Funding Rural | Episode #1 | Words Matter with Elizabeth Marino, PhD

Linguistic anthropologist Elizabeth Marino, PhD talks about the language barrier that exists between urban and rural communities in America and how it impacts philanthropists, who are traditionally based in urban wealth and power centers. Marino leads the Laboratory for The American Conversation at Oregon State University-Cascades.

“It’s hard to know how people’s lives work outside of your own. But what you do know is that people’s lives are working outside of your own—that they can look really different than the way that you get up and live your life every day.” – Elizabeth Marino, PhD


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More about Elizabeth Marino, PhD

Dr. Beth Marino

Elizabeth Marino, PhD is Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and an Associate Professor of anthropology and sustainability at Oregon State University – Cascades. She is also the Director of the Laboratory for the American Conversation. Marino is interested in the relationships among climate change, slow and rapid onset disasters, human migration, and sense of place. She is also interested in how people make sense and meaning out of changing environmental and social conditions; and how people interpret risk. Marino is a lead chapter author on the Fifth National Climate Assessment and was a White House appointed Science Delegate for the Arctic Science Forum. She has worked with and across state, federal, and international institutions, including the Humboldt Forum in Berlin on representations of climate change and disasters; the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on marine reserves; the Emmet Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law on issues of environmental refugees and displaced peoples; and the American Geophysical Union on their statement of ethics and public statement on climate change. Her book “Fierce Climate, Sacred Ground” was released in 2015; and her second book “People or Property: Legal Contradictions, Climate Resettlement, and the View from Shifting Ground” was released in 2023.

“One of the things that’s so interesting about language is that we use words and we think we’re conveying these small pieces of information. But words have a lot of moral and ethical and cultural value associated with them.” – Elizabeth Marino, PhD

Discussion Questions

  • How do you communicate within your own organization?
  • Which words or phrases are important to you but may read or land differently with communities you don’t normally work with?
  • How does messaging about communities unfamiliar to you impact your thoughts about them?
  •  Beth says, “We have to realize that the words we’re using can mean a whole host of different things to the communities that we’re speaking in.” Has something like this happened to you or your organization?


“Rural communities are engaging every day with the lands and oceans that we want to protect from climate change. It is absolutely true that they know those spaces better than the people sitting in D.C., or New York, or Boston or LA that are making policy.” – Elizabeth Marino, PhD

Transcript: Funding Rural Episode #1 “Words Matter” with Elizabeth Marino, PhD

Erin Borla:
Welcome to Funding Rural. I’m Erin Borla, Executive Director and Trustee of the Sisters, Oregon based roundhouse foundation. I also have the privilege of serving as a fellow with the National Center for Family philanthropy. In philanthropy, we talk about bridging divides. So I want to start things off from the ground up. How do we communicate with one another? When philanthropy works on complex issues, issues like climate, education, food systems, health care and firearms, we’re doing so primarily from one perspective. Traditionally, that perspective comes from larger cities where power and wealth is centered, and we’re leaving out others who are often closer to these things, rural people who work on the land, or the ocean, who live these things neighbor to neighbor in a way that isn’t happening when we’re sitting behind a desk. I wanted to dig in on that because words matter. And in a way we have a language barrier between urban and rural and I see that in the philanthropic world. I asked Elizabeth Marino to join me for a conversation about this and how it relates to philanthropic work in rural and Indigenous communities. Beth is a linguistic anthropologist, She studies the way in which people communicate with one another about divisive issues. And she leads the Laboratory of the American Conversation at Oregon State University – Cascades. I’m a huge fan of Beth and her work. And I think philanthropy could learn a lot from her approach to working in rural communities. And just a heads up, after our conversation, stick around, and I’ll share some of my takeaways. Beth grew up in Southwest Louisiana and spent a lot of time at her grandfather’s fish camp. She says she’s always had a love for small, rural places.

Beth Marino: 1:42
Those rural spaces are just I think they’re interesting, you know, people have this space to be creative. But then they also have a community that keeps them in check. And I think those dynamics of those role spaces are just really fascinating.

Erin Borla: 1:56
So having grown up in spaces like that, what drew you to academia?

