Practicing diversity – or what the heck is “ally-ism”

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Creating a new organization also means creating a culture. At the basis of a culture are its values. Here is what that has to do with becoming allies.

When the NOW team started working together, our values were unspoken. Yet I believe that none of us had doubts that they were shared. To make our team values more explicit, we held a workshop focusing on collaboration and who we are as an organization. You can read about the outcomes on our website. It was a beautiful process that made us feel closer to each other and discover what these underlying NOW values were all about. Ever since, we find ourselves applying them in the way we do things and make decisions. That means, for example, openly addressing difficult topics within our team such as money or our psychological well-being. And that, for me, is what it looks like when trust, love, inclusion and boldness come together.
However, besides the values that define how we work together, there are other values, the ones that relate to the world we live in: ethics, you might call it. One of the core beliefs of NOW is the fact that diversity is an asset, not a threat. This also applies to the causes and areas of social change that we dedicate ourselves to. At NOW, we strongly believe in what some people call cross-pollination. In our specific case that means: we can learn from each other across causes.
Have you ever thought “If I had more time, I would volunteer for … / create a project that … / fight for …”? We know that one can’t be equally active in all causes. But if you’re fighting for human rights, for example, you might be able to learn from people who are active in the divestment movement. And reaching out to that movement gives you an opportunity to become an ally of it.
So this to me is another core NOW value that I’m discovering more and more these days: “ally-ism”. Ally-ism is the reason why at NOW we don’t focus on a specific cause or approach to social change, but rather aim at cross-pollination. Being an ally means doing little but meaningful things that make a difference. It means standing on people’s side. Let me give you an example of that: Check out the article we shared on Facebook about Orthodox Jews’ reach out to the gay community after the recent tragedy in Orlando. That’s the kind of powerful encounters we believe in. Most of us have very limited time, but becoming allies can make the different approaches to social change more powerful.
For us NOWers, cross-pollination and becoming allies go hand in hand. Soon each of our participants will embark on a unique journey of social change, and will have the opportunity of getting a sneak peek into 29 other journeys and, hopefully, will become allies in 29 other causes.
How can you contribute to fight the extinction of bees? How can you help people with chronic diseases in your environment?  How can you support LGBTQI rights in your actions? My answer to most of these questions is “I don’t know, but I’d love to learn.” I think that connecting with people involved in different causes and movements can help me discover the answers and acting upon them.
Over the last months, the NOW Community – a virtual group of over 90 people who support us with little micro-volunteering actions – has developed and grown quickly. We always knew that there were lots and lots of amazing individuals in that group, yet only a recent survey showed us just how incredible the NOW Community is. We asked them what areas of social change they are active in – be it through work, volunteering or activism. Here’s the result:

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I believe that the list above shows a great potential for cross-pollination and ally-ism. While I am happy to be actively involved in social change projects linked to education, sustainability and veganism among others, I can’t wait to become an ally for health or minority rights. How about you?