{discovery} Kota Expert Insights for Non-profits!

Discovery, Good News, ICYMI

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I’m a proud Board Member of The Kota Alliance, a NYC-based 501c3 that aims to establish an incubator space for women’s non-profits in the City.

In late Spring 2015, Kota organized an event,  #KotaDayto offer opportunities for networking and co-learning — in essence, to showcase its core mission. The day featured keynotes by Dambisa Moyo,  Economist and Author;  Lopa Banerjee, Chief of the Civil Society Section at UNWomen; and Sheryl WuDunn, Author of A Path Appears. Some hundred participants also attended 14 interactive workshops, topics of which ranged from girls’ rights and women’s in conflict situations, to fundraising and legal issues.

I did a series of interviews with some inspiring and insightful workshop leaders, featured in these blog posts. Hope you find them useful for your non-profit or related work!

{discovery} On Being Rescued_Upward Facing Dog

Discovery, Good News, ICYMI

A version of this post was published a few years back in the Finnish yoga journal Ananda, soon after I had adopted Lady Mu (formerly known as Sita). I have kept thinking about the events described below quite a bit, with Mr. Tee.

2014-06-20 09.29.57I met her almost by accident. I had been arguing with my that time boyfriend plenty. The last fight before we broke up was about him being unable to find the time to go and look at a clumber spaniel puppy that we (read: I ) wanted to adopt.

Out of spite to that man. That’s why I went to AC&C Brooklyn, just to look what a city shelter is about. It wasn’t the most uplifting experience. Plenty of big dogs in small cages, plenty of barking, and more than enough smell, I thought.

Only one of the dogs I saw was quiet, simply observing me from the back of her crate. ‘Do you want to take her for a walk?’ I sure did, but the dog crawled close to the ground, like a reptile. Only later it dawned to me that she was basically terrified of the outdoors.

I barely know how or why I decided to adopt her. I simply remember that I was asked to decide right there and then, and to take her home ASAP. I must have gone back home to get my lease — one needs to prove that dog’s are allowed in one’s building — and I must have called a friend to secure someone to look after her while I’d be at work the next day.

I also must have given her the new name, Sita, right then. Where did it come from, the wife of Rama, the perfect wife and woman? (Maybe because I had just seen the brilliant animation film, Sita Sings the Blues.)

But the next thing I know, we are in a car driving back to Eastern Parkway, and she’s drooling and throwing up.

And the next thing that happens is that Sita cried, barked, and howled incessantly if I was away. My landlord let me know that she was too big and loud for the apartment and that I might have to leave. Sita nipped at people. She got very sick and spend two days in the animal hospital. Nothing was found to be wrong with her — but I spent my vacation savings on those days and all those X-rays. She also ran away, once to the street, once from doggy day care. I got well-meaning but (I felt) somewhat condescending advise from seasoned dog owners at Mount Prospect Park.

I started to read dog training manuals. The advice I encountered was familiar to me — from yoga. Your energy is the deciding factor. Breathe deeply, in and out; observe how you feel. If you are nervous relax your mind and body consciously. The most important thing is to remain unwaveringly balanced and grounded. The dog will react to your state of being and its problems will reflect your problems, habits, moods. If you are giving the dog mixed signals, it will become nervous, or dominant, thinking it needs to be in charge and work towards a more balanced state of affairs. I thought, if we look at our communication closely, isn’t this so true for any other kind of interaction, with any creature, as well?

I also read that dogs have had a crucial role in many spiritual traditions. Zen koans are told about dogs. the Lhasa Apso breed has been bred in Tibetan Buddhists monateries; the St. Bernhard dogs were originally kept in the hospise of St Bernard of Menthon. One of the most famous dog training guides in the U.S., How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend, is by the Greek Orthodox New Skete Monks.

A yogini-friend noted: a dog is a model for someone who follows ‘the Master’: Devoted, tuned-in. On the other hand, your dog is your mirror, hence, your teacher.

I remember looking at Sita, her, one night, perhaps three months into our life together. Based on my personal belief system, it was easy for me to accept what I felt: That we know one another. I also realized something scarily fundamental about me. When things get rough, I’m easily discouraged and want to disengage. But Sita couldn’t be without me, my care. That is why she has to come first.

*   *   *   *   *

It’s been over four years since Sita and I met. Since then (and with the help of many, including the wonderful Susie’s Pet Care) she has blossomed into a calm, gentle and sweet model dog who now graciously tolerates (and sometimes cuddles with) her wild brother Mr. Tee.

Since then, I’ve met someone else, whom I married, and who said: Sita is such a heavy-duty name for a dog… Can we call her Mu — short from the Finnish word murmeli — groundhog — that I sometimes used for Sita.

Little did he, or I, know that even with the name change, Mu remains the upward-facing dog she’s always been. As a Buddhist Koan (that I recently found by accident online) tells us:

A monk asked Master Chao-chou, “Has a dog the Buddha Nature or not?” Chao-chou said, “Mu!”



{teaching} HONY

Good News, ICYMI, Teaching

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I teach a course on digital communities, in which we explore the idea/l of a community, and look at theories of online communities. (if interested, take a look at my previous course blogs here and here).

While Fall 14 semester is still far away, I have already begun to plan the course — because of HONY – the photo blogging art/book/Facebook project based in New York.

I have decided that we will explore the issues of


gender, race, and class,

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globalization and migration,



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as well as states of alone-togetherness (as by Turkle)

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‘cognitive surplus’ and generosity (as by Shirky),


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and even some concrete lessons about social media, marketing, copyrights and crowdfunding.





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We will try to get to the bottom of why this multimedia art project / global Facebook debate forum has touched so many people all around the world. Why and how did HONY become a community?

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{research} Snowden Live @#PDF14

Good News, ICYMI, Research

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I am taking part of the Personal Democracy Forum (#PDF14) in NYC. Edward Snowden is one of the first speakers, via Google+, honoring the NSA Leaks that he provided exactly one year ago.

In and of itself, this is a great example of the complexities of internet rights. Snowden can’t be here in person. His live image is presented by the tech that an organization that has a stake in the surveillance regime. Now that organization is part of the Reset the Net campaign and has launched a new encryption tool for gmail.

But his dialogue with John Berry Barlow of the EFF has turned even more basic — and profound — than I could have ever expected.

The core questions discussed are:

What are data, information, and knowledge? How do different stakeholders understand those terms? What can big data and metadata tell about us (as I mused before).

How do we weigh ‘security’ as a priority? As Barlow joked, for him, “security comes always 3rd”. This reminded me of the recent debate about “trigger warnings” and our obsession to be safe. Is it time to reconfigure our understanding what safety and security are? Zygmunt Bauman talked about the unholy trinity uncertainty, unsafety, and insecurity already while back, as the core definers of “liquid modernity”. How right he was.

And finally, the eternal question of who’s a change-maker, who makes a difference, who says: I have had enough. Snowden:

I didn’t do anything remarkable, I’m not particularly morally gifted. I did my civic duty. The reason that people don’t campaign against to solve these problems because they don’t see them.


Once again, it is about the change starting with the grassroots, people, developers of crypto, or whistle blowing, or… As Snowden’s ending words just stated, structures of power will need to bend when the conversations like those around the NSA start to happen en masse.

If you want to support Snowden’s legal defense, go to: freesnowden.is.