Stories & practices that empower real change

Thais Corral: Creating Fields of Dream & Action [Transcript]

Thais Corral - GlobalLeadership.TV

in dialogue with Walter Link

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Thais Corral

 

For me social entrepreneurship is the possibility of inventing the platforms or the way you are going to do things with the many possibilities that are inside each one of us and also that life opens to us. Here, capsule we feel that we are learning not so much about what we already know how to do, but how to do it and how to engage with people, and how we can create knowledge that is not only ours, but is from everybody. That is what also Sinal is supporting, an environment in which we appreciate, respect, and we go far because we go together.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:00:55]      Welcome to GlobalLeadership.TV. My name is Walter Link. I’ve always been fascinated by the question of how we move from our many challenges into our full potential as individuals, organizations and whole societies. In this television series I inquire with some of the most innovative leaders from around the world about how they managed to move from inspiration to real change. Please join us in this exploration because we all make a difference and we all can get better at it; therefore, on our website we not only show other dialogues and publications but also the kind of practices that these leaders and their organizations use to move from inspiration to real change.

 

Please join me in my intimate dialogue with Thais Corral, a key leader in the global sustainability and women’s movements, who is now focusing her social entrepreneurship in a local initiative with far reaching impact. Outside of Rio de Janeiro she has created a center for human development for activists from around the world to explore innovative solutions for climate and social sustainability. I know Thais from co-creating the Global Leadership Network, which helped pioneer the inclusion of multicultural diversity and deep inner & interpersonal work, into the practice of global leadership. Please join us as we explore how to create fields of dream and action.

 

After decades of traveling and working around the world and working in many international and global initiatives you have come back to Brazil to create, in a very specific location close to Rio, your own field of dreams, in which you are now inviting people from around the world to come. You’ve created these two centers – Sinal and Vista Allegre. Tell us more about what’s the essence of these places and what’s happening there?

 

Thais Corral

 

[00:03:26]      I think the essence of the places is basically – in two parts – what does it mean for me, and then what I see it can become, that doesn’t depend only on me. For me, it meant something also that has to do with age, probably that somehow at a certain point you have to – it’s not so much about exploration at the horizontal level but it’s going deep. Going deep requires another kind of energy in which you also use your energy, your personal energy, in a different way. That was when I came to this place, which is surrounded by mountains, which has a lot of water, which has many elements that open the senses. That was my first interest in here. I could see that this was a place close to where I live, I mean viable, in which I could have that expense and then I said maybe this is a place where I can find the basis or create the basis.

 

As a social entrepreneur I always wanted – I always anything that I am involved has a ‘doing’ part. It’s never just said. I don’t think of myself just staying there and writing a book. Even if I admire people that do that, it’s not my energy. I like doing. I like putting people together. I think that this place emerged to me as a place where I could do this third act of my life, which is creating a platform of I would say healing, in the sense that there is a space in which people can heal and relax and connect a little bit to this caring and to their humanity. I would say to the basic humanity. My intention is not grandiose, it’s very simple but I want to create and this we select as a retreat place.

 

And then there was this phenomenon that I have been very attentive, of all these young people from around the world so interested in Brazil because Brazil somehow offer in the times that we live some of these qualities that we maybe call feminine, which is a country where there’s empathy and where people feel relaxed at being what they are. That’s what, no matter all the things that don’t work in Brazil, I know people like because this is what they say over and over – I feel it’s so nice, people are so nice, they are so friendly, they are so accepting, which I think is a big thing in the world today. You have many places which are perfect but if you are not accepted, if you can’t belong no matter how beautiful it is it doesn’t mean to you.

