Eileen is an activist leader and award-winning spiritual writer and she helps people to overcome their fears and become more active in making an impact. Her work is about finding the inner guidance to bring positive change in an interconnected and interdependent world.
When I first heard about her story, I was intrigued and amazed. How could her small group beat a 4 billion dollar corporation, with little budget, no office and no full-time staff? She definitely has a great story to tell, one that can inspire others to take action.
TSTM: What exactly do you do? When did you start doing it? And what is it that you love about it ?
I’ve been doing activism and spiritual work for decades, helping people to find their calling, trying to make a positive impact in the world. What is new for me is delivering online courses and bringing groups of individuals together to support their journey.
I love what I do because I work with people who are already taking action and wanting to learn to be bolder and more strategic.
TSTM: What is the idea at the core of what you do?
We have more power than we know. That idea is at the core of what I do. In the USA, we were taught a myth about democracy and about how we make change. We were told a myth about the civil rights movements and women’s rights.
We see Martin Luther King Jr. in the podium, but we don’t hear the stories of many people, many of them women, who supported the movement and changed their communities. They didn’t do it on their own. Rosa Parks is another great example. She was not on her own. She was part of a movement.
Many people think about these heroic people, and they think that they can’t be like them, but they don’t realize that they weren’t on their own, they were supported by others. All you have to do is figure out what part is yours to play.
There are so many ways people are told to keep quiet and hide their voices. My work is to break through all this.
For example, we have been told to make change in ways that don’t always work, like calling politicians whose votes are already bought and paid for, and we end up feeling a lot despair. However, there are others ways. It’s a matter of learning other strategies that are more effective, such as building the people power to challenge unjust institutions. By taking bolder action, we can keep our hope alive.
Despair is something that people feel when they believe that what they do doesn’t make a difference.
For many years, I did phone calls, I signed petitions, I marched, and I felt it didn’t make a difference, so I started focusing on individual things such as carrying my reusable mug, but I felt that it wasn’t making a different either because it was very small in comparison to the big problem of climate change. Then I found Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT), a group that uses nonviolent direct action to work for a just and sustainable economy.
They understood how change happened and I felt there was hope.
I encourage people to find a strategy and find a group, a community. If you are doing work by yourself, you are always going to feel that it’s not enough.
For example, the group I work with, EQAT, stopped one of the biggest banks in the USA lending money to mining companies with terrible environmental practices affecting communities and wildlife in our country.
We went into the bank lobbies, we sat down and prayed, and we did a lot of creative actions, including disrupting their shareholder meeting. They finally changed their policy and stopped funding the mining companies. We were a little group. We had no office and no staff and we beat a 4 billion dollar a year corporation. Many of our leaders were women.
TSTM: People might feel the fear of not being able to do enough because the problem they want to solve is so big and so abstract, how do you make them feel that they are capable?
I understand that, since my activist work is on climate change. Sometimes I tell them the story of my upbringing, how I spent 10 years in all girl Catholic school. I was not raised to be a rebel, so I’m doing what I’m doing because it is urgent. People normally relate to this story. I tell my fuller story in my memoir Renewable: One Woman’s Search for Simplicity, Faithfulness, and Hope.
Martin Luther King Jr. was an ordinary person who used his gifts and we can all do that.
TSTM: What makes your story unique?
I think it’s is believing that we have more power than we know because we are all connected to our source of spiritual wisdom, and we all have an inherent right to dignity. By listening from within and working with each other, we can make transformational change.
A couple of years ago, I had the idea to create an online course to teach people how to make an impact, but I didn’t think I had time to start a new project, so I put the idea aside. After the election of Donald Trump, I had a clear intuition that it was time to offer that online class, so I went on FB and posted the question, If I organised a course on how to make change, would you take it? The response was overwhelming.
It started spreading, and soon I had 180 people registered for that first round of the course. It took me by surprise, so I had to figure out how to make a registration form, link to PayPal from my website, and how to organize all the practical details of the course.
During the course, many people said they felt alone and scared, and this online course gave them a space where they could meet a lot of people like themselves, as well as learn some skills to help them focus their activism.
It was my first online course, so not everything went smoothly, but most things did. My mistakes reinforced my story because I wanted to let them know that they could do something new, too, that it didn’t have to be perfect the first time. The important thing was that I followed my intuition and was able to help a lot of people.
Since then, I’ve taught seven online courses with hundreds of students.
TSTM: What is non-negotionable in your story?
I don’t want to entertain people or make them feel inspired for an hour, and then they go back to complacency. I want to invite people to do more. I want to inspire them to make their own impact.
TSTM: How can people find you? What are you about to launch? What is the next thing that you are offering?
People can follow my work at www.eileenflanagan.com. I will be teaching two online courses this spring, and I’m also working on a new book, so please go to my site and sign up for my newsletter to stay in touch.
Do you know any businesses or people who are making a difference, people who are telling a great story? Let me know. Stories like this need to be told.
Who is inspiring you every day to tell a better story ? I would love to hear from you.