This month we feature the Indiana Voices of Women and how a “new initiative” grant from The Circle Way supports their vision of empowering multigenerational and culturally diverse women to integrate feminism, spirituality and leadership.
The Dandelion Effect: Addressing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Imagine a round mature dandelion puff centering the circle as it waits with suspense for the invisible movement of the circle to set the seeds adrift on waves of energy. There is anticipation along with the appearance of fragility. The slightest movement releases fertile seeds. Even the youngest child recognizes the wonder and can’t resist taking a deep breath and blowing - the seeds release - magically sailing to become the next hardy dandelion plant. Dandelions are tenacious. They take root and thrive in the most unhospitable places. Dandelions are hearty, rich in nutrients and fiber. Dandelions freely share their beauty – rich golden flowers which become seeds for the future.
Indiana Voices of Women (IVoW) gathers women on circle to strengthen our voices where we walk in the world. Women commit to meeting one weekend a month for nine months to integrate feminism, spirituality and leadership. The Circle Way principles and practices ground the IVoW Experience in providing a shared leadership model that invites diverse thought, explores multiple understandings and a space to discover our collective wisdom for this moment in time. Each weekend offers opportunity to strengthen our experience of The Circle Way dynamics and to build trust in the grounding principles.
The Circle Way (TCW) has provided key support since the program was piloted in 2010-11. The pilot held many critical questions: Would this process be relevant to younger women? to women of color? to women living on the margins of the community. Questions for which we did not have answers. Critical questions that were held collectively as we invited women to gather in circle.
Initially, IVoW connected women to TCW to seek funds in support of their individual participation in the IVoW Experience. Encouraging women to “offer what they can and say what they need” is a grounding principle of both IVoW and the Circle Way. TCW process engaged the women, encouraged them to identify how they would share their learning beyond the IVoW experience and generously provided financial support.
The Circle Way’s launch of a New Initiative Grant this year invited IVoW to consider a more systemic partnership. IVoW applied for the New Initiative Grant as an organization with the intent to actively engage the questions we have been collectively holding. The approach was two-prong: 1) to remove finances as a barrier to women’s participation, especially for young women (in their 20s and 30s), women of color, and women living on the margins of their community; and, 2) to increase the ratio of guest faculty leaders who are young women and women of color.
This year we call our sixth IVoW Experience circle. The goal is for each woman to gain clarity regarding what it means to be a woman of spirit who leads. The Circle Way supports the integrative work as each woman holds the question – “Where do I want to offer my voice in the world at this time in my life?”
Over the next year women will experience the shared leadership model of The Circle Way. They will discover what it means to step onto the circle, feel the energetics as women deepen their sharing, learn how the center neutralizes intensity, and practice reconnecting to the center. The regular monthly practice will develop skill, trust in the process, and consistent reminders of The Circle Way practices and principles.
This September three generations of women (ages 20s through 60s) committed to step onto the Circle to practice, share and grow in their understanding. They come from different walks of life, various ethnicities and educational backgrounds. Guest Faculty Leaders are fifty percent women of color and twenty-five percent young women.
This circle of women is a rich opportunity to explore the questions IVoW has been holding. The Circle Way New Initiative Grant is creating accessibility to an amazingly diverse group of women. The Circle Way funds are creating a seat on the circle for young women, women of color, and women with daily sustenance challenges. The Circle Way resources create the equity. IVoW reaches out to invite the inclusion that opens the space to explore the richness of voices. Together the experience impacts the individual woman and enhances the experience of the collective.
Can you imagine the collective wisdom just waiting for the invisible movement of the circle to set their voices adrift on waves of energy? Where will seeds from this year’s Circle travel, take root, and offer sustenance for our world? Seeds being planted in the most unexpected places.
To see examples of IVoW’s dandelion effect view IVoW’s video here.
To learn more about Indiana Voices of Women visit www.indianavoicesofwomen.org.
Barbara Kerkhoff is co-founder of Indiana Voices of Women and co-facilitates the IVoW Experience. She has both practiced The Circle Way in various settings for eighteen (18) years, and participated in The Circle Way Training on Whidbey Island with Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea and Advanced Circle Practice sessions in Chicago and on Whidbey Island. Barbara has a Bachelor of Social Work from Virginia State University and a Master of Divinity from Loyola Chicago. Barbara currently teaches at Ivy Tech College and lives in West Lafayette, Indiana with her husband, Bob.