 

It became a symbol of possibility in a time in which so many of these young people, especially from the developed world, are living in a situation of transition in which their societies seem to be shut down. There is not really a place for them. The Sinal, which is this farm that we bought last year, emerged to me as a place in which these young people could come and somehow feel at home to open to their dreams; so many of them call it a ‘field of dreams.’ I think that my role is to, of course, support that, but to create an environment in which the work probably that we all will have to do, but especially the next generation will have to do, of connecting the old paradigm with the new paradigm is done with joy, with caring and in an environment which is nice and they feel safe.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:08:21]      What I also find very interesting in Sinal, and your whole venture here also with Vista Allegre, is that you integrate not only the personal development and healing but you bring in the healing of the mountain because it’s a partially de-forested area that has suffered from the lack of sustainability and you are involved in reforesting this area and to create another model about how to reforest and how to bring land back into sustainability, and, you’re working also very closely with the poor community at the bottom of the hill, who live in a small town. You are integrating the environmental sustainability with the social sustainability with the personal sustainability and showing that all of them in a way fit together, all of them can benefit each other.

 

Thais Corral

 

[00:09:22]      What I like to do is to see how to make the bridges between these uncommon things and see how something can happen from there; a different action can happen from there. Of course, this is an area, just this valley is in a very I’d say peculiar position, which I think offers an important model to do because it’s around the belt of Rio de Janeiro, very densely populated areas in which there is a lot of pressure for natural resources – water, land and all these things – and with a human settlement which is made of workers, but also a lot of young people that are really impacted by publicity, by all this modern junk consumerism that is around, so they don’t value necessarily what they have and they have the tendency of being pretentious – not really taking care of the environment. I think that Sinal, which stands for synchronicity, innovation and joy, wants to show how some of these initiatives, like in which you can enjoy, you can be modern by creating, by protecting the resources that you have – protecting your water, protecting your forests, by creating value from forests, value in the sense not only for financial value but also value in terms of your health and the way you live.

 

The projects that we are now doing – we call them resilience to climate because this is a hilly area in which stabilizing the soil is critical with the severe events that are already happening – very extreme rains and storms and big questions of the chemicals that is in the food that we eat. It’s so easy to change that by creating your own garden, being the level of learning how to use better the sun, which is a resource that is available here, and could be a way of not having so much trouble with electricity, on which we are so dependent.

 

All these signs – that’s the thing of Sinal – the initiatives, which are also lights, in which people can see simple ways in which they can improve their lives. We are making like little demonstrative projects of how this is possible. I think a very nice human part of it, not to talk about the projects and reforestation, but I’d say I think a nice component of that is that we mix the people. We mix the these young, well-educated Europeans or North Americans that want to change the world, who have radical ideas about what is organic or what is not organic or not using GMOs and all that. We have very simple people from here that have spent all their lives having sometimes ways of doing things that we would say predatory.

 

But, how they can learn from each other in a respectful and also appreciative way. I think that Sinal is a combination of these ingredients. At the end, people, even so far and we are just one year old, but so far what I see is that it’s not so much only about what you achieve, but it’s how you achieve it. In that, I see that even if we don’t have – I mean if you go about these organic farms many, many of these young people that are there, many of them have created them, but when they come to Sinal I say here we feel that we are learning not so much about what we already know how to do, but how to do it and how to engage with people and how we can create knowledge that is not only ours but is from everybody.

 

That’s what also Sinal is supporting an environment in which we appreciate respect and we go far because we go together.

 

INTERLUDE

 

Walter Link

 

[00:15:03]      You had an incredibly diverse life working both all around the world and also many sectors of society. What unites all of this diverse work is maybe one term – ‘social entrepreneurship.; I wonder what it is for you to be a social entrepreneur.

 

Thais Corral

 

[00:15:20]      For me social entrepreneurship is the possibility of inventing the platforms or the way you are going to do things with the many possibilities that are inside each one of us and also that life opens with.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:15:39]      Of course, in social entrepreneurship, as in the rest of the world, there are many big ideas and people want to realize them. Often these big ideas end up in the wastebasket of history, they do not really manifest. What I have noticed in the many years that I’ve known you is you’ve been able to bring into implementation each of the big ideas that you were dealing with. There is a certain capacity to have a big vision, but also to really ground it and make it happen in the real world. What does it take for you? What’s the first step and how do you follow through to actually make it happen?

