It's been two years since I started Sisterhood. That's an occasion worthy of a catch-up post. In those two years, I've lost friends over my politics, and made new ones in the process. My thoughts about social entrepreneurship and activism have evolved.
I feel overwhelmingly grateful to have people visit the site regularly, and read what I've written. I started out feeling like I was yelling into the void. That feeling still catches me, even though people now contact me to chat about what I've written and what they can do about it.
First up, some housekeeping:
- Sorry for the erraticness of the email functionality. We are switching to a different mail server when the website redesign goes live. To paraphrase Tim McGraw, free stuff is worth the price you pay!
- Sorry for the dearth of social media outputs, which have been particularly patchy this year. I was feeling tired and overwhelmed by the amount of work on my plate towards the end of last year, and since March, my nuclear family has begun the slow process of disintegration. Add to that the challenges of living in Zimbabwe in the year between having more trade sanctions put on us and an election that promises to be contentious and probably violent (given how everyone's behaving right now, google 'Zimbabwe police spikes' to see what I mean), and I just haven't had the spoons to make shiny posts for the socials. I have a plan to relocate, and am in discussions with freelancers to run the socials when the redesign goes live. They're Millennials and Gen Zs know how to GIF and make Insta stories. You'll like their work.
In the past two years, I have done some behind-the-scenes advocacy for people who felt their rights were being violated by their bosses/series organisers/governing bodies. Aside from that, the only real work I've done for Sisterhood has been a recruitment job in June/July 2016, and outing Danny Watts in Jan/Feb 2017. The rest of what I've done has been content creation, and one-on-one supporting/coaching of people who contacted me. The website hit rates have increased and remained steady, despite a decrease in blog traffic across the internet.
Now, onto the meaty stuff...
In reading about social entrepreneurship and business building, I've realised that I've built a very unresilient organisation. I assumed that my (patchy, unpredictable, and subject to the vagaries of the Zimbabwean economy) consultant's salary would be enough to cover everything I wanted to do. Well, newsflash, it wasn't, and due to not being paid since November, I've had to take microloans from my dad to keep the lights on. So we're having a restructure that will hopefully be holistic and resilient. (It's backed by empirical, peer-reviewed data and feedback from informed feminists who love motorsport, so it should be pretty decent.)
I have thus far resisted the membership model. I think monthly subscriptions of enough money to buy a meal at a restaurant are a barrier to minority involvement in motorsport, particularly for people in developing nations. In every WotW (and in this year's Pride series), I ask what the interviewee's biggest challenge is in motorsport, and the answer is universally 'money.' Most of my audience is Millennial and Gen Z, who are the most impoverished generations in living memory. I don't feel right about asking already cash-strapped people to pay a generous monthly fee for basic cover.
However, to uncouple the organisation from my personal earning potential, I need to ask for money to bring new people on board and scale up operations. So, we're going to do a 'pay what you can' donations system in the near future. This gives you membership to the community support group, and therefore the right to vote on what happens to donations (who we fund, how we structure our sponsorship packages, etc.) and the right to have us signal-boost your social media outputs. For people who want to participate, but have no money (or, like me, institutional restrictions on online spending/violations of our basic human right to the freedom to do legal and legitimate business without undue impediment). we're putting a 'get involved' tab on the website, and if you spend an hour a week volunteering for a positive, high-impact feminist cause local to you, you can submit your time sheets as credit to be a member of the group.
The free pep talks are being moved from the coaching section of the org to this group. There is a limit to the amount of empathic and supportive conversation I can give away in any given day while still getting work done, and the point of community is to share the load between all the villagers. I have preemptively added coaches to the group, so there will be adequate cover.
Human bonding can only get so far with online communication. There's something that happens to our brains when we can touch and smell each other that makes us bond more powerfully. Thus, members of the community group will have organisational support to create events local to them. Organisers will have creative freedom over the events, as long as they don't violate feminist principles (check in with the group in the planning stages).
Outraged by the renewed threat of all-girl* F1, we have decided to do something a bit different about the threat of gender-based apartheid in the sport. We are creating a fundraising platform that will enable people to do sporting events to raise money for cash-strapped racers who are members of marginalised population groups. This will initially be part of a study about the IKEA effect (a cognitive bias where we like things more when we had a hand in making them), subject to IRB approval from the university underwriting the study.
However, after the study is complete, the program will remain. Contributing to society increases life satisfaction. Doing nice things for others increases life satisfaction. Doing physical exercise and being outdoors increases life satisfaction. There is no down-side to participating in the experiment, other than the risk of a sprained ankle while training .
I am making (slow) progress on the paper about what LGBTQ+ racers can expect from the public when making their coming out announcements, inspired by my involvement in Danny Watts' coming out announcement. I am participating in two other papers, so expect a questionnaire about grid girls in the not-too-distant future (again, subject to IRB approval from my co-author's university). Motorsport is a very under-researched area, and I need to fill in the gaps in the data to make decently informed decisions about the org. If anyone would like to do a study about motorsport, the research group is being revived to stimulate that.
We are building a range of products to make a decent income and sponsor more people. Worry not, we will retain the free content on the blog, and expand it to include other media. The expansion of the free content will be from donations and collaborations, and will not be behind a paywall, not now, not ever. The goal of this will be to create an international 'everything you need to know about motorsport careers' guide for minorities in the sport in one handy spot, along with little shots of inspiration. We will also be hosting free events as organisational funds accumulate and we can book out venues and provide free food and drink.
The for-pay products will be split into three ranges - the low-cost (items that cost up to about $200, and can be distributed via the website; career and soft skills coaching; short, low-cost events), the premium range (multi-day events at interesting destinations, designed to be spas for the motorsporty feminist soul), and the corporate range (policy consulting based on our existing and growing data set, etc.).
The Sporting Code
Inspired by several people's stories to me, I have started writing a book about consent in motorsport. It's less boring than it sounds, I promise, and is aimed at giving people a shorthand for discussing boundaries. I will be testing this material in a series of upcoming webinars and email courses. Watch this space!
There are other plans in the works, so expect some announcements soon. (I learned my lesson with sharing nascent plans when someone who shall remain nameless jacked my org plan and web copy and threw the weight of a giant trust fund at it to out-perform me. The community group will function as the circle of trust for announcements in the planning stages, because we have more control over membership and sharing of info than broadcasting it on the website.) I've had a fantastic two years, and am really honoured to have an audience who read what I've written. Thank you so much for coming along on this journey with me!
*pejorative term used intentionally