For the past 10 years, we have been enabling women who are unable to take on full-time employment for various reasons to acquire a livelihood. Sew Can We and Bakers Beyond have been 2 such programmes where participants got to “learn and earn.” The sewing and baking jobs were not enough for the women to sustain their households, but the earnings enabled them to meet increased household expenses during festive periods. This was important as the means to celebrate festivals provided their families with a sense of normalcy.
Besides generating income, our goal is for the women to learn how to work efficiently, work together respectfully and to honour the social purpose of helping others like themselves. Hence, this week I had the privilege of attending a meeting of 4 women who we identified as leaders to form the core team for Bakers Beyond. After welcoming each other to the meeting and confirming that they agreed to the agenda, a colleague who works closely with them listed the qualities she had observed about them to explain why they were invited to the meeting.
Receiving feedback is tricky even if one is being complimented. As it is a learned cultural response to deny what is being said as a gesture of humility, we pointed out that humility is not at odds with self-confidence and a realistic appreciation of one’s abilities. Often, what is perceived as a lack of humility comes from a lack of self-confidence or an unrealistic appreciation of one’s capabilities. The women resonated with our comment and when asked to reiterate the strengths we saw in them, they articulated them confidently.
The group then got on to express what they expected of each other and anyone who wanted to be a part of Bakers Beyond. It was a long list of some 20 statements, and we observed that these expectations appeared to fall into 3 categories of care; caring for Beyond, caring for the work and caring for each other. At that moment, it was unanimously decided that they will no longer be known as the core team but the Care Team.
As in all teams, the Care Team had to select a leader and we facilitated by asking them to list the qualities they expected of this person. Then based on these qualities, we asked each of them to write the name of their nominee on a piece of paper. They then took turns to share who they had nominated and the reasons why they did so. 1 person was nominated by all the rest, but she nominated another. She explained that she wanted to give her nominee a chance to develop her leadership qualities.
It was a noble reason we reflected but her nominee would have many other opportunities to develop her leadership skills and right now, Bakers Beyond needed a competent Care Team leader to manage the significant upcoming festive orders. We then did a second selection round where people could change their nominee, but the only change was from the person who had received 3 nominations in the first round. She nominated herself.
We adopted a sociocratic selection process which encourages transparent thoughtful joint decision-making in the interest of the team. However, like all processes, positive outcomes are dependent on the care exercised by the decision-makers. We take comfort that Bakers Beyond has set out to care for Beyond, care for the work and care for each other.
For peace and community,
True life lies in laughter, love, and work – Elbert Hubbard