 

Thais Corral

 

[00:16:17]      What I like in particular about these things is the possibility of connecting pieces I would have never thought they would connect in that way. We can call this social entrepreneurship, I call also an invention; but, the most important for me is I had a lot of joy and also interest in doing that.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:16:49]      One of the big ideas that you made happen was to create a network of radio stations and hundreds of radio programs that were specifically targeted to poor women in Brazil, as a way to bring not only entertainment, but especially education, healthcare information and empowerment for the people in society that were the least empowered. I wonder what did you learn from this big idea and how did you make this big idea happen, and why the radio?

 

Thais Corral

 

[00:17:31]      It started in Italy because when I finished that business school where I was surrounded by people that thought they were because it was a very I’d say elitist school in Brazil at that time; it was the time of the dictatorship. They only selected 20 people and as I was a good student I was selected. I did it and I was so bored with the idea that we knew already what we would become. When I went to Italy and I lived through that time it was really I discovered. I remember that every day I would listen to that radio program called Ora del Oro, Hour of Women. That was very informative for me because there were these dialogues and so many women talking to each other and also talking about services and talking about a view of the world.

 

When I came back to Brazil in 1985, which was a time in which we had finally a civil government and a democracy and all the movements. The way it happened was that all the movements could influence areas, like health, education and women, and they create this special Secretary for Women. Because I was involved in the feminist movement in Italy and I met some Brazilians by interviewing them, who were leaders of that transition in Brazil, when I got here they start to ask me Thais what could you do for women in communication because you have been in that area and immediately I thought about the radio.

 

The radio really taps a media that taps us in the world of women. I still am a very fan of radio because really radio is a companion. You see in every single house in Brazil there is probably a housewife or a maid and you see there is a radio because a radio allows you to be a companion while you are doing other things. After 10 years or so we had 400 or so women’s programs and in 20 years we did a lot of things and had a lot of impact in communities just by creating these conversations through the radio. We even had stories that are very powerful in supporting big national policies, like national policy to combat cervical cancer in which we could get in touch with women that were in very, very remote areas through the radio because they trust the radio.

 

I think that is a very – in a few years I really understood that voice has a lot of potential to build that intimacy and trust. That’s what I think this experience has provided to many, many women and certainly to me.

 

INTERLUDE

 

Walter Link

 

[00:21:26]      When you talk about the conversations that came out of these radio programs it reminds me of our conversations about the essence of what you saw as this global Women’s Movement where millions and millions of conversations, often around kitchen tables or living room tables – where we look at this maybe most important movement of the social change movements, the Women’s Movement. It impacted half of the world’s population directly and the other half indirectly; but, the essence of it in a way was these deep personal conversations. Say to us more about to understand how that felt like to be part of these conversations and what happened about these conversations? What did you learn from the essence of this movement?

 

Thais Corral

 

[00:22:21]      When I look back, I think it has helped to create a self, kind of helped to create your own narrative. You don’t do it alone. We have so many conditions, as most of women and men have, but for women it’s certainly that movement has helped and those conversations helped to make these connections and little by little to unravel them. For me, certainly, it started in Italy by being someone that had so many doubts about life – where to go, what to do, how to do, where and what I should be or not be. I felt so tortured and that gave me a relaxing possibility of making that exploration with peers – with people who were like me.

 

I think this probably will happen and that’s why it was so powerful, because it gave the possibility of expressing and putting together, recomposing, reshaping that self that was all disconnected from those conditions. You see many women heal from diseases or heal themselves from very, very difficult situations that they submit to. I, myself, thought I healed from doubt. That’s probably my biggest healing because I was so doubtful of everything – doubting of myself and doubting of where to go.

