• Fyodor Ovchinnikov

Group Reflections on the Work and Teachings of Mansi Kakkar: a Collective Narrative

Updated: Mar 25

Produced by Fyodor Ovchinnikov

On Wednesday, March 9, 2022, a group of 17 participants from Kenya, Brazil, Russia, Greece, and the USA gathered for the second peer learning session of the Thought Leadership for Systems Transformation program to discuss their reflections on the work and teachings of Mansi Kakkar.

Participants’ reflections were recorded and processed according to the Collective Narrative Methodology to create a balanced summary of key ideas that showed up in group discussions using participants' own words and giving every participant an opportunity to ensure that their ideas are included.

Aline Iglesias, Anton Titov, Christiana Gardikioti, Drew Hornbein, Emmanuelle Vital, Heather Nelson, John Kamau Ng'ang'a, Julius Khamati Kuya, Lynn Chittick, Maria Talero, Micheline Levy, Natalia Harzu, Rafael Calcada, Sean Kvingedal, Tatiana Vekovishcheva, Timothy Macharia, and Wacera Maina participated in the session and contributed to this collective narrative.

Here is the recording of the group call with Mansi Kakkar based on this collective narrative:


We had a lovely discussion. We felt that the ‘modus operandi’ of our cultures was challenged and that we were given the opportunity for further learning which was delightful.

Focusing on ripeness and diversity to build generative relationships based on trust

As we were also trying to explore how we can build a generative relationship that is created based on trust, we discussed the interconnection between trust and actions, the patterns of communication over the internet, and how these changes affect our lives. Generally, many of us were motivated to look at the various spheres of trust the daily approaches it encompasses. We shared experiences from places that ranged from the Amazon to Kenya and we were able to see how trust can be incorporated into our learning processes on a daily basis enabling us to 100% achieve community change through our community engagements.

We were very interested in the invitation to shift away from the fixing mindset, to tear it down and build the new mindset of regeneration and ripeness as opposed to rightness. With the whole issue of ‘ripening’, for the whole team to be ready, mature, and have the ability to work together is one of the key components of trust as people come together to build relationships and networks. As we discussed the question of what is ripe, we explored the pandemic as a case study, and we were curious about how trust in the pandemic ripened in different ways. For example, in the context of youth entrepreneurship in Kenya, young people seeing massive layoffs from big companies during the pandemic, are tapping into a new channel of trust and going into business for themselves.

In another example, people tapped into new channels of trust, connection, and intimacy during the pandemic, like voice recordings with friends who previously had been available for sit-down coffees that were sometimes more superficial. We saw that people re-envision trust for themselves and that re-envisioning is always local and there is no universal narrative. Based on that, we asked how we intentionally encourage that diversity in regeneration. How do we welcome that sort of bubbling up of innovation and renewed trust wherever it happens in its own unique ways?

Living on the edge and trusting the process

We also explored the possibility that the movement that led to the loss of trust is what can give us hints to figure out how to protect trust in the future. We talked about the invitation to stay in discomfort, to stay on the edge, to be willing to be afraid and to be insecure. How can we live and dance on the edge of each other, just on that line? How can we keep that liveliness of literally "living on the edge" of each other? We were really listening to the importance of reflective slowness and noticing the impatience of funders who are often reluctant to support conversations that go slow and invite vulnerability and we wonder how we could work with people who want change fast, but it happens slower than they would like?

Talking about how we can unlock trust so that people could walk together as a team, we were looking at the ability to trust the process rather than the results. What can we do to be able to trust the process more than the product? At the end of the day, the product we produce is going to bring a sense of ownership so trusting the process instead of the product is one of the key things we can do to come together as a team, to bring ideas to the table, and to involve everyone in idea generation.

We also asked how we can support a collective process in such a way that it does not become a traumatic process. What does it look like to invite the collective, to be willing to be afraid and insecure, and to stay on edge without that turning into trauma? Also, we had questions about Mansi's thinking about network and relationship as having a higher currency or a higher value than, for example, efficiency and economies of scale. We worked with the example of the whale, the whale under the ocean versus the oil under the ground in an extractive economy: the oil has value and is extracted and put to use, but the whale swimming in the depths of the ocean has no value, so using that analogy Mansi wants us to think of relationships as having immense value and networks, complex networks as having immense value. So we are asking, how can we activate that value? How can we give it weight in a transition away from extractive mindsets?

Discipline as a way to know and trust each other

We were also looking at how we can enable people within our network to bring trust and work together. One of the key things that enable people to build strong trust among themselves is the ability to know each other which comes from discipline. So discipline is one of the key things discipline that we do when we decide to agree that this is something we are going to work on as a team, and we are going to fulfill it, to definitely achieve our goal and deliver the required results within the timeframe we agreed upon.

If trust is always there, how do we find it?

We were also really gravitated towards the provocation that trust is always there, that it is an always available renewable resource. If we are trained to look at trust as an infinite regenerative resource that is definitely available to us, we as a team have that ability and the potential to unlock it so that it is able to encompass among ourselves and help us create that network that we want, and then also to complete connecting the dots. In order for us to do this connecting of the dots, how much do we have to hold on to our emotions or to our individualism versus collectivism?

So as we look at trust as a material resource that is readily available among ourselves and it is just up to us to have the ability to look for it, we wonder how we can identify it so that it could enable us to build the pillars of our relationship. How do we know that there is trust among us? What are the metrics that allow us to work with that always available renewable resource? If it is always there, how can we help people coming into the system realize that trust is always there? How can we unblock it? What are the clues that protect trust from being damaged in the same way again? How do we rebuild trust both in ourselves and also in others? And how are we able to nurture our thoughts in terms of trusting the system that it will fix itself and balance itself off? How do we look within to find the balance? How do we rebuild trust when dealing with and within a system that is trying to disrupt it? As we discussed different value system measurements, we wondered how we can measure change and how we communicate the value of this change: for example, can money prove that the change is of value and that we have to fight for the new point of view?

Bringing abstractions to life and staying hopeful

We also felt that there was a difficulty in communicating and bringing it down to a level where everybody understands what ‘regeneration’ is all about so we want to hear about all this from Mansi’s context and wonder if she could share some of the stories and experiences behind her ideas, to give us concrete examples to help bring the abstractions to life.

Exploring the existential questions of "Is there hope?”, “Is there trust?”, “Is there fear?", we talked about love, trust for the unknown, pain as a common denominator and the broader humanity, and a sense in the whole group that can be communicated through the question "Are we doomed?". And what emerged was that we do not know, yet we are all hopeful.

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