Beth Marino: 2:02
That’s a hilarious question. Because I don’t come from an academic family, to say the least right, I come from a very blue collar working class family. So the reason I was always interested in education, and I was always interested in books, things like that I was kind of a science nerd growing up. So I was interested, like, I went away to college, which was pretty unusual in the town I grew up. But what drew me to graduate school was actually I was working as a journalist in Nome, Alaska, and September 1 happened. And a lot of the people that I was around, got called up to the National Guard to go over to Iraq. And and one of the things that happened is that people in this primarily Inupiat community of Nome, Alaska and the surrounding villages, were talking about terrorist and it made me think about like, what does that word terrorism mean if you’re in an Inuit, an Inupiat person in rural Alaska, versus if you’re sitting in Washington, DC. And so I started to think about words and language and how that affects how we interpret the world, particularly in communities that are really far away from the centers of power. And I went back to school to get a master’s degree in linguistic anthropology. And I ended up studying in Inupiat and doing all kinds of work on landscape and language and how we call like mountains, mountains, and rivers, rivers, and what different names and different languages we could use to talk about geographical features. But that’s what I got back into academia is just through thinking about how people, how people speak.

Erin Borla: 3:27
There’s so much power in language, it’s so, it’s so fascinating. I always love just hearing you speak about those different topics and how different language means, how different words mean different things to different people. And tell me a little bit about that work that you’ve been doing recently around, like how people are perceiving messages.

Beth Marino: 3:46
Yeah, so one of the things that’s so interesting about language, right, is that we use words and we think we’re conveying these small pieces of information. But words have a lot of moral and ethical and cultural value associated with them. So sometimes I think about, you know, that old game, I don’t know if you’re old enough to have played it, but it’s like Minecraft, and you sometimes like click on a one square, and then it opens this whole variety of squares, where it’s can do that. So what like a word like mother or apple pie, or a word like sacred or church or God, or even, you know, dinnertime right? Can mean one thing, can mean, can convey just a small piece of information to some people, or it can open up an entire like universe of moral possibility in somebody else. And so one of the things that I think is so important, especially in this time of kind of divisiveness in the country, right, is that when we’re talking to one another, we have to realize that the words we’re using can mean a whole host of different things to the communities that we’re speaking in. So a lot of the work that we do at my lab called the laboratory of the American conversation, is try to understand how people are conveying their core values, those things that really are emotionally salient to them, those things that they you know, the hills they would die on, how they convey those sentiments and words and what words they’re using to do that and how an understanding of that emotional weight of the words that we use can either help us have better conversations, or can lead to really terrible conversations if we use them incorrectly. Right? And so that’s, that’s a lot of the work that we’re doing right now we’re talking about things like how to protect land and water, how to keep people healthy, how to keep people safe. And to do that in ways that are meaningful.

Erin Borla: 5:26
Can you give us an example of? No, I think it’s important to hear sort of as we talk about rural and urban issues, and how to bring people together, like, what’s an example of how you how you would utilize that in your work, or how philanthropy could utilize that in some of these bigger topics, like, what’s something that you’ve worked on, that maybe you’re seeing our organization or other philanthropists try and work on?

Beth Marino 5:47
So here’s a, here’s an example from Oregon. I was working on the coast, thinking about marine reserves, which are a mechanism, a policy mechanism to protect state waters, right. And one of the key pieces of communication, science communication, I guess, that were being used was being used on the coast when people were talking about marine reserves. And when ODF and W was talking about marine reserves, where does it say the ocean belongs to all of us right. So I was doing interviews with groups of fishermen, and and other people that had lived on the coast for a long time. And they would say things like, I’ve got blood in that ocean, right. And so what I was seeing is this, there was a real, there was a real butting heads between this idea that the ocean belongs to all of us versus I get, I have a stake in this ocean because I’ve sacrificed for it right. And so that what seems like this most innocuous phrase, the ocean belongs to all of us, was really grading against a local value. That was, you have to you have to earn a right to that ocean, right. You have to sacrifice something. And we’re talking about not insignificant sacrifice, right. I talked to fishers who had lost kids in boating accidents. And you know, just had lost livelihoods when fisheries closed. I mean, these are big sacrifices, right. And so I think about if you’re trying to communicate to that group of people, just how you say we recognize your right to the ocean is different than mine, that your connection to that place, having lived through your whole life, or multiple generations is different than, than me who comes in from Portland for two days a year, you know, so that seems again, innocuous, it seems like a simple idea. The ocean belongs to all of us, but it was causing these real insults to the communities that lived there. And so by understanding how those value systems work, and how those words were being heard, by the communities that live there, I think you’re able to foster a more helpful dialogue between people that do come in and use the ocean recreationally. And people who live there full time.

