When my friend Jane Brunette emailed me from Bali last February to ask if I would help her organize an Indiegogo Campaign to support an indigenous tribe in Eastern Borneo bring hundreds of villagers together to hold a 64-day long conflict resolution ceremony intended to protect their home rainforest from bulldozers, I followed my heart compass and said yes! Jane and I knew each other well. Our paths first crossed in Bali in the summer of 2011, and from the start, our friendship revolved around our shared love of poetry, meditation, travels… and trees. When our friend Clare Dakin started an organization called Tree Sisters and put out a call for 1000 founding funders to make a monthly contribution, Jane and I both stepped forward. She and I occasionally talked about starting our own tree initiative in Bali, something small, local and hands-on, a fundraiser perhaps, but nothing spoke to us loud enough to move us into action, until Jane attended a Writers’ conference in Ubud last January.
She published a beautiful post on her Flamingseed blog about her encounter with well-known environmental activist Ruwindrijarto Ambrosius at that conference, and explained how it prompted her to get on a plane to Borneo with him to meet with leaders of the Dayak Benuaq tribe in Muara Tae. There she witnessed the devastation that has happened to the rainforest at the hands of palm oil companies’ bulldozers, but she also received a huge dose of inspiration from her new Dayak friends. She gave an inspiring 8 minute talk about the origins and purpose of the Indiegogo campaign she decided to launch after returning from Borneo:
Jane turned to me for support with the campaign, because I love crowd funding, but I did not have much experience with organizing one, and neither did she. We decided we would learn as we go. And this is how Jane’s friendship with Ruwi and Asuy, and my friendship with her, sparked us all into action, and we later inspired friends in four different continents to come along for the ride. 26 days into our Indiegogo Campaign campaign, we have raised $10,714 from 155 people who have given gifts ranging from $1 to $1000. More than 50 of them have joined our ambassador team. We are especially excited that several women who have come forward are from indigenous backgrounds, part of the Dayak tribe in Western Borneo and the Tolaya tribe in Sulawesi. When she heard about the campaign, Mina Susana Setra wrote Jane a very moving letter about what it was like for her to lose her rainforest (in Western Borneo) as a child.
The campaign for us turned out to be primarily about following our hearts and energy rather than a strategy. We’ve been meeting regularly over skype and phone these last few weeks to tune in with each other and the rest of our team. We enter a space of receptive listening and not knowing together, and notice what questions, issues, emotions or insights show up, individually or collectively… and how that feels in our hearts and bodies. As we connect with what is happening in Muara Tae, we give the energies and feelings that arise space to unwind… rather than rushing into strategic conversations about ‘what to do.’ We seek to talk, write and engage one another from a place of spaciousness and connectedness AND we also do our best to welcome all our experiences and emotions (however challenging or uncomfortable)… to give them the space and time they need to reveal their messages and transform us. Our guiding inquiry for this initiative on behalf of the tribe and trees of the Muara Tae has been “what would love do?”
Here are a few things I have been learning from my crowd funding adventures with Jane in Bali, Ruwi in Java, and our growing team of campaign ambassadors around the world.
#1 – It’s not how much money people give to the campaign that makes our day. It’s knowing they made a bit of time to learn about what moves our hearts, and cared enough to offer support in some way that is meaningful and authentic for them… which does not necessarily require money.
#2 – There are many things in the world requiring our respective care and attention, and we can’t all pay close attention to everything. This is why, when someone turns out to feel equally passionate as we do about preserving rain forests and protecting indigenous tribes from paying the price of our comfortable lifestyles… and he or she steps forward to campaign by our side, or actively reflect on the part they play in deforestation… we get over the moon excited.
#3 – My favorite part of witnessing people’s generosity is what they say or write about what inspired them to give. One friend gave $10 and wrote: “what an investment this is…a real investment for my children and grandchildren..let it grow..let it grow.” Another friend wrote: “Thanks so much for sharing about your Indiegogo Campaign. I’m now a modest supporter. You may not remember but in 1980, I went to East Kalimantan to try stop the transnational timber companies from destroying the rainforest and displacing indigenous people. That’s what led me to spend a year and a half traveling around the world to see if it was possible to feed everyone on the planet without destroying it in the process.” Someone we did not know before the campaign made a gift of $1,000 and wrote this note:
Healing spirits of the rainforest have opened my heart and my eyes to so many beautiful things. They have helped me to reconnect with my passed away brother, forgive betrayal and see far beyond physical existence. The gratitude for all the gifts that I have received and now treasure in my heart cannot be described in words. I wish all the people involved in this campaign to have a great ceremony. My deepest regards to the tribe, shamans, spirits, supporters and god for the gift of life that we share.
#4 – Receiving gifts from total strangers is a heart-opening experience that keeps affirming my faith in what’s possible. Some of those $1 or $5 gifts from strangers in Canada or Czech Republik make my day every time one comes in.
# 5 – Team and Tuning in are key. Remembering that makes the whole difference between getting over-stretched, stressed, and overwhelmed… or learning to trust that the most transformative thing each of us can do is to follow our life force compass rather than disembodied ‘shoulds’ + support one another to build our capacity to meet what unfolds, on both inner and outer levels.