 

It put myself in a place that I could have a point of departure. In this conversation I emerged and I wouldn’t say that is one conversation, many conversations. Looking back, I think that was the ground, the way in which I ground myself to come out and to have an authentic life, which I think I did looking back. I did the life, probably, that I could have done. I don’t have a regret and I think this is a big thing.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:25:03]      Another big idea that you made happen, that we made happen together, was to create this Global Leadership Network that brought together people from around the world, who were all involved in helping to create a new paradigm of leadership. I think we all had been part of many networks and professional associations and we wanted something that was very real and very human in a way where you could have real conversation. Out of that we discovered in a way what is the essence of global leadership, what it takes to bring together this huge diversity of cultures, professions, sectors and to find a common human denominator. I wonder what your insights are out of this work that has emerged over the last decade.

 

Thais Corral

 

[00:26:03]      I think there are levels and stages to that. I think at the first point, of course, I was very, very intrigued by that idea of global leadership, seeing it through my life. How you are driven by the opportunities but at the same time you maintain the integrity throughout what you do. When I was in my 40s that was a big question for me – how to maintain the integrity – since so many people that I admire in an old age that had done great things, but had also somehow damaged themselves – physically, psychologically – by going beyond their boundaries and at the end not finding joy. That was a big question to me how you can keep positive work as a change maker, but still make it having joy and maintaining what is important to you in a protected place in which you can still cultivate and nurture. That was my first stage of global leadership – how to integrate these pieces into these big ideas of changing the world and all that, but having yourself there with integrity.

 

Right now, more recently I think the main insight I have is about dealing with human beings and dealing with change, it’s also the question of fields. How do you create fields in which you can deal with all these diversity and actually create a common ground that is not only through words or ideas or through concepts, but is also through something that nurtures us and that can beyond our impulses and thoughts still ground us on something that we can maintain the connection to the importance of what we are doing in a more integral way.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:28:30]      When I think of you in the context of leadership one term that comes up particularly for me is ‘servant leadership.’ I see that you serve people and also these fields that enable new things to emerge, real communication to happen. Tell me more about the meaning of service for your life and how you have found ways to serve.

 

Thais Corral

 

[00:28:59]      For me, service is joy. I have a lot of joy today. I have learned because I didn’t know how to do that, but I have learned to have joy in service. When you serve you get an intimate connection with another being – it could be a cat, it could be any person. When you serve you will open that door in which you can connect to that being and I think that gives you a lot of joy.

 

INTERLUDE

 

Walter Link

 

[00:29:57]      In our conversation you speak a lot about maturation and about your own developmental process. I know that part of your development was also to grow inside and to use psychological and spiritual work to support your own development, your own transformation; but, make possible this different kind of leadership in the world and to be so practical and successful in the world also. How did you start and how did that process lead us to today?

 

Thais Corral

 

[00:30:31]      I think I did it all my life because since I was very young I tend not to find comfort in shallow things, like just to hang out and have any conversation. I remember that even at school and I was an adolescent and people said ‘Thais wants to be so much alone and she wants to walk on the beach alone.’ It was already I would say that longing for that connection of something that I couldn’t even name or it was not clear to me at that time.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:31:24]      Give us an example for people who don’t understand necessarily about therapy or spiritual work. How was it? What did you find and how did it work for you? How did it impact you concretely?

 

Thais Corral

 

[00:31:37]      It impacted by first being able to hold – to hold a state of discomfort. I think one of the most problems why we do the work avoidance is that we are so afraid of certain pieces of us that we don’t know that we run away and we can spend the whole life running away from what we don’t know inside of ourselves.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:32:13]      We are afraid of certain things inside ourselves or we are uncomfortable feeling certain feelings and then to avoid it we get busy and we do a thousand things to avoid?