Erin Borla: 7:55
That’s super helpful and really paints a picture, right. Because I think that’s especially in philanthropy, right. This shows specifically about how, how philanthropy can better serve in rural spaces is, we often think, oh, we’ll just we’ll just throw money at that problem. Or we’ll just show up for a day and feel like we understand because we’ve been there. And that’s not the reality. The reality is, there are people that are there every day, and the struggles are slightly different and utilizing language that helps them feel like they’re a part of the conversation. Rather than oh, we know better, because we have the power, we have the money, we have the location, whatever that may be. It really is, seems like where we need to make the biggest shift on the philanthropist side. And on the government side, too. But, I think that’s, that’s the other piece. So, so talk a little bit about what excites you about doing this work, especially with with rural spaces and frontier spaces?

Beth Marino: 8:48
Well, other than the fact that I love, like being in these spaces, like I just think it’s fun two things really excite me. One is that, in my experience, that, it is possible to overcome what can initially seem as like an outsider rejection. What I mean by that is, when you enter into a rural space, or any tight knit community that has felt ignored or feels distrustful of outsiders. You know, you can you can initially like feel a kind of tension like you can initially feel like you’re being kept out, right. But it’s really amazing, in my experience, continuing to show up. Showing up multiple times, acting in good faith, keeping your word, that’s a big one. You’re able to actually able to overcome these barriers. If you listen to people, if you take to heart what they’re saying, if you don’t assume that you know better as you’ve said, it is possible to make these conversations better. Again, I think there’s a narrative in the country right now that you know, we’re all very divisive. There are two Americas that there’s no overlap that we’re getting more and more in our bubbles. This is what we hear every day on the radio and in the news, things like that. At, but I think that those walls between those two Americans are more permeable than we think. And that it, in some cases, it actually takes very little of a good faith effort to make that barrier burst right to, to create a crack in it and open it up for these conversations to flow back and forth. And so one of the things that makes me hopeful is just the fact that it’s been successful, right. So we did, as an example. We did interviews with firearm, firearm owners in Eastern Oregon, as part of a project on suicide prevention, and this is a project you know, very well, but it’s a good example of what we’re talking about. So in this project, you know, we came in from the academia to university professors, moving into rural Oregon, asking people to talk about their guns, and people were really, at first, very distrustful of our project, they thought we were we were, they thought we had an agenda. They thought there was a kind of set narrative that we wanted to tell. And we walked into these focus groups. And we, we really were open, we were asking people, What does your firearm mean to you? How do you see community intervention and suicide prevention strategies working in your community? What do you want to see? What do you want your doctor to know about your gun? All those kinds of questions, you know, and we listened to people, and we took what they said to heart. And at the end of that project, you know, people were really receptive of the suicide prevention strategy that we came up with, and you know, or that we all came up with together. They were excited about the research, they were interested in the kind of scientific products that we put out, they were interested in hosting us again, it just opened up this really interesting and impactful conversation, you know, that now is trying to be replicated both in Washington and in Minnesota, and other research projects. But one of the things that’s just so hopeful is that, that it works, that’s just a little bit of empathy, some understanding that cultural values can be different, and some awareness of the language you’re using goes a long way in breaking down what can be talked about, as in, you know, unbreachable barriers, something just these? Yeah, like I said, this two Americas that are kind of spinning off.

Erin Borla: 12:09
We’ve talked in the past about about equity, and what that looks like. And I think just that phrase that I’ve heard you use before about being distant from power is so powerful when we talk about equitable distribution of resources. Talk a little bit about what your thoughts are in that space.

