Esra’a is a Bahrani human rights activist and founder of Majal, a multiplatform organization that amplifies underrepresented voices in the Middle East and North Africa. She works collaboratively with technologists and designers across the world to create alternative digital spaces that are safe from censorship and trolling. Utilizing gamification and music, Majal’s platforms offer a safe space for people who face persecution based on their identity and politics.
- PERSONALLY REFLECT
When have you felt concerned for your safety and security online? What features online made you feel vulnerable or exposed? Was it something you could control or was it outside of your control? If you’ve never felt insecure on online platforms, why do you think that is?
- BECOME INFORMED
Question Scale in Philanthropy
Check out Majal.org and look at the platforms they operate.
When you are engaging with nonprofits and philanthropy, look at who founded and runs the groups you support or amplify. Find ones that are run by those closest to the problem, which are often people from marginalized communities. Start your learning journey by reading Decolonizing Wealth by Edgar Villanueva.
- PUBLICLY PARTICIPATE
Challenge the philanthropic norms.
Instead of supporting large organizations that emphasize scalability and unsustainable growth, consider getting as local and grassroots as you can in terms of your time and resources. Often smaller, on-the-ground and grassroots organizations have more direct impact despite far fewer resources. And make the How To Citizen community look good: donate over at Majal.org so they can keep supporting the important platforms serving activists and LGBTQ youth in the Middle East.
MORE WAYS TO CONNECT & SUPPORT
Baratunde Thurston 0:02
Welcome to How to Citizen with Baratunde, a podcast that reimagines citizen as a verb, not a legal status. This season is all about tech, and how it can bring us together instead of tearing us apart. We're bringing you the people using technology for so much more than revenue and user growth; they're using it to help us citizen
Take me to the scene and paint a picture for me of Bahrain, the place where you grew up.
Esra'a Al Shafei 0:40
I think Bahrain is honestly one of the most beautiful countries. We're surrounded by water as an island, obviously, but there's palm trees. I could do without the traffic because we're also a very small country, but what I love about it so much is that everything is community- and family-oriented. Oftentimes, regardless of what you think, and who you are, and how you feel, when it's family time, it's family time; that's where you get together and eat. That type of togetherness is where everybody just melts together and it's chaos, but it's beautiful chaos. You don't have as many fights when you have these get-togethers because nobody can actually hear the other person; everybody's just talking over people and you're talking to somebody, but you also have a mouth full of dates. It's a great place to be, but it's also a terrifying place to be. You want to be yourself, but you also can't. You also don't want to fall out the communities and the people there. For the most part, it's not our fault. Of course, we are accountable, but it's not like we can just rise up and say, "hey, we all disagree with this and we're going to do something about it," because the consequences are dire. You also love everything that it stands for when it comes to community and passion, and people really care about each other. I mean, a couple years ago, we lost our house to a fire. There's not a single person in the neighborhood that didn't come to help us.
Baratunde Thurston 2:39
This is Esra'a Al Shafei. She's the founder of Majal, a network of digital platforms that amplifies underrepresented voices. Today, we're going to be focusing on one of those platforms called Ahwaa, a gamified social media app designed for the LGBTQIA+ community in the Middle East and North Africa. What does that mean exactly? Well, imagine you were on a social media app where you were anonymous, but also safe. Are you thinking, "Baratunde, that's impossible! As long as there's an internet, there will be trolls, and threats, and surveillance. Oh my!" I hear you. Trust me, I've got haters, too; but it's true. Esra'a has built a platform where kindness earns you points, and points give you access; and trolling, that costs you points. First, let's learn a little bit about the person behind the platform. We forget that sometimes, right? There's always a person. Hello, Esra'a, how you doing?
Esra'a Al Shafei 3:45
I'm doing very well, thanks. How are you?
Baratunde Thurston 3:48
I'm doing well, as well.
Esra'a Al Shafei 3:50
You should be if you're talking to me.
Baratunde Thurston 3:54
Alright, and we're off to a fiery start. I love it. Normally, when I'm doing these conversations, I have the video of the person I'm speaking with up and we can see each other. Your video is off, though. Why is that?
Esra'a Al Shafei 4:08
My video is always off and that's for my safety. I've always been physically anonymous with the type of work that I do, which is, of course, human rights working with vulnerable communities, including the LGBTQI community in the Middle East and North Africa. If I really want to continue doing this work, there's only so much that I can do from the frontline. There's a lot that I need to keep underground, and my physical anonymity is becoming harder and harder with the types of different surveillance technologies that we have to protect, especially knowing that I'm amongst millions of activists that are monitored and surveilled on a daily basis.
Baratunde Thurston 4:48
It sounds massively inconvenient and like something that takes a lot of energy to try to remain anonymous in this way. Are there any advantages to it?
Esra'a Al Shafei 5:00
Absolutely. I mean, it's the reason I'm speaking to you today. I get to talk about this work. When people go and give talks, they know that this talk is going to be seen not just by the people in the room, but by everybody; snippets of it are going to be on Twitter, and on YouTube, and wherever it's going to be hosted. For me, I feel like it's going to stay in that room, and I can make very dark jokes and get away with it. You really get to be your authentic self, without fearing for your life.
