An initiative of Feminist Hiking Collective and Srilatha Batliwala, in collaboration with Closer Than You Think
The Feminist Hiking Collective is a small non-profit organization co-founded by young feminists. In late 2020, we published an introductory article about collective feminist leadership, building on the work and experience of the feminist organisations, groups and movements that have inspired our work, along with our own insights. We have since held dialogues with different feminists around the world as part of a reflection project to unpack collective feminist leadership, and have documented these discussions as a way of thanking and honouring the collective work that has inspired and informed us. We also hope this will help to record where we have come from and explore new pathways forward.
The dialogue process included several discussions with Srilatha Batliwala, and we realized that there is very little documentation of the vast array of experiments and experiences with collective feminist leadership. Thus the idea emerged for the From me to we initiative (De mí a nosotres) – our attempt to map the practices of collective feminist leadership worldwide. We are aiming for a collective feminist process of knowledge building, through mapping, documenting and archiving collective feminist leadership experiences from around the world. We are proud to assert that this is a voluntary and collective initiative – there are no donors and no funding behind us, and its implementation depends on your participation.
We are collaborating with Closer Than You Think, co-led by Ruby Johnson, Devi Leiper O’Malley, and Swatee Deepak. Closer Than You Think is a hybrid ideas studio and consultancy collective working at the intersection of activism, philanthropy and art. Between 2013-2019, Ruby Johnson and Devi Leiper O’Malley served as the first Co-Executive Directors of FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund. Similar to our From Me To We Project, they are documenting co-leadership experiences, including their own, and designing creative and practical tools to support different practices of co leaders in feminist organisations and beyond. Our two collectives are finding ways to weave together the two projects, seeing the value of generative learning, and connectivity of our work, and the powerful feminist praxis of embodying collective leadership in the way we work. We seek to launch some of our research together later this year through the co-creation of shared spaces and continue to find ways to deepen collaboration as the work evolves. We meet regularly, share ideas and explore how to connect our work with intentionality.
The From me to we initiative is a collective and iterative process that aims to create and update a creative map interweaving insights from practices of collective feminist leadership, together with stories, through an open call for submissions. This initiative is part of the Unpacking Collective Feminist Leadership project, and is grounded in this introductory article that includes resources and references, for what we consider the elements and core aspects of the practice of collective feminist leadership. The first creative map and stories were published on 1 October 2022. The map art and visual concept is created by Kruthika NS - @theworkplacedoodler
Our hope is to gather the stories of resistance and change in the way leadership is shared and practiced, aligned with feminist values and politics, and highlight how these attempt to dismantle and reconstruct the dominant neoliberal, competitive and self-centred paradigm and narrative of leadership. It aims to explore and go deeper into the structures and practices that underpin and sustain collective feminist leadership and power, and their attempts to create new models of collective feminist governance within groups, organizations and movements. We believe there are multiple and diverse spaces, organizations, movements, collectives, communities, groups and contexts practising collective feminist leadership – and that while these practices and experiences may be in diverse locations and contexts, they are all interconnected. They are weaved in transnational constellations of transformative feminist power - drawing inspiration from FRIDA The Young Feminist Fund's constellations concept and vision.
This participatory and iterative mapping seeks to focus on the interconnection and commonalities, and support the sharing of experiences and learnings, so that each innovation inspires others. The initiative is a continuous work-in-progress, which is why we commit to updating the map and stories through a regular call for submissions, and aim to reach a range of spaces and realities.
This is a collective and transformative political process of mapping, documenting and archiving collective feminist leadership experiences. We believe this process is vital to create new feminist narratives of power, collective inspirations and aspirations, to learn from plural experiences and continually deepen radical practices, and that the insights and practices gleaned from these stories can be the seeds that create new knowledge and practice to advance our shared goal of a just and collective feminist society that is grounded in our collective power, interconnection and belonging to nature.
Spanish page: https://feministhikingcollective.org/de-mi-a-nosotres
This event looked deeper at two projects recently launched on shared leadership. The From me to we map and stories is an initiative of FHC and Srilatha Batliwala that aims to interweave insights from practices of collective feminist leadership through an open call for submissions. Mosaics and Mirrors is a mixed-media collection of research, tools, and oracle card deck. Created by Ruby Johnson and Devi Leiper O'Malley of Closer Than You Think, this project aims to support the practice of feminist co-leadership.
