Molly Stranahan is the founder of the Path to Happiness and a happiness advocate.
What about Corporate Accountability activated your “happiness radar” and made you want to fund this work?
I’m so glad there’s an organization that challenges the status quo and the helplessness that we often feel in the face of corporate power. In the “Path to Happiness,” I look at our unexamined assumptions—how they can create situations where we are unhappy but we don’t think we can make change. Part of what makes me happy about funding Corporate Accountability is that this organization is standing up to the very pervasive beliefs we have about how corporations can get away with being unaccountable.
What do you think is different, or uniquely effective, about Corporate Accountability’s approach?
Corporate Accountability understands the interconnections between the problems and solutions.
On water, for example, we know there’s not just one evil water company that we have to stand up to in a particular community. The problem is linked across the whole water industry, and it’s connected with what’s happening in so many other industries.
So there’s not just one solution. There’s this thoughtfulness about how solutions need to happen at multiple levels. For example, there’s a media campaign, combined with getting people on the ground who are affected by the problem to be at the table where the problem is talked about.
I’ve been impressed by the level of strategic thinking around this. How the organization asks: What is our particular role? What’s most effective in this particular situation with the resources we have? And who do we partner with?
Can you talk about your approach to philanthropy?
More than a decade ago I hired a friend of mine who started an organization called Bolder Giving as a coach. One of the issues I looked at was: Why do I feel like I can’t give more than this? And I realized I had a fear of running out of what I have.
One of the things I’ve learned from many of my teachers is how fear is the opposite of love. Fear gets in the way of us taking love actions. Giving away money is a way of loving, it’s a way of giving support, and it’s a way of expressing our compassion.
When we stop ourselves from doing something out of fear, we’re stopping the flow of love. I actually can feel it in myself: Fear makes me contract and pull away and not connect, whether it’s with an organization where I could give money or with a person.
Adrienne Marie Brown talks about a similar concept in Emergent Strategy. Are you familiar with her work?
Yes! Adrienne facilitated a Solidaire [donor network] retreat I just came back from, using emergent strategy techniques. It was amazing. I met her some years ago when we were in a yearlong program with Robert Gass. That’s where I learned about love and fear being the opposite of each other.
What gives you hope right now?
Things are always changing—and together we have an ability to affect how they change. A lot of focus is on how things are changing in the wrong direction, but if you shift focus, you can see that there are powerful shifts in the right direction.
There’s an awakening around a sense of responsibility and corporate accountability—we need to hold corporations accountable! We have to work together to make this happen. I’m seeing a lot of change around what some of us are calling consciousness—a sense that if I’m participating in something that is harming someone else, I have a responsibility to do something about it.
Being with other people and working together to make something happen is deeply joyful work. It builds strength and happiness. There’s this positive spiraling up into more and more energy, more and more people being involved, and more and more of our needs being met by the way we’re involved.