Beth Marino: 12:29
I love that question. Just because I think it’s really important. So one of the things they have anthropology thinks about is just normative assumptions about the way the world works. And conversations about diversity and equity often talk about this, right? So what we think is the people in power, it’s not even they’re trying to be oppressive, they’re not even like an intentional, oppressive decision, right. But they have assumptions about the way the world works. And those get embedded in the decisions that they make. So, most power centers are urban centers, right, most power centers are also white, and they’re also male. So there are a set of normative assumptions that that are involved in these characteristics of the people in power that then get built into those decisions. So if you’re distant from power, or if your lifestyle doesn’t look like the people making decisions, then there are all kinds of ways that your world works, that doesn’t line up to governance or policy, or, or even like technology, or engineering solutions, things like that. So I just feel like it’s really, it’s really interesting to try to think about building flexibility into any program, whether that’s a governance program or a philanthropic program, because it’s hard to know what you don’t know, right. It’s hard to know how people’s lives work outside of your own. But what you do know is that people’s lives are working outside of your own, that they can be, look really different than the way that you get up and live your life every day. And so in rural spaces, I was thinking about this on the way over and we’re talking about gun policy and one of these, the story that comes back to me all the time, when I think about the suicide prevention research, and when I think about how it interfaced with some of the research on environmentalism that we do is, you know, right now, if you think about typical environmentalists, narratives and the way that we even scientists measure environmentalist attitudes, they’re very often framed in kind of a liberal value system. So they’re often framed, thinking about values like care concern for, for the world, and kind of a justice bent, and that that’s powerful that really resonates for a certain group of people. But rural communities tend to focus more on values like responsibility, like competency, values that like freedom, like purity, these kinds of ideas. And so, you know, so it looks like when we look at these measures of environmentalist attitudes, that it’s mostly urban communities or urban communities have a greater environmentalist values than rural communities. But I was in these interviews one time, and I was talking to somebody who keeps a firearm in their truck specifically, to be able to if a deer gets hit on the highway and that deer is suffering, that you are able to not to not watch that deer suffer to kill the deer so that it wouldn’t suffer. And I just thought, like, there is not, that takes so much gumption and like you feel a kind of responsibility to the world around you. That’s so profound. If you take it upon yourself to do that. Like it’s all that’s it’s a kind of literal, taking on the suffering of the world, right as your own personal responsibility. And so I just wonder how we can talk about environmentalist attitudes that includes that, right, that that is actually also a very profound kind of environmentalism that just demonstrates such a profound kind of respect, I guess, for the animals that you live with. And I think that the important part of firearm conversation is just that we are having it so badly, that a gun is one of those words, that means a universe of things, right. It is absolutely, a gun is absolutely a cultural construct. Like there is it is, so it means, it is a symbol of so many different things in this country, and we are just not able. We are pretending we are talking to each other. And we are not. We are just espousing our own view of what a firearm is back and forth.

Erin Borla: 17:01
Well, I think we can use that same sort of logic and talk about climate, right? We’ve weaponized language like climate,{YEAH} like justice, when the reality is those are just words, that, so I think there is an opportunity to bridge divide by bringing one getting on the ground and knowing one another as a human.{YEAH}, human to human interaction. {YEAH} So what that means in the world of philanthropy is like getting out from behind our desk, showing up in spaces, right. And then actually listening, right. {YEAH} We don’t know better. {YEAH} And so how do we take language that’s become weaponized and transition that to have these bigger conversations? And it doesn’t necessarily have to be about one specific topic. But I think you’ve raised before, I might use it all the time. But like, I’ve never met a fisherman that wants to fish the last fish. {YEAH}. Right. I love that. And so how do we talk about really honoring the knowledge and power around these incredibly divisive issues? And just change our frame? Right? So what, help us help us do that. Today, in 20 minutes.