We are looking for stories, practices, examples, commitments, efforts, experiments, experiences, projects and challenges from all over the world that build and practice collective feminist leadership. Even if your group/community/organisation/movement/other space tried to create collective leadership systems and failed, we still want to hear from you: stories of failure or breakdown are welcome, since they have much we can learn from.
What do we mean by collective feminist leadership? We mean building structures and systems for sharing power, decision-making, resources and labour in the process of creating a feminist transformation in any specific location, issue, community, or other domain. Learn more by reading below our criteria, and the questions we would like your submissions to answer, as far as possible.
The criteria below are not rigid nor exhaustive, but we believe these are certain core elements at the centre of practising collective feminist leadership, and central to why it's different. Groups submitting need to meet at least three out of the five criteria.
• Your group/community/organisation/movement/other space has been practicing/trying to practice collective feminist leadership not just in policies or communications, but in its structure and practices.
• Governance/leadership is collective, not concentrated in a single individual – it is divided between at least two or more people, and the same people do not remain in leadership forever!
• Decision-making – about goals, strategies, resource mobilization and usage, and the division of labour/work - is collective. By this we do not mean that every decision has to be made by everyone! – but that no individual or “in-group” dominates, and everyone has a voice and role to play in decisions that concern and affect them, and/or in determining the overall purpose and strategies of the collective.
• External representation and communications are done by more than one person, and there might be rotation of representation.
• There is a continuous effort to surface hidden and invisible power structures, dynamics and hierarchies, and deal with these constructively and collectively.
We sincerely request all submissions to try to answer most, if not all, of the following questions, so that others can learn the most from your experience. You can document your experience and submit your answers using words, drawings, illustration, audio recording, video or photos, artwork, poetry, music – so written word or any creative form. You can reply to all or a few of these.
1. Could you introduce your group/organization/movement/community/other space, - if you are comfortable, share any useful information about when it was formed, how it came together, what it does, etc.
2. What are the challenges posed by your context and the broader societal structures and system in which you are located?
3. What does practicing collective feminist leadership mean within your context?
4. POWER: tell us how your group has to tried to transform the way power is shared and used in the group? How has power been redistributed/shared/used to both empower each member of the group as well as to advance the purpose for which you have created your collective? Could you give at least one concrete example of such shared power?
5. PURPOSE: why was this group/collective/organization/movement/other space formed? What is the feminist aspect of your purpose? What is the specific form of oppression, violence, discrimination or dominance (including towards the earth/nature) that you are seeking to resist? What are your goals?
6. PRINCIPLES: what are the core values and principles that your group believes in/embraces? How do these reflect a feminist vision of power and justice?
7. PRACTICES: How is your collective practicing power in a way that is aligned with your purpose and your values/principles? How is collective feminist leadership practice in your daily functioning, in your work? Please give at least one or two concrete examples of such collective leadership practices?
8. THE SELF: please describe the place and role given to self-care, inner transformation, collective care and radical healing in your collective? Please give one or two concrete examples of how individual members are supported in these aspects by the collective?
9. What have been the main challenges your collective has faced in trying to practice collective feminist leadership? How have these been tackled?
10. Please tell us what are some key insights/learnings that you would like to share with others who are also trying to advance collective feminist leadership.
IMPORTANT: We know and totally understand that many feminist collectives today are under attack by diverse forces, and need to maintain their confidentiality and anonymity to be safe. If possible, please include the following general information about the group: geographical area (no need to specify the country) and collective information about the group (genders and age groups, year of creation). If you feel unable to share details of your location, name, or other identifiers, we completely respect that – please do tell us your story with only such information as you feel secure to share.
Confidentiality of stories: the information you send us will be stored on a safe internal storage of the organization and will only be shared across the team working on the initiative. The information will not be shared or reproduced beyond the creative map resource that the initiative aims to create and update annually without your written permission. You will always be able to request for your information to be deleted from the resource and from our storage at any time.
If the button "Send a submission" doesn't work, please send your sumission to firstname.lastname@example.org