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"It became clear how brave our work would be"

Grounded in deep personal trust and shared values, Musa Gwebani shares reflections on her experiences as part of Be The Earth's Giving Circle programme. She found both challenges and rewards on this journey, working in innovative and radical ways to reach people who would otherwise not access support through conventional philanthropy, with a focus on women, the environment, indigenous practices, and community.


When I received the invitation to join the Giving Circle, it did not immediately occur to me what a courageous effort I was being asked to be involved in. Renata Minerbo, Head of Philanthropy at Be The Earth, called and I agreed. I would have agreed to pretty much anything she had asked me to be a part of because I trusted her. I had spent six weeks with Renata in Brazil and I observed in her a work ethic I am still in awe of. It was rivalled only by her commitment to community. Even when it was not very clear at first, what I was clear about is that Renata cares about the world in ways that I do and this sounds like an opportunity to do important work.


"We built the plane as we flew it"

Once the work began, it was clear that trust was the foundation of the work. We built the plane as we flew it but we were sure of a few things. Firstly, we wanted to reach people who would otherwise not access support through conventional philanthropy. Secondly, we wanted to reach people whose work focused on the environment, indigenous practices and community.



"I felt very fortunate to be in community with the women of the Giving Circle and to experience their love for the planet and humanity"

Lastly, we wanted to focus on women. Within the Giving Circle, the sisters brought amazing and inspiring examples of work they wished to support. I cried many times after our meetings. I felt very fortunate to be in community with the women of the Giving Circle and to experience their love for the planet and humanity.


I have worked with and for conventional philanthropic organisations for the past 10 years and I have come to understand the landscape of resource mobilisation very well. When it became clear how brave our work would be I fell back into my patterns of distrust, which I had learnt in my career. I asked questions about the registration of organisations, cash flow, financial reporting, oversight visits etc. Our template was unheard of to me.

"I quieted my mind and trusted the wisdom of the women I was working with"

I had to lean into that trust once more. I quieted my mind and trusted the wisdom of the women I was working with. I trusted the process and I much richer for it. I have grown immensely through this experience. It has made me protective of the trust we have built and deepened my levels of integrity. I always want to be worth that investment of trust.




 

Musa Gwebani is an activist and lawyer with a multidisciplinary academic background across the social sciences, commerce and law. Musa is currently a Programme Manager at the European Union Delegation to South Africa. She is responsible for mainstreaming civil society across all the EU programmatic areas. She also leads on local government development. She designs and implements strategies for green infrastructure and service delivery in African Cities.

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