social impact

HARVEST FOR THE HUMAN SPIRIT

RECAP: BALLE Shift Capital Summit 2018 |  Eli Zaturanski Photography

RECAP: BALLE Shift Capital Summit 2018 | Eli Zaturanski Photography

A new concept has been introduced into my life by an organization called BALLE (Business Alliance of Local Living Economies).

It is the concept of HARVEST.

What is a harvest? A harvest is the process or period of gathering crops. 

But it’s not only farmers who gather, as a community of global citizens, we all gather. We gather memories, moments, experiences, life lessons, skills, insights, breakthroughs, wisdom, until we bring it all together in one great harvest to share. 

BALLE Shift Capital Summit 2018 |  Eli Zaturanski Photography

BALLE Shift Capital Summit 2018 | Eli Zaturanski Photography

All around me, I see friends, family, and community harvesting the fruits of their labor. From transcribing their journey's into books, creating works of art, going on once-in-a-lifetime adventures, showcasing feature films, there is an abundance and a ripening, a time to celebrate here and now.

For me, it’s been a year of harvesting breakthroughs. PLURAL.

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I pulled this Osho Tarot Card at the beginning of the year, “Breakthrough” and I feel it’s come true. I sensed it would be a challenging year and rather than my natural tendency to attempt to be in control and fight, I named 2018 my “Year of Surrender” to remind myself to do just that.

OSHO CARD READING:

“To transform breakdowns into breakthroughs is the whole function of a master. It is the greatest adventure in life to go through a breakdown consciously.

It is the greatest risk because there is no guarantee that the breakdown will become a breakthrough.

Zen, or meditation, is the method which will help you to go through the chaos, through the dark night of the soul, balanced, disciplined, alert.

The dawn is not far away, but before you can reach the dawn, the dark night has to be passed through. And as the dawn comes closer, the night will become darker.”

~ Osho Walking in Zen, Sitting in Zen, Chapter 1

This year has offerred challenges as well as incredible opportunities including working with BALLE (Business Alliance of Local Living Economies), which has been one of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on this year. Not so much because of the work itself (though that was impressive too!) but the privilege of witnessing and contributing in a small way to something incredibly powerful.

BALLE Shift Capital Summit 2018 |  Eli Zaturanski Photography

BALLE Shift Capital Summit 2018 | Eli Zaturanski Photography

Every year, BALLE hosts an annual gathering where they bring together 250 visionary leaders from across North America to envision and take action towards our country's most pressing and complex challenges.

The BALLE Shift Capital Summit is where people come together to take action.

With the theme of Shift Capital, topics included:

  • Democratizing finance and investing

  • Resourcing women and entrepreneurs of color

  • Investing in rural ecosystem building

  • Prioritizing indigenous communities

  • Accelerating cooperative ownership of business and land

  • Incentivizing independent business and alternative economic development

  • Regenerating soil and nature

Our fearless, graceful Summit Leader, Leslie Lindo |  Eli Zaturanski Photography

Our fearless, graceful Summit Leader, Leslie Lindo | Eli Zaturanski Photography

In short, BALLE and the community it fosters is HOLDING IT DOWN. Through their tireless work, as one community member calls it, they have become “Hosts of the Human Spirit”.

Having been mostly out of the country for the last two years (conveniently right when Trump was elected) I answered the call to travel and work abroad. Being gone has been one of the best things I’ve ever done, for endless reasons but especially because it provided me new perspective.

I had become like many young Americans, very disillusioned with America’s politics and institutions. Not even being as politically aware as I could be, it’s easy to see the cracks in the system. Leaving a country I perceived as highly self-oriented and ethnocentric felt like a breath of fresh air. Space from my country, space from everything I knew, space from myself.

Solutions Exchange! Small groups supporting one another on social challenges on the ground.

Solutions Exchange! Small groups supporting one another on social challenges on the ground.

And now coming back, I’ve braced myself for more anger and frustration and yet, this Summit gave me hope. There were courageous conversations on “Restorative Justice” and “Decolonizing Wealth”. There were “Solutions Exchange” sessions and action-planning for movement makers from across the nation where people were actively co-creating, collaborating and working towards a brighter future together.

“The New Majority” panel |  Eli Zaturanski Photography

“The New Majority” panel | Eli Zaturanski Photography

It was one of the first times in a long time where I was moved to tears with pride for being American. Seeing these men and women who’s families, like mine, have immigrated from all walks of life to the “promised land” to pursue “the American Dream”.

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And for better or worse, they are here now, grateful for the LIGHT and also no longer blind to the SHADOW of this country. The colonization, the violence, the injustice, but I didn’t hear a cry of a victim, I saw people empowered and doing something about it in an intentional and inspiring way...I can’t fully explain it. 

THEY WERE WOKE. REAL & WOKE.