Beth Marino: 18:12
Yeah, um, I laugh sometimes I think America is really bad at understanding culture. Like America, I mean, this is probably not what you were thinking about, but as a country, we, we have a mythology of the melting pot, right. Like, we’re all going to come together, and we’re all going to become basic rational humans, right. And there was this sometimes intentionally desire for people to leave their histories in the past, right, and walk forward into kind of a just this rational American citizen. And I think having an understanding of culture is really important, because it teaches you that somebody can be very different than you that somebody can have a different value set that somebody can live in a different world use different words. And still, you know, and you’re just aware that that is probably true. You know, nobody assumes, like, nobody in France thinks that people in Germany are exactly like them, right. But somehow, people in urban California, go to rural California and expect everybody to kind of like, be just like them, right. So, how we get, how we get past this kind of divisiveness to how we listen to each other. I just think it takes a lot of open mindedness and empathy. And, you know, I was thinking about, there are these extreme examples, right. So we have like examples of people that were in a hospital dying of COVID and saying that COVID didn’t exist. I’ve heard that narrative or that anecdote, like told all the time is an example of how stupid people in America are right. Like just this heavy judgment about how dumb everyone is. And another way to think about that scenario, is to think about what is that person in the hospital dying trying to protect that’s so important to them that they can’t believe their doctor? That it’s easier to believe that their doctors lying to them than to give up whatever they’re trying to protect. And that’s, you know, that’s a good question. If we want to know, like, how to go forward, asking that question sincerely, what is that person trying to protect? Is the right question. Instead of thinking, you know, why is that person so, so ignorant, right. And I think that the answer is what they’re trying to protect is probably, you know, a way of life and a sense of freedom and the capacity to judge for yourself information, feeling of getting hoodwinked. I mean, that’s a feeling that probably all of us are familiar with, whether it’s being hoodwinked by, you know, a corporation or a bad, I don’t know, like a bad educational experience, or whatever, you know. Yeah, we’re just, I think, thinking about what one of the things that we always say is like, people are very rarely trying to hurt themselves, righ? There, instead, what people are doing is that they’re doing some kind of risk analysis, and they’re coming up with a conclusion that they think is protecting them from something. So just being empathetic to those kinds of conversations is really important.

Erin Borla: 21:24
The takeaway that I had was, {YEAH} we need to stop thinking about ourselves, in the moment of like, my mission, {YEAH}, is to do this. So you also should want to do this. And here’s how I’m going to gift you the thing to do the thing, I think is important. If we take the I narrative and the organizational narrative out of the conversation, and we say what are you trying to do? Especially in these communities that have not been heard for so long, or have been told that they’re stupid, or ignorant, but really are the true knowledge holders, especially when we work work with our indigenous partners. You know, how do we have those conversations, and train ourselves to take the “I” away. And I think that’s the biggest thing, and it’s listening. And I, I always joke, because I’m like, Oh, my gosh, I’m not gonna go to another listening session. But it has to be some sort of activity like that, like action at the end.{YEAH} Because I think philanthropy is really good at listening or saying they’re listening. But we’re still, we come back to our mission. Well, we heard what you said, but we’re still we still, we still think we need to do it this way. So how do we take that narrative and say, Okay, we heard what you said, here’s an immediate response to try and fix something or be present with you? And then let’s look at the bigger picture right.

Beth Marino: 22:47
One of the things that’s really exciting in academia is this notion of co-produced research. It would be interesting to think about the equivalent in the philanthropic world, actually. So co-produced research is the idea of recognizing that people do hold knowledge, they are experts on their own lives. Researchers partner with communities. You know, I’ve done work in indigenous communities in this way, but partner with communities and think about even creating the research questions in collaboration. Thinking through how you know, how you share research funds, that in ways that are equitable. Thinking about paying both a scientist and a community based knowledge holder in equitable ways. And then seeing what kind of knowledge is produced that way and products, right, like what comes out from a project like that? I don’t know. Is there anything like that in the philanthropic space? There has to be?

Erin Borla: 23:39
I mean, I think people are trying, you know, there’s, there’s trust based philanthropy, {YEAH} which is like, oh, we’re just going to work with these organizations. We’re going to general operating support long term support, and just show up. But I do think there’s still an important piece of being present as a partner, because oftentimes, it’s more than the check right. And it’s not just hey, thanks for the money. That’s this, you know, BandAid on a head wound. When I what I really need is I need my story told to be able to leverage additional partnership from the federal government to fix our water system, or those other things. It’s how do we tell that story from a philanthropist perspective to bring community together on a broader scale, and elevate those stories? So I think there is there’s movement there, but it’s still really difficult. I think there’s, there’s a fear almost of getting out and being present and closer to, to the work. And I’m not sure where that fear comes from. But I think there and maybe that’s me interpreting that as fear. But that’s definitely not the way that we’ve been working. We try and get out to community and really hear what what the need may be because oftentimes, they think it might be one thing. And the reality is, how about we tried this other things first and then work on that next project. And it’s just been really interesting to watch that dynamic and hear, hear the feedback from that. I had somebody ask earlier about what, what’s the most exciting thing. And it’s the fact that I have grant partners calling me and telling me, I’m in crisis, I need help. What do I do? They feel comfortable enough to have that dialogue, or I had this amazing success. And I want you to share it with me, could you come to the celebration? So that opportunity, it’s more than like, Hey, here’s my report. Thanks so much, checkbox. It’s this, this interpersonal connection back and forth? And I think that’s, that’s part of being in rural too right? Is building relationship. So I think that piece has been, I’m hopeful, again, in that space, but it’s hard work. And you carry a lot.