Baratunde Thurston 5:32
I've seen some of the work you've been up to, and it is positively, ridiculously impressive what you've been working on these past many years, over a decade. Tell me about the work you've dedicated yourself to over the years.
Esra'a Al Shafei 5:47
Sure, so I created Majal.org somewhere around 2005. During that time, this was before Twitter was big, Facebook was still limited to a lot of colleges and things like that when not just anybody can sign up; so outreach was much more challenging because it was hard to reach the communities that you wanted to reach.
Baratunde Thurston 6:09
What communities were you trying to reach?
Esra'a Al Shafei 6:11
We were trying to reach ourselves. I mean, we were just young people at the time in a country that made censorship the norm, where you go to school and there's certain information that you can't find and can't talk about, where you go in the household and people are scared to talk about certain things. You see the injustices around you, but you keep it to yourself, and it's a traumatic situation to do that. That's really what got me interested in creating a platform where when we see an injustice, we can talk about it. We can talk about how migrant workers are being treated in our country, how corrupt leaders were getting away with insane policies that were keeping us away from our own dignity. We wanted to talk to, and with, communities that were completely invisible at the time and had to be for security reasons. These were really the communities that we wanted to make sure that they felt welcome, that we wanted to build something inclusive, and that it wasn't going to be just about us; it was going to be just a space where we can just share our stories and speak with people that we were discouraged from even acknowledging.
Baratunde Thurston 7:22
What are you not allowed to say that has such dire consequences?
Esra'a Al Shafei 7:26
I mean, first and foremost, it's not democracy. We don't have a say, politically, how things are run, what policies are being enforced upon us. Government issues a statement, "you do this," we do it. There's dire consequences when you don't, so that's, for me, a big part of the fear. No fair trial, so if you're an activist and you get accused of something, sometimes even a tweet criticizing a member of Parliament, you will get arrested for that. There are laws now that have been revised, where there are certain tweets and there are social media crimes, but what makes a social media crime: criticism. It's a scary situation to live in that type of environment, and it's not something that is unique to Bahrain, it's really everywhere we went; so even when we would travel to neighboring countries, we have to be very, very conservative in what we are expressing, because as much as we are changing, we are getting a lot of pushback from really well-resourced countries. I mean, these are countries that are spending billions of dollars on surveillance technology from some of the most-sophisticated companies out there, whether they're Israeli companies that specifically build surveillance videos and tools, or U.S. companies, actually, that are not being held accountable working with repressive governments like this that are putting the lives of activists at risk, because it means they get a couple-hundred thousand dollars. That type of fear really gets to you, but we wanted to be sure that we could creatively bypass a lot of that; that's why we turn to music, that's why we turned to gamification, that's why we turned to art, because we're trying to do things in such a way where it's not just a group of investigative journalists who are going to publish this bombshell report through Human Rights Watch or something like that. Of course, this stuff is important, but this is also the stuff that will get you killed, so we wanted something in the middle. We didn't want to get arrested; at the same time, we didn't want to stay silent and, therefore, complicit.
Baratunde Thurston 9:44
Everybody I know would be in jail because all we do is mouth off on the internet against people with power. It just doesn't... It feels literally foreign. We'll be right back...
I want to talk about one of those platforms that you helped create. Tell me what Ahwaa is, and where did the idea begin?
Esra'a Al Shafei 10:27
It began in 2009, and it began as a platform for the LGBTQ+ community in the Arab region, where we can just share stories, share support, share resources, and really just build a supportive network where we can be who we want to be without the fear of bullying, prejudice, trolling that we saw was prevalent in many of the other platforms. Everywhere we went, we felt punished, we felt humiliated, we felt threatened. It was really tough because you can go on Facebook and even when you create those private groups, a lot of the times what we saw was a lot of them were being deleted because, "oh, this is against community policy," and they're not obligated to explain any further. They had a lot of moderators in the region, which we felt that, for them, being queer was against community policy because it's against cultural norms.
Baratunde Thurston 11:27
Esra'a Al Shafei 11:28
We thought, "okay, look, nobody out there is sitting saying, 'hey, let's design something that a bunch of queer Arabs can really also, you know...' Nobody's sitting there saying, 'well, what about this community? What about this small niche? Let's put monetization aside and growth metrics aside, and let's put the people first...'" Nobody's gonna think that.
Baratunde Thurston 11:48
Why do you think it wasn't in a Twitter, for example, in their interest, or Facebook, in their interest to serve the queer Arab community?
Esra'a Al Shafei 11:58
I mean, for them, it's really about, "let's grow because it helps our strategic direction on how best and how quickly we can monetize a specific tool." That's the bottom line for them; it's not security, it's not community, it's not people like me. One time, the Committee to Protect Journalists invited a group of us to go and speak at Facebook headquarters, at Twitter headquarters, and nobody cared. It was over a lunch brown-bag, everybody was disappointed because they didn't get the sandwich order that they wanted, and they're just like, "this is just a meeting for me. This is not a place where I'm going to come, and somebody is going to try and push the boundaries for me." The designers were showing up, and you could tell that they were just doodling and could not care less about what my colleague from Syria was saying about being hunted, what my colleague in Azerbaijan was saying about being arrested on a weekly basis and investigated. They couldn't care less. I mean, they felt pity, but one person would actually say, "well, why do you use these tools