Vision Session: The Shift We Need | |  Eli Zaturanski Photography

Vision Session: The Shift We Need | | Eli Zaturanski Photography

I left feeling catalyzed, mobilized, and renewed, so inspired by the work people are doing on the ground floor. There have been many moments traveling abroad when I felt embarrassed to be American but these people’s stories give me hope. And I remember how very blessed I am to live in a country (re)founded on freedom.

I wish I could share it more deeply (there’s a video coming out soon!) but a few questions and insights that spurred:

“What are the conditions for emergence?”

"What can we do today to restore balance in our communities tomorrow?”

“We’ve got enough for everyone’s need but not everyone’s greed.”

“How do we pay not just a living wage but a thriving one?”

“We can’t just scale our way from caterpillar to butterfly, we need to undergo a transformation.”

"What are our intentional practices to get us there?”

“How do we make people sacred again?”

And as one new soul friend so aptly put it, “the revolution needs a place and we are the space.” 

With all this goodness being gathered I now wonder, how might we acknowledge, celebrate, and honor our harvests this year? How might we restore balance individually so we can continue to flourish and thrive collectively? What’s next?

Many questions as you can see.

But for now, I’m so grateful. Grateful to be a part of the BALLE team in putting this Summit together. Grateful for the GRACE as I get back in the community building saddle again. Grateful for all those in the world tirelessly dedicating themselves to liberation, transformation, equity, and peace.

THANK YOU for harvesting hope for the Human Spirit.

ASHAY (and so it is)

With love and light,

Kelsey Lotus Wong

BALLE Shift Capital Summit 2018 Community |  Eli Zaturanski Photography

BALLE Shift Capital Summit 2018 Community | Eli Zaturanski Photography

WE ARE [DSIL] GLOBAL CITIZENS

Phom Phenh, Cambodia | Captured by Zachary Habayeb

Phom Phenh, Cambodia | Captured by Zachary Habayeb

There are some who “believe it when they see it”, who make a plan, trust in rationale, and take that leap only when they have the proof to validate the risk.

There are others who “believe it before they see it”, who have a vision, trust in their intuition, and take a leap of faith, risking it all for the great unknown. 

While I come from a culture that follows the former, I am living into the latter.

Bangkok, Thailand | Captured by Phan Dara

Bangkok, Thailand | Captured by Phan Dara

One big belief I have is that you can be a global citizen.

A global citizen is someone who doesn’t belong to one place or one community but belongs to every place and every community. A global citizen cannot be defined by what language they speak or where they come from. A global citizen speaks from the heart and every heart is their home.

Frangipani Living Arts Hote l | Phnom Penh 

You will know a global citizen when you meet one because they will disarm the default conversation. They will not fit into a single box. They will not walk a prescribed path.

A global citizen lives in MULTITUDES.

To live in multitudes means to be multidimensional; to encapsulate multiple identities, to hold multiple perspectives, and even to be in multiple places at the same time.

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Over two weeks, I had the priviledge of exploring the many multitudes of 15 global citizens as a part of the DSIL Global Course hailing from Costa Rica, South Africa, Hungary, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Canada, U.S.A., and India.

And it is these unique humans, which we now call “Sensei16” (Sensei meaning “Teacher” in Japanese) that have set my soul on fire.

You see we shared something truly special.

With the founder of the  Zero Baht Shop  - a shop that exchanges trash and recyclables for food | Bangkok, Thailand

With the founder of the Zero Baht Shop - a shop that exchanges trash and recyclables for food | Bangkok, Thailand

Together, we leaned into our learning edges, stretched beyond our limits, and leapt outside our comfort zones to discover a whole new realm of possibility. From Bangkok, Thailand to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, we traveled together, designed together, and lived into insanely curious, wicked questions together.

We touched and were touched by life itself.

Collecting trash with the Trash Pickers Association at the  Zero Baht Shop  | Bangkok, Thailand

Collecting trash with the Trash Pickers Association at the Zero Baht Shop | Bangkok, Thailand

We heard the stories of local Thai and Cambodians who lost everything, their homes, their families, their faith and who rebuilt (and continue to rebuild) their lives from the ground up. We used our entrepreneurial mindsets to work with local social enterprises like My Dream Home Cambodia, Koonsoor Kampuchea Training Academy, and the Zero Baht Shop in Thailand.

Collecting trash with the Trash Pickers Association at the  Zero Baht Shop  | Bangkok, Thailand

Collecting trash with the Trash Pickers Association at the Zero Baht Shop | Bangkok, Thailand

We failed forward learning about design thinking, conscious leadership, and inclusive development in realtime. We heard each other’s stories, tales of defining moments that have shaped who we are today and dreams for who we’re destined to be.

I can only stop, stare, and try not to blink. Did this really just happen?

They say you have space in your heart for people you haven't met yet.