Beth Marino: 25:56
Yeah, well, I mean, so interesting, right? There is a definite parallel in research, which is that, you know, there’s this feeling that if you get too close to the communities that you’re working with, that you’re now a biased observer, right. That you can’t be neutral, and that you can’t like carry out scientific research, in a condition of neutrality and, and, you know, I think anthropologists in particular, but other researchers have started to question that construct. It was funny, I have a good friend that was doing a podcast just a couple of days ago. And he talked about the fact that in when he read my book, it was the first time he’d ever seen an anthropologist use the term friends, when they were talking about their research participants right. And, and he was talking about how that was really important for him. And he started to use that term, he was talking about his collaborators as well, because that was the accurate one. He’s been in this community for years, like they were friends of his by now, you know, and that he felt it didn’t, it didn’t impede his ability to do analyses, right, or do robust analyses. But it enabled him to know what the impact of that analysis was actually going to be. And I think what you’re saying is the same thing, right, it’s one thing to be able to say, I think that there’s probably a sense that in philanthropy that you don’t want to get too close, because then you could be biased, or you could just like, I don’t know, only invest in your friends or something. But the reality is that unless you have these really personal relationships, you don’t even know what the impact it’s going to be right. Or what the, what you just get closer to kind of understanding the whole ecosystem, you know, socio cultural ecosystem that people live in, and then you can see all the threads that that work, will have, you know, all the impacts that that you that are harder to anticipate unless you can have an honest conversation with people. So I just think that’s really interesting. And I wonder if that’ll be, yeah, I think that that is a positive evolution in science and the social sciences. And I wonder how that will happen in your field, too. And I do think this is the rural nature of that, or it’s just interesting to have these conversations about rural spaces to. Like, so a lot of our work that we do at the lab, we think about how to communicate small things. I gave the example of talking about marine reserves, like how you can actually make communication, a communication strategy, more resonant with local values. But over the long term, we’re trying to change the narrative. Full scale, right. And if so, for example, what do we think about actually thinking about rural communities as stewards of this enormous landmass right. That is North America, the United States of America, if we want to make those divisions, like rural communities are engaging every day with the lands and oceans that we want to protect from climate change, it is absolutely is true that they know those spaces better than the people sitting in DC, or New York, or Boston or LA that are making policy, right. And so in the short term, we can, we can have a better communication strategy, we can listen more closely, we can do that acute care, right, to make conversations go better. But in the long term, we need to start thinking about a way that we nationally develop a set of ethics that respects the work that rural communities do in protecting the lands and waters that they know best. I’m really I really think that yeah, that that has a lot of possibility for addressing problems like climate change, and right now we’re almost doing the opposite right. We’re almost demonizing those people that live in rural spaces as the ones that are the problem. When it, when we think about climate change, and that is it at best, that is, you know, an unbalanced narrative. And at worst, it’s just an intentional displacement of guilt, right. Uh.

Erin Borla: 30:02
Well, oh my goodness, we’ve covered all the things I think. So thank you for spending time today and chatting and going through all these things. I always love talking through with you all of your, your work is fascinating. I just learn so much every time that we talk about just language. And it’s always fun to just bat around different concepts of like, how could we really change the world right. It’s just, it just starts with us. It starts with one. So I really appreciate it.

