Janeen Manuel is the new research and writing assistant at Inspire to Change (I2C), and she brings years of experience and a new perspective on the work we do here—something we at Inspire to Change believe is a critical component of our growth and development. Sandy Agustin, Director of Creative Engagement, recently interviewed Janeen about her background, her thoughts on working at Inspire to Change, and what it takes to move across the country during a pandemic. The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.
SA: So, what is your origin story—the beginning roadmap that led you to Inspire to Change?
JM: I grew up in a relatively poor family with 7 kids in difficult circumstances…my mother did her best for us, but it wasn’t easy. I remember being a big reader as a kid--I was really interested in what other families did, how they managed and worked in ways that were different from my own as I tried to figure out who...
Sandy Agustin, the Director of Creative Engagement at Inspire to Change, took part in a Zoom screening of Lake Street Story Circles through Pangaea World Theatre on October 16, 2020. The Lake Street Story Circles Project brings together ten artists with histories around Lake Street in Minneapolis to create original performances about life, spirit, relationships, politics, history, and survival. While previous story circles have been performed live at Pangaea, the Covid-19 pandemic called for extra creativity in making the artists’ work accessible using a Zoom format.
Sandy rose to the challenge with her work, “Corner Conversations: Wish 4 Lake Street.” Heartbroken over the burned-out ruins on Lake Street from the uprisings after George Floyd’s murder, she found a creative way to engage people in conversations about the area she grew up in and has loved for many years. She set up a table at three different times and in three different locations...
Hi, everyone! I'm excited to tell you about the new course I'm creating. Stay tuned for updates via our newsletter and social media.
Inspire to Change’s mission is to support purpose-driven change and changemakers around the globe. I count myself in this group--someone who has drive and passion about contributing to a more whole, beautiful, and just world.
This is what I know about myself now: I am blessed with intelligence--intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. People are drawn to me for reasons I sometimes don’t understand. I am a caretaker with a strong sense of responsibility and a healer whose heart aches for and with those in pain. These are amazing gifts! But they are gifts that I did not recognize or honor eight years ago. Before I could be a purpose-driven changemaker, I had to return to myself.
Journal Entry: October 2012
I realized today--with sickening clarity--that instead of letting my higher purpose guide me, I am living a life built on obligations. (I’m not exaggerating. The clarity with which I see this now is actually making me feel a bit sick to my stomach.) The...
I met Michael Quinn Patton in 2012 and spilled out my life story, not unlike I will do with you in the chapter I've shared at the end of this post. At the end of our second meeting, he asked if I’d be interested in working on a project with him—a developmental evaluation with six agencies that serve youth experiencing homelessness and a local family foundation. Um, yes? This developmental evaluation became a principles-focused developmental evaluation and it changed my life.
I had been practicing evaluation since 2003 and for the first time, I realized that I could evaluate in harmony with personal values. I could bring my personal and professional selves into greater alignment and wholeness. Read more about this journey in a chapter I wrote for Patton's book "Principles-Focused Evaluation: The GUIDE."
It's deeply personal and--as a trigger warning--talks about the death of my oldest child.
Sandy Agustín, Inspire to Change’s Director of Creative Engagement, was recently interviewed for Bill Cleveland’s Center for the Study of Art and Community podcast, “Change the Story, Change the World.” This podcast series introduces changemakers from around the world who are reimagining and recreating social, political, and cultural narratives to transform their communities.
In the podcast, Sandy describes herself as a creative navigator. She uses creative activities—whether it be writing, movement, story sharing, or any number of techniques, to help individuals, organizations, and communities navigate where they’re going. According to Sandy, in many cases people already have the ability, they just need help looking at things a little differently:
It’s asking the right questions, finding really generous and generative questions. And when people get stuck, sometimes we push, and we name what’s hard. Sometimes we just shake it...
People often ask me about empathy, the arts, and the brain. Before I share my thinking, I need to make three caveats: one, I'm a novelist, not a brain scientist. I read a lot of neurology papers, but I don't have any formal training in neuroscience. Two, most of these studies indicate "activity" by determining which areas of the brain light up (using functional MRI scans) during specific activities. However, correlation is not the same as causation. A part of the brain could activate to control a process, or in reaction to something else we don't understand or can't detect yet. This branch of science is very new (10-15 years), so there are a lot of unknowns. Three--the brain seems to work in circuits and feedback loops. While some processes may be dominant in certain brain areas, scientists are finding more and more complex interactions within the brain. For example, metaphor comprehension resides in six parts of the brain. Think less 'center' and more 'network'.
You’ve probably experienced emotional contagion before: that thrill of excitement you feel in the stands just before a sporting event begins; the fear that courses through you as you wander with friends through a haunted house at the fair; or just knowing that if your best friend cries, you will too.
So what is emotional contagion?
“Smile and the world smiles with you.” Emotional contagion is a physiological phenomenon, where emotion in one person transfers automatically to another without conscious intervention from either party.
How does emotional contagion work?
When I pick up a glass of water, my brain does several things automatically, including locating the glass in 3-dimensional space, as well as estimating weight, size, temperature, and other dimensions. Then the brain tells my body how to act: how to orient my hand, how far to reach out, how much pressure to exert so I can hold the glass without breaking it or dropping it, and how much...
Hi! I’m Abbey Ogg, the Social Media Coordinator at Inspire to Change. I am a student at Central High School in Minnesota. I connected with Inspire to Change through my advocacy for pollinator protection and against climate change. I am passionate about removing systemic racism and biases from ourselves and our society, defeating climate change, and the uplifting of oppressed people everywhere. I believe in bringing people into these discussions, and talking through problems rather than fighting through them. I enjoy learning about the vast range of stories, cultures, and places our world has to offer us. I am a big reader, some of my all-time favorite books being The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, and any and all of the Calvin And Hobbes books by Bill Watterson. That is a very, very shortened version of that list. I also really enjoy music. I play the piano and the ukelele and am hoping to be able to learn the guitar soon. I play soccer for my school and...
A. Rafael Johnson talked about how the complicated history of the word "work" and why we need to consider its origins and current use. On AEA365.