Bonnie (she, her, hers)
La Múcura, Colombia
This story is part of ‘Resourcing youth-led groups and movements: a reflective playbook for donors and youth organisers.’ You may listen to and/or read Bonnie’s story down below, jump to the proposed exercises for donors or to those for youth-led groups and movements.
This is the story of a band and social research organisation, La Múcura, led by Bonnie and Jimena. La Múcura is registered as a Colombian association and is committed to exploring the arts as a bridge for social transformation.
While reading this story, you can listen to La Múcura’s latest album, Surquizofónica.
You may also listen to and share this story on SoundCloud and YouTube
It was a sunny October morning in Cali, Colombia when Bonnie, Jime, Richi, Diego and Irie left on board their blue 1995 Land Rover Defender, also known as the ‘Tractomúcura’.
They had been meeting weekly for months now. They dreamed of travelling across Latin America researching and documenting the role of art in social transformation. They dreamed of producing independent art and research. They dreamed of seeing different faces of their continent, of travelling slowly, with attention, awareness and care.
Their trip ended up lasting three years: they went up and down from Cali to Argentina on board the ‘Tractomúcura’ – twice.
Reflecting on sustainability
Bonnie shares that in all the talk about doing ‘independent’ work, it was humbling to become aware of the interdependent nature of sustainability. What does it mean in practice?
La Múcura travelled Latin America collecting experiences of self-sustainability amongst groups using art towards social change. Meanwhile, they self-sustained their entire trip and research.
To lower costs, throughout the trip La Múcura used the technique of ‘trueque’ (barter), exchanging with the organisations and groups that they were researching.
They visited each group for about a month and a half and carried out research activities with them. As part of their analysis, they shared a video and a publication with each group that the group could use for their advocacy and fundraising purposes.
Data were gathered through interviews and participatory workshops but also through cohabiting, sharing meals, watching sunsets, taking part in the group’s activities, building friendships. The organisations valued the experience of having their work documented; in exchange, they provided food and accommodation to the La Múcura team.
Meanwhile, to cover travelling costs, they played small concerts and hosted talks.
La Múcura kept an extensive record of the resources they invested in this research trip. By being aware of their efforts and converting them in monetary terms, Bonnie reflects that when applying for funding she can approach a donor from a point of strength. She can ask a donor to invest in their work with the awareness that, first of all, they themselves have invested in it. This overcomes a mentality of ‘begging for money’.
It is common for youth groups and movements to exchange products
and services with other grassroots groups. This is a model of resourcing that is made invisible by the formal system that only accounts for financial exchanges.
Working alongside other youth-led groups.
In 2019 La Múcura launched their new record, Surquizofónica, and a book documenting their trip, RAIS.
To produce Surquizofónica, they needed to invest about 5.5 million pesos (approx. US$2,100) to pay for sound mixing. To fund this, they created a ‘godmother programme’ inviting their friend organisations – mostly small social organisations they had worked with – to each become the ‘godmother’ of a song.
Eight ‘godmothers’ invested 500,000 pesos (approx. US$190) in the record’s production; in exchange they received a space in the CD booklet to advertise or share what they wanted.
La Múcura was awarded a small grant to publish the first 500 copies of their book. With this grant they trained and contracted a women’s group to do bookbinding workshops and hand produce their books.
They are about to start a new tour of Latin America to share their socially conscious music. The trip will be supported by concert revenues and by selling CDs and books. CDs are selling for 25,000 pesos (approx. US$7.50) and books for 50,000 pesos (approx. US$15).
Exercises for donors, allies and enablers
Power and a ective communication
Given that your institution might be in the position of power over your youth-led partners, what would be needed to develop more power with them?
La Múcura values affection in their interaction with partners, they say this helps them overcome the mentality of begging for money. They feel the type of shared experiences and quality of communication generate relationships that are more authentic. How could affection and friendship contribute in your work?
Working in relation to your work role, brainstorm with your team about any way in which you could construct a more attentive, caring and affectionate type of communication with your youth-led partners.
Exercises for youth-led groups and movements
Thinking of money
Bonnie reflects on the power of decoupling resourcing from money. She has also become aware of the need to navigate the space between valuing their work and building relationships that are not mediated by financial transactions. When relationships are strong and mediated by affection, Bonnie says, their work is more resilient and does not depend exclusively on the availability of cash.
Meanwhile, Bonnie and Jimena have been reflecting on the type of assumptions that they hold around money as a way of generating more abundance. Pay attention to your thoughts and emotions around money for a week and take down some notes.
- How often did you think of money? In which contexts?
- What were your feelings associated with money this week?
Individually, come up with a list of five true statements around money that you think are taken for granted in your organisation, such as ‘we need money to pay rent’ or ‘money sucks’. Compare them with your colleagues.
Collectively, come up with a list of at least three true statements.
- What do these statements say about your organisation’s relationship with money? What do you notice about these statements?
Doing the maths
To build more transparent relationships with donors, it might be helpful to start calculating the real monetary value of your work.
- Think of a project you recently managed. Create a list of any non-financial resources that you managed, such as in-kind donations, volunteer time, resources from alliances, or pro-bono extra hours worked.
- Look up how much each service or product costs in your context. Do the maths to find out the real value of your work.
|Time (number of hours)||Number of people||Total hours||Amount per hour||Total|
For example, Bonnie estimates that each partner organisation visited during the trip invested about US$3,325 in La Múcura, for a total of US$46,550. This was calculated thinking of the amount the team would have spent if they had to cover the costs of their food and accommodation while visiting each organisation.
Paying your team, in different ways
Bonnie and Jimena are able to support their livelihoods exclusively from their research and music. It is helpful for them to keep their team small.
As part of a team, some people might need to ensure their livelihood through shared work while some might be happy to do it in their free time. This is likely to change over time as people’s needs evolve.
Someone might feel sufficiently rewarded through participation in a series of training activities, or by receiving mentorship around a specific topic, but another person might need to ensure that their transport costs are covered to continue engaging with the work
- Are you aware of your colleagues’ and friends’ priorities and life situations?
- Have a conversation with your team and consider how you can collectively reward and invest in strengthening your team.
Other stories and exercises
Did you do some of the exercises above? How did Bonnie’s story inspire you to view your role as a donor or youth organiser differently? You can let us know your thoughts by writing to us at email@example.com.
These and other exercises and stories are also available in the pdf version of ‘Resourcing youth-led groups and movements: a reflective playbook for donors and youth organisers.’