Beth Marino: 30:27
Yeah, thanks, Erin. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Erin Borla: 30:36
Transcribed from audio file by MD:
What a great conversation. I always love talking with Beth. I think she just has such an interesting way of looking at issues and looking at how people communicate with one another. I love that phrase that she used about blood in the ocean. There’s the difference between the ocean belonging to all of us and those that have blood in the ocean and have sacrificed for the ocean and how do we show respect for those people who are directly connected to the land or the issues that we’re working on. When we talk about conservation efforts that’s why there’s friction in climate philanthropy between urban funders, scientists and rural people. Often we hear those people aren’t smart or we know better, we know what’s better for the land. It’s so interesting to hear, if we maybe we just rephrase some of the things that we’re saying in a way that allows people to feel valued for the work and the sacrifice that they put into those places. I also loved the thought that she talked about how it’s so possible to overcome this outsider rejection when you come into a space that feels distrustful, right. If you’re showing up as someone from a major city into a rural space and you feel like an outsider, how do we overcome that you feel like you’re being left out and it’s vice versa, right. When a rural person or a frontier person comes into a major community they’re also feeling different, and I love how she talks about showing up, and not just once but multiple times, acting in good faith, being present. Don’t act like you know better, let’s listen and hear what’s happening before we decide what we think is right. The other piece that just hit home really hard for me was when she talked about two Americas right. This idea of two Americas and how if there is such a divide and what we’re hearing in the news. What we’re hearing every day are there’s two Americas but the walls between those Americas’ are more permeable than we think, right. It takes a very little this is what Beth said of a good faith effort to make that barrier burst. When she talked about firearms and were talking about these are very very challenging issues. We’re pretending that we’re talking to each other and we’re not. Let’s say that again. We’re pretending that we’re talking to each other and we’re not. We’re just espousing our own view back and forth. So how do we address that issue? How do we change? How we communicate? I think that’s something that philanthropy can really think a lot about. What if we stop talking about equity as looking a certain way and started looking at equity as being distant from power. I think that’s another really strong point and something that we’ve taken to heart in our organization. How do we really look at equity as being a distant from where decisions are made, whether that’s a community in an inner city that’s feeling marginalized or is marginalized or whether that’s a community of farm workers in a rural space or whether that is a community that’s eight hours away from where decisions are made about their organization, about their community, about their livelihoods? I think those are all really important takeaways from what Elizabeth’s conversation was about. I hope as we continue in philanthropy and we try to build these bigger strategies that we think about some of those things. About who’s at the table? How did they get invited to that table? How do we communicate? How do we listen and how do we show up in that space? Thanks for listening to funding rural. I’m excited to keep bringing you conversations with folks on the ground in rural and indigenous communities who are working to improve lives and they really have ideas about how philanthropy can help spark systemic change.

Thanks for tuning into this first conversation, Beth and I talked about a lot of things. One of those that I want to emphasize is taking the AI away from our philanthropic practices, we’re not super imposing our own values, whether we believe it or not, we bring our own value system to every conversation and every table that we show up to. So we may think that we know what’s best. But ultimately, someone else may have a completely different perspective. And so having a chance to really listen deeply, listen, not talking and waiting to talk, but really talking and then listening to what folks are saying, will allow us a little glimpse into someone else’s reality and understanding of their community and its needs. I think a way that roundhouse is trying to do that is by showing up in those places, making that drive getting to those really distant and far remote communities that don’t see funders. We’ve heard, Hey, you’re the only funder that’s been here and three years. That seems like a real issue within the philanthropic community is by being present. That’s brought up CO created research, research that’s developed in collaboration with subjects and community. I wonder how that can be supported in philanthropy, even in our philanthropic practices? I think we can look at trust based philanthropy as a real starting point for that. How do we approach that when funders show up in more than just writing a check, we help tell the story, we help elevate different partners and projects, we share things with other funding partners, and really try and build relationship. I think lastly, I want to make sure we talk about what she mentioned around that fear of getting too close. I think funders have that same fear. And I really think we need to get over it. We ultimately came together and and thought, gosh, if I if I get too close, and I know this person or I know this organization that I have to say no, that’s a really hard thing to do. But if we start from the very beginning, and get to know someone and tell them upfront, hey, not everything is going to be in our wheelhouse. We’re going to find ways to work with you. But not everything is going to be a winner. So we’re going to I want to listen to all the different things that you have to share and make sure that any of our partners that might be interested or that might be able to work with them and not doesn’t work with us. We’re going to connect you with those folks as well. So being able to understand that on both sides, not everything is going to be a yes from the get go. But it’s a yes and or a no but all those different things. Thanks so much for listening to Funding Rural. We talked about a lot of best research in her book during this episode. I’ll make sure to have links to all of those things, including a transcript of the episode at

Published On: March 12th, 2024 / Categories: Funding Rural Podcast /