Call it synchronicity. Call it destiny.

Ma:D Hub  - a club for a better society | Bangkok, Thailand | Captured by Mo

Ma:D Hub - a club for a better society | Bangkok, Thailand | Captured by Mo

Better yet, as Global Citizen Lili Camacho says, call it SYNCHRODESTINY (and a lot of hard work, thanks DSIL Global Team!).

No matter what you call it, there is space in my heart for you all and I sense there is something important for us to do together. And while I can only begin to imagine the infinite possibilities, I’ll allow the purpose to reveal itself.

So for now, I leave the DSIL Global Course with an expanded vision and a greater capacity to love.

I have a vision of social transformation and planetary regeneration. Where we transform broken systems of exploitation and oppression into generative sources of justice and liberation. Where we value people and planet over process and profit. Where we dedicate our lives first to our inner worlds and self-realization and then to exploring our passionate curiosities and sharing our gifts sustainably

Bangkok, Thailand | Captured by Phan Dara

Bangkok, Thailand | Captured by Phan Dara

I dream of a wiser, weller world where we return to our hearts.

In this vision, I aim to be an integral part of crafting transformational learning experiences that uplift and inspire. I want to create wildly, express colorfully, and weave a divine tapestry of togetherness.

While this vision may sound idealistic and a long way off, I have been blessed to travel around the globe meeting hundreds who ripple out touching thousands of people who are catalyzing their own part of this very vision and building a new world. 

As Global Citizen, Musa Nxumalo says, "Your dreams must be greater than your excuses." at  Ma:D Hub  - a club for a better society | Bangkok, Thailand | Captured by Mo

As Global Citizen, Musa Nxumalo says, "Your dreams must be greater than your excuses." at Ma:D Hub - a club for a better society | Bangkok, Thailand | Captured by Mo

Yes, many of the problems we face are gravity problems (ones we will not solve in this lifetime) but that doesn’t mean your energy and efforts are not worthwhile.

And while this way of living is not always graceful and it can be truly exhausting at times, the Global Citizen looks inward, lives their truth and moves forward, onward and upward anyway.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia | Photographed by Zachary Habayeb

Phnom Penh, Cambodia | Photographed by Zachary Habayeb

So here’s to you Global Citizens, my friends, my family, my teachers.

May you live your wildest visions and design forward your wildest dreams!

With an everexpanding and open heart,

Kelsey Lotus Wong

See full journey photo album and apply for the DSIL 2018 Course with field immersion in Thailand and Cambodia on August 24-September 2nd. 

Ma:D Hub  - a club for a better society | Bangkok, Thailand | Captured by Mo

Ma:D Hub - a club for a better society | Bangkok, Thailand | Captured by Mo

StartingBloc is my TRIBE.

"Be around the light bringers, the magic makers, the world shifters, the game shakers.They challenge you, break you open, uplift & expand you. They don't let you play small with your life. These heartbeats are your people. These people are your tribe." — I am Her Tribe

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StartingBloc is a non-profit that hosts four social innovation institutes a year in LA, DC, NYC, and NOLA for people who are committed to social impact work. No matter what sector, public, private, entrepreneur, intrapreneur, artist, activist all are welcome here. Through five days of interactive workshops and group discussions, you learn about a range of tools and topics from human-centered design to rapid prototyping, polarity mapping, diversity and inclusion, and tools for transformative action. What's even more meaningful to me is that you get to connect with 70+ other fellows at your institute and join a network of thousands of social change leaders that represent 60 countries worldwide.


Having said that, the best way I can describe the energy of StartingBloc is this: Imagine you are a modern explorer who has forged your own path in living a life of purpose and adventure. Along the way you have picked up numerous tools and treasures and put them in your backpack. Then one day you hear whispers of a gathering of explorers from around the globe. You're not quite sure what it is or if you'll make it but you're hellbent on trying so for days you trek until you reach the summit.

At the summit you find 70 other modern explorers who have been forging their own paths and putting their own unique tools and treasures in their backpacks. You are overflowing with excitement as you all unpack and share your discoveries. With each person you feel like you're looking into a mirror of another life you could live and you think, "WOW, I found you, you found me, and holy buckets there are so many of us!!!" You’re dancing in awe thinking about how you’ve taken all of these different paths only to arrive at this exact place at this exact time. That everything in each of your lives has led up to this moment and its special because who knows if you’ll all ever be here, quite like this again so you think if that's the case, it's time to make some goddamn magic...BOOM!


Having attended as a Fellow at LA '15 and now Mentor at NOLA '16, I can wholeheartedly say there is SO MUCH MORE MAGIC to experience AND you’ll discover it for yourself when you APPLY TODAY.


MUCH LOVE SB FAM <3 #‎SBNOLA2016 #‎tribe #‎TQM