigns supreme and crimes of rape and murder go unpunished. Where a life is worth no more than a cell phone. Where a forest is destroyed or a river contaminated without a second thought, all in the name of profit. I’ve sat amongst the refuse of a society that sees people and the planet as disposable. The margins, they’re called. And I used to believe that those margins were a long way from the rural Australian town where I grew up. Now, I’m not so sure.
Despite lying at opposite ends of the scale when it comes to indicators such as wealth, prosperity and development, the deep injustices of marginalisation and poverty are a universal equaliser worldwide. The flooding on the east coast of Australia in early 2022 was a reminder that so-called ‘natural’ disasters are just as much socio-political disasters: the interface between an extreme physical phenomenon and a human population, magnified by the vulnerability of that population. And it is this reality that concerns me most about the impending climate crisis. Because if residents of a country that ranks number eight on the human development index, boasting the thirteenth largest economy in the world, are not immune…who amongst us really is?
Fires, floods, rising cost of living and increasing inequality. The sense of safety and security that many of us in the West carry with us is nothing more than a dangerous illusion. And the only way forward toward a more certain future is to throw off that illusion and find new ways to engage in shaping change in the world around us.
But not just any approach will work. Whether it’s in the aftermath of a natural disaster or in the daily lives of those living on the margins around the world, it’s become clear that the business-as-usual approach to change isn’t sustainable.
Drawing from my experience of over 15 years living and working on the frontlines with some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities and inspired by the intergenerational legacy of Guatemalan women weavers, I offer The Weaver’s Way as a new blueprint for shaping change that harnesses our deep inner instinct for connection and caring and calls for all of us to come together, pick up the tattered and fraying threads of our social fabric, and become Weavers before it’s too late.
James Suzman, an anthropologist who has studied the history of humankind through the prism of work, explains that it was the agricultural revolution that began the trend in which what we did and where we did it—as in our work—defined much of our identity. We became the Coopers, the Smiths, the Canners and created a legacy that we carry with us today. Not just in our surnames but in the stories we share. We meet someone new, and our first question invariably is, “What do you do?”
But what if this next stage of the human story was defined not by what we do but by why and how? Tell me a story of how you’re working to shape change, you would ask. And I would tell you a story of meaning and hope and joy. Where once we were the Coopers, the Smiths and the Canners in this new story, we could become The Weavers.
Weavers is the name I give to those working to shape change. To solve problems through interconnectedness. Those who heal, support and strengthen our social fabric. Who care for and mend the connective threads that bind us. Those who bring together movements and ideas, creating beauty and functionality in difference as well as similarity. People like you and me.
Drawn from my experiences working on the frontlines in a non-stop battle against poverty, pollution, violence, disease, discrimination, and insecurity, The Weaver’s Way is a story about agency and human dignity, and the incredible power of ordinary people ready and willing to do extraordinary things. It’s a framework that distils the wisdom, learning and insights developed from my own efforts of trying to shape meaningful and transformative change, as well as the many people I’ve had the honour to work alongside.
For too long, mainstream messaging from the media, politicians, and corporations has tried to convince us that ordinary people will never change anything. I know that isn’t true. I’m determined to ensure that the next generation knows it, and my wish is that you and I do it together.
Corrina Grace is a social entrepreneur, engineer, author and cofounder of a UNESCO-award winning organization with 15-plus years building and strengthening social impact organizations. Ten-plus years living and working with disenfranchised, economically marginalized communities on the frontlines of climate change has solidified a personal commitment to ensuring justice and equality for People + Planet, a commitment that shapes her work at all levels.