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Guest Post: Shilpa Jain on the Leveraging Privilege for Social Change Jam

May 6, 2009

Shilpa Jain has been a learning activist with Shikshantar: The Peoples‚ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development and is affiliated with the Swaraj Foundation. Shilpa has researched, written books and articles, and facilitated workshops on topics ranging from globalization, creative expressions, ecology, democratic living, gender, innovative learning, walkouts and unlearning.

I wanted to let you know about the 7th annual Leveraging Privilege for Social Change Jam, which will be held June 4-11, 2009 at a gorgeous retreat center in West Virginia.  This is an annual week-long gathering for a diverse group of 30 young people (flexibly under age 35). What draws them together are two things: they each feel they have some kind of privilege in their lives — for example, they have access to wealth, fame, networks and/or capacity for social impact — AND they each are committed to building a thriving, just and sustainable way of life for all.

I am guessing that is true for most, if not all, of you.

Yet, I also know that, in these times, many of us may be asking what kind of privilege we have.  Families around the US are losing their jobs and homes; the economic collapse has put severe stress on many peoples’ lives. Simultaneously, global challenges like climate change, food security, war and civil instability loom large in our eyes. In the face of all of this, perhaps you find yourself saying, yes, Obama was elected, but will it be enough?

Actually, it won’t.  Which is precisely why we are coming together.

Leveraging Privilege for Social Change (LPSC, for short) is an opportunity to take stock of ourselves, our gifts, our resources, our power, our potentials.  We all have a variety of privileges, and now more than ever, we need real time and space to unearth and expand them. What we can do to strengthen our work, find new possibilities and build the life and the world we want to see?  We know we need change, but what kind of change? How do we get there? And with whom do we make that happen?

Past participants of LPSC have included entertainers, activists, young inheritors, foundation program officers, entrepreneurs, authors, media personnel, philanthropists, youth mentors, and public figures who are committed to using the resources in their lives to help build a better world.  South Asians with different kinds of privilege have always been a part of LPSC. They have come from diverse backgrounds, from 1st generation US immigrants, to those who have been in North America for several generations, to people whose families settled in east Africa and the Caribbean, etc. All in all, the whole mix is a pretty powerful and dedicated group of folks.  Our alumni consistently report that the community that comes out of Jams is a source of support and inspiration that helps to sustain them and propels them on their path.

We spend the week engaged in rich conversations about our own lives, the system we’re currently living in, the organizations we are a part of, race, class and gender dynamics, philanthropy and generosity, and much more. The Jam consists of a unique combination of facilitated dialogues, movement and bodywork, art and creative expressions, games and celebration, and plenty of time for the fine art of hanging out. LPSC is really a week for sharing from the heart, growing, learning, building amazing connections with other young ‘be-the-change’ leaders, and gaining skills to support a lifetime of work for positive change.

To learn more and to apply, check out the Leveraging Privilege for Social Change Jam website or our brochure . It would be an honor to share in this program with you, and to welcome you into the Jam community.

“My week at the Jam helped me to realize that I can’t leverage privilege for social change by getting a great education, or designing communication satellites, or optimizing an investment portfolio, or facilitating establishment of a charitable lead trust. Rather, leverage comes from conversations – open, honest conversations with other passionate, visionary and transparent individuals like those the Jam attracts. Leverage comes from linking arms, building bridges, and inspiring movements toward common goals. My Jam experience was a beautiful balance of humility and empowerment.”

– Erik Falconer, 33, Falconer Group Family Wealth Management, Traverse City, MI

“This Jam has helped me recognize and appreciate my power and privilege. It has opened my eyes to all that are possible when community and honesty come together. I am deeply grateful to be part of this community and leave here with a renewed commitment to give all that I can to the world.”

– Katrina Behrend, 24, Rudolf Steiner Foundation, San Francisco, CA

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