#6 – Crowd funding is not just democratizing investing and philanthropy by creating collaborative platforms to support each other’s initiatives. On a deeper level, it’s inviting and enabling us to align our attention and resources with our hearts and visions.
#7 – Staying in the moment. It’s challenging not to get obsessed about the money count. The mind gets easily impressed by the 30-day timeline of a campaign, and wants to control the outcome. In a 2011 interview with one of my mentors, Dan Emmons, he said: “As soon as you set up a system or a project in order to ‘make something happen,’ that project will start to require certain steps and actions to fulfill the intended outcome. That necessarily takes you away from staying in present moment awareness, connected to life force, and available to notice, feel and spontaneously act upon what is wanting to happen moment-to-moment. You have moved out of receptive mode where actions organically follow energetic impulses, and you have moved into willful mode when strategic actions require a forceful and depleting output of energy.” It takes attentiveness to remain open and receptive to what might want to unfold, beside or instead of what we initially envisioned to accomplish.
#8 – Developing meaningful measures for success. I wish platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo were not so single focused on money as the primary currency and metric of success because we have so many gifts(and types of currencies) to contribute to each other; and in my opinion, our capacity to pay attention to what makes each of us come alive is the most valuable of them all. When we designed the ‘perks’ sections of our campaign, we did not want to offer ‘things’ like t-shirts or other material incentives. We wanted to invite people to give from the heart, and we chose to offer rewards like friendship, connection, community, meaningful engagement, lively conversations, the sheer joy of giving etc. People who visit our Indiegogo page are given opportunities to contribute in numerous ways whether or not they also want to give money. We made sure there were no barriers to entry. People could contribute as little as $1 to support our initiative. Here is what the $1 dollar offered:
Befriend the tribe. Friendship is priceless, but this small token of caring is a meaningful way to let the Dayak Benuaq tribe in Muara Tae know you support their work as guardians of the rainforest. You’ll receive their deep gratitude, and anyone who helps fund this campaign will be invited to our online celebration gathering in May!
My own measure of success for this campaign is not just whether or not we make our target number (though I’d be thrilled if we did). It’s also whether or not we stayed aligned with our values and our energy, whether we heeded life’s feedback or tried to override it, whether we stayed attuned to our respective piece of the larger puzzle or tried to take on more than that, losing our sanity and balance in the process. Success is in whether people who joined this campaign felt enlivened rather than drained by it, whether some of them were inspired to reflect on their own lifestyles, and felt moved to do even one thing they had not considered before. Success is in whether we generated more connectedness to ourselves, each other, the earth. There is so much to track beyond the amount of dollars raised in this campaign, starting with the relationships that we developed with people in other parts of the world, what we have learned by engaging with each other, and the shifts that have taken place within us. Success is also in whether we stayed open to the twists and turns that life presented instead of resisting them, whether we noticed the impact of what has been growing and blossoming as a result of what we are doing, and how we are doing it.
Update (May 7, 2014). As it turned out, we met our $15,000 goal on the last day of our campaign! Below is the announcement I sent when we crossed that threshold:
“It’s the middle of the night right now in Indonesia and Jane will not wake up for a few more hours so this is Tesa in California writing to announce that WE DID IT! We fulfilled Jane and Ruwi’s hope that enough people could come forward to answer their invitation to support a 64-day ceremony intended to heal conflicts in the rainforest of Muara Tae, and strengthen everyone’s relationship to life. When I say “we did it!” I am talking about the 212 of us who have contributed to this campaign + all our ambassadors and friends in four continents who shared videos, interviews, and updates.
The last few hours have been filled with generous gifts coming in from many different parts of the world… some small, one very big, all equally precious to us. Jane started this campaign asking the question: “What would love do?” And the answer is that love can weave hundreds of caring threads across oceans and continents and create a web of support for a ceremony that is inviting all involved (including us) to reconnect with our deeper values and purpose in protecting life on this planet. Love has also created new connections between many of us, as well as opportunities to become more aware of our impact on each other. And this Indiegogo Campaign is just the beginning of what this growing web of connectedness can make possible.
The numbers are still climbing ($15,519 as I write this), with 12 more hours to go. Any additional money that comes in now before the official end of the campaign will support the Dayaks of Muara Tae in the challenging task of protecting the rainforest, especially now that the military is siding with palm oil companies and bulldozers on the ground.
I want to acknowledge Jane and Ruwi for following their heart’s call and having the courage to initiate this campaign and take on the huge labor of love involved in holding the space for what emerged, and touching so many hearts. I also want to honor our Indonesian activists-friends on the ground for the hard work they have been doing for years. And again a huge thank you to all of you for showing up with love, money, attention, encouragement, and the willingness to share what is happening with others. If you joined this campaign in the last few hours, you can catch up with what has happened so far by reading the old updates on the Indiegogo Campaign page, and visiting Jane’s Flamingseed blog, and our Guardians of the Forests page on Facebook. You are also all invited to join our Muara Tae ambassadors’ Facebook group. ”
When the campaign ended at midnight on May 7th, we had received 225 contributions totaling $15,840.
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