The Ākāśa Element
What are the elements of a home that foster a sense of belonging for its members? During the past seven weeks working at Ākāśa Innovation, I have explored the elements that make this new not-for-profit enterprise a welcoming home to its community of sensemakers and changemakers. As one of Ākāśa Innovation’s first interns, I have had the opportunity of working in a small team of people with skills and interests different from mine. Yet it has been astonishing to see how effortlessly we have been able to understand each other, collaborate and form a close-knit group.
I hoped to discover this ineffable, binding element when I interviewed Olivia, a fellow intern and student, three weeks ago. During the interview, Olivia’s vision of Ākāśa Innovation, its elements and values, struck me. Everything she said regarding her experience with Ākāśa Innovation was very similar to what I would have said except for one detail: for Olivia, authenticity – the acceptance of one’s true self – lay at the heart of Ākāśa Innovation, whilst I saw empathy as the all-encompassing, transcendent element. I consider empathy and care the key elements to being mindful, hopeful, authentic and grateful towards oneself, others and the planet.
This brief moment of stubborn resistance to a differing opinion led me to reflect upon the structure of Ākāśa Innovation itself. In the past seven weeks, I have witnessed how our organisation and our work are able to draw people together and foster a community and a sense of belonging which emerge from the interconnectivity of all five elements. None of the people I met throughout my internship at Ākāśa Innovation, whether experts in the field of sustainability and education, writers, psychologists, volunteers or young people, are attracted to our social enterprise simply for our Young Pioneers Programme, our events or EARTHtalks. They all find an element of their personality, their work or studies that matches with Ākāśa Innovation and makes them feel included.
For me, that element was care. When choosing and applying for my internship, I felt drawn to Ākāśa Innovation because of its empathetic approach to its members, partners and community; as a graduate, I needed to find an organisation within which I could express this side of my personality and feel at home. For Olivia, it was the desire to be authentic and act according to her values, knowing that in doing so she would be accepted and supported.
Unsurprisingly, care, acceptance and support are the main elements of a home in my mind. When I am at home, I know that I will be looked after and I will cherish providing support to my family and friends. At home I can be myself in everything I do and be accepted for who I am without being judged. But this feeling does not translate into most of my daily life. I find that there is an acute distinction between what is appropriate to and accepted in my private, make-up free life and what I subscribe to in my public, mask-wearing activities. How can we, as a community, feel at home, and be authentic and caring if we are worried that someone will huff and glare if we take too long to “move down inside the carriage”?
Ākāśa Innovation is able to transpose the private into the public. It creates a home beyond one’s family unit for the members of its community, which allows each and every one of us to be caring and cared for, to be authentic and feel accepted. Our personal interactions with Ākāśa Innovation’s elements provide us with a safe space to explore who we are and who we might become. Some of us may want to shape our mindsets or our relationship towards the local community; others may need an extra motivational push towards becoming environmental activists.
Care isn’t the special, all-encompassing element, which differentiates Ākāśa Innovation from other organisations and in relation to which all the other values make sense. But it is what I needed to find within the organisation to feel at ease and at home during the past seven weeks. And this is precisely the meaning of the word Ākāśa. Ākāśa brings together all these interconnected elements and creates something bigger than the sum of their parts, something in which we can find a piece of ourselves.
Michela Palese, Community Engagement Intern