 

Thais Corral

 

[00:32:23]      We get into the noise – not to get into that, I mean to let that piece maybe talk to us and connect to us; of course, it doesn’t speak Portuguese or English, it speaks another language. You need to actually have the time and maybe the support to let that language emerge. The spiritual work that helped me to have a broader base of trust, but also of having a basis for myself, a grounding for myself – I would say more grounding.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:33:09]      You talked a lot about the importance of the Women’s Movement; of course, the Women’s Movement has come a long way from the time when you first got involved. Today, there is a great curiosity in many circles, also in leadership, about the feminine and what really is the feminine and how does it contribute to a new paradigm of leadership? What’s your discovery of that in your own life, in your own story and what do you see around the world?

 

Thais Corral

 

[00:33:49]      I think the ‘feminine’ is very difficult to describe all these qualities. Of course, we can say the feminine is more accommodating, is more embracing, is more empathetical and is all that; but, in the world today I think the most important contribution of the feminine is to help create spaces and situations in which people can sit back and relax and feel some comfort in doing that. I think if we are all so much driven by that speed and by the need and by this push, women and men have lost in many cases that connection. It’s more profound to the meaning why they are doing things and why they are where they are and how to change. I would say the contribution of the feminine today is to create or help create the cultures in which people give themselves the possibility of looking into where they want to go and not so much being pushed by a river that tells them that they have to be that way or otherwise they will be out.

 

Translating in other words, I think that we live in a society of burnout, big burnout of human beings in all levels – lack of meaning, lack of conditions to actually live a minimum decent life. I don’t talk only on material levels I talk also on affection levels and on identity – on community identity, on self-identity. I think that the feminine today has a big contribution of changing cultures – changing cultures of organizations, changing cultures of space.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:36:22]      I think that some of the discovery that we are making here in the exploration of the feminine is that not only women can make that kind of contribution but that it is also for men to discover the feminine in them. We are more than our physical bodies and particular gender and we all have qualities if we are supported to develop them that can make a contribution. Say more about the contribution of the feminine boasts that men and women can contribute together to bring about this new paradigm of a more sustainable, more peaceful, more humane world that at the same time is also effective and works. I think you are a good example of somebody who has done that in her life. You are very effective, but you also have discovered this feminine side in your leadership.

 

Thais Corral

 

[00:37:21]      Or life. You can have great projects, but it’s made of many moments that will build that big idea and that big project. I think that’s what we lose. It’s not only men that do that. I think that the very story is men and women do the same. I think that many feminists did lose the importance of cultivating that intimacy as an essential part of building the cultures in a new society.

 

INTERLUDE

 

Walter Link

 

[00:38:30]      So you’re telling me about fields that make things possible. Say more about that. What is that a field?

 

Thais Corral

 

[00:38:40]      A field is something that is made of aspects that are visible. You can use awards and you can use all these things that you normally use to communicate. It’s also something that is invisible and that you can recognize in places that you just entered, like how do you feel good in certain places and you don’t feel good in other places? Sometimes with people what I feel – all diverse people because I have worked a lot with people who are very diverse, people that are maybe in positions of power or leaders that are governmental leaders, but also community leaders, women’s leaders, people that use language in a very different way that communicate in a very different way – and what I found is that if there is a field that we can help create that somehow people relax these differences are not so much impediments for that connection to happen. That’s what I call a field.

 

I think coming from where I came, from the Women’s Movement, I think this is something that at many of these kitchen tables and at many times at the radio by voice, by some silence, the pause between words, you could recognize that field and that goes beyond words. By recognizing that field, which is not necessarily something that you say hey, that’s a field, but you just feel like you trust that something has happened that is beyond you. When this happens and something in you can recognize that you just let it go and you continue. Let it go of things that you didn’t know even how because they are so close to your beliefs or this or that. That was something that I became more and more interested in – how to create fields and by fields I mean spaces and in which people somehow starts to relax and trust each other and trust something new, something emerging.

 

[00:41:24]      That’s where now I lie today. More than going to meetings and trying to convince people, I look into ways in which what I know and what I somehow brought from all these experiences can help create these fields in which we start recognizing something different and so a new communication happens, a new communication has the potential to happen.

 

Conclusion.