BENDING THE ARC WITH JOAN GODOY

Joan Godoy, Executive Director of Radical Partners, speaks about wastefulness, disconnected bubbles, and questions we have to ask to close the empathy gap


By Yulia Strokova, Samantha Schalit


Joan Godoy, Executive Director of Radical Partners

This year, Impact.Edition is joining the 10 Days of Connection. This is not your typical series of webinars, a string of screen meetings where you sit quietly but intently, listening to nonprofits discuss pressing issues with other nonprofits. This is a conversation for everyone to safely escape their own bubbles and learn from a neighbor who might look different, who might have a different social status or have come of a different age, a neighbor born in Miami, or one who took a long way to get here.

The list of connection experiences is quite impressive. We've already saved a few -- ok, many -- of the events on our calendars.

Refugee Assistance Alliance invites us for a meaningful conversation and virtual wine tasting happy hour; LEAP for Ladies and Repair the World Miami encourage to humanize people ostracized from society and connect with an incarcerated pen pal. Miami Homes for All and Disability Independence Group give the microphone to those with unique, lived experiences of homelessness during a live, virtual panel. The Enable Project creates a space for Deaf and Hard of Hearing peers to share their experiences and identify societal barriers. The Friends of the Stirling Road Branch Library invites the community for a lecture, ‘Blues: A Meeting Point For Black Americans And Jews,’ explaining how the interaction of different ethnic groups transformed music and entertainment.

“For ten days each year, we challenge the entire community to break down silos and engage in acts of connection, to build empathy, to increase understanding, and to refocus on our shared humanity,” tells Joan Marie Godoy, Executive Director of Radical Partners, a social accelerator that empowers local changemakers.

Joan is a powerful blend of raw emotions, profound knowledge and passion for getting the best out of people. She is a clinical psychologist with a Master of Arts in International Non-Governmental Organizations and a very proud Guatemalan. A dancer, a runner, an avid yogi, a frequent traveler, she brings her compassion, energy, idealism, and international experience to help strengthen our humanity.


JOAN’S VIEW ON POWERFUL MOMENTS FOR HUMAN CONNECTIONS

There are definitely overlooked opportunities for connection among the local organizations and the local leaders who are doing the work. Because don't get me wrong, they're doing a great job trying to serve the people they serve, but while they're so focused on that, sometimes they lose perspective of what's happening around them.


To give a concrete example, now we hear about food distribution. So we see the leaders; they're literally sweating, they're working there all day under the sun, trying to make the line serve the people, but at the same time, they produce trash that sometimes is not disposed of properly. And we know about waste management organizations. What if they could meet each other and say, ‘Look, I'm doing this, I want to feed people, but I cannot deal with trash, can you come and join me at the end of that chain?’


There's definitely a lack of coordination and collaboration, and the reality is that not everybody could, or should, be an expert in everything.


Social changemakers must develop a new habit of collaboration, of asking and answering: how can we benefit from each other's knowledge and each other's visions? We need to pause and reflect on why we are doing the work. Is this really solving the problem, or is it just putting a band-aid on top of it?

Sometimes the most powerful moments have been in conversations, have been in places, in spaces in which we can collide.

THE 10 DAYS OF CONNECTION, AND WHY WE SHOULD JOIN IT

We're humans. So when I say, ‘do it, because you're human,’ it is because we should protect our own species and take care of our people.

We should try to be courageous enough to learn that our truth might not be the only truth. It is your responsibility to understand who has had access to certain opportunities because it is a reality, no matter how we see it, that certain people have held power through history, and some people have not got any of that power.

How can we balance it? And I'm going to say this explicitly because we hear terrible words when talking about activists; it is not about us proving that we're better than the rest. We want the same doors to be open for everybody.

The 10 Days of Connections is a free and easy way for you to start tapping into those conversations and start bursting your own bubbles. And I promise you that it might not be easy, but you won't regret it.

EMPATHY IS A MUSCLE


I have tips for extroverts and tips for introverts.

I am definitely an extrovert. Talking to strangers is not a hard thing for me to do and I would say that a particular tip for when you find yourself making a judgment about anybody, try to challenge that assumption of yours by asking questions. If you meet a person, look at how this person is dressed, or if you don't love the way they smell, just ask: 'hey, how has your day been?' Maybe they work in construction and they've been sweating all day.

And for those people who are introverted, you can have the same conversation in your head. Why am I making that judgment? Do I really know this person? Try to start just pausing and asking yourself why you are making that conclusion.

The way we think we should act and the way we think we should feel are often timesnot right. What do we feel when we see a white man wearing a hoodie? How do we feel when we see a black man wearing a hoodie? The reality is that many people’s reactions and feelings are very different. Ask yourself: is the feeling coming from a past experience or is it the result of something you've learned from someone else?

Pause and ask yourself why. I think you will start flexing that empathy muscle as you move on in life.


The cover image presents a magnificent aerial sculpture 'Bending Arc' by Janet Echelman. It derives from a 1968 quote by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” St. Petersburg Pier, Fl, 2020




WHAT, OR WHO, INSPIRED JOAN’S SOCIAL IMPACT CRUSADE

My dad has been an environmental activist and biologist. I learned from him to be smart, to study for it, but also to give it back to your country in a very smart and strategic way. So he was the one that pushed me in the way, 'you have to do this, you have to get a scholarship, you have to go abroad, etc.' So he brought that rationale to me.

And then my mom, she's one of the best gatherers I've ever met. In Spanish, we always say, “sólo se le echa más agua al caldo.” It means one can always add more water to the soup, there's enough for everybody. I grew up in a house that always opened the door for everybody, and everybody was welcome.

I think I had the privilege of being the combination of those two things. How do you open up the social impact doors for everybody? And how do you make everybody feel welcomed and feel that they have a seat at the table, but do it strategically and purposefully?


Since I can remember, we would go on road trips, my dad would talk about communities and get us to travel around the country to see the disparities with his societal theories, and my mom was all about smiling and hugging and giving people what they wanted and making everybody feel good.


THE PROBLEM THAT NAGS AT JOAN

Wastefulness really annoys me in every single sense; when people are wasting food, when people are wasting clothes, when people are wasting trash, but also when people are wasting time, and when they're wasting resources.

Now, after 2020, we see these huge empty buildings, and then we see people sleeping outside without a house. And that wastefulness really frustrates me. What is happening to us? That we created a system where you prefer to keep the lights on for your brand than for the people that need somewhere safe to sleep. So, we see wastefulness everywhere, we waste the power of moments, letting them pass, and we waste the opportunity to share our resources.

Through Radical Partners, we're truly trying to root out waste in different areas. When it comes to leaders, how do we make sure that they're spending their time, money, and teams most efficiently and effectively? We invest in the leaders, we try to engage locals, and we try to build coalitions to strengthen our communities, and hopefully, give everybody access to opportunity so that we can all be healthy and thrive and be loved in our community.

JOAN’S ADVICE FOR HER YOUNGER SELF

I would grab myself in the shoulders and say, ‘Joan, chill.’


That's literally what I would say.


But to be a little bit more formal with it, I will say, if you have a backpack, put your passions in there, bring your ideas with you, bring your stamina with you. But remember that it's not going to be a 100-meter sprint. You're going to be running for a long time if you're really committed to it.


You will understand that it is about how well you've trained, how well you know your route, the playlist that you have. But it also has to do with your surroundings. How fast you go depends on the wind, depends on obstacles that you find in the race, depends on a lot of things you need to be watching for. You need to keep your eyes open. And you need to be listening to things as well.

Pause, breathe, listen actively, seek to understand and bring that master with you everywhere. It is a mix of you and your surroundings, which will hopefully help you navigate all the spaces you're part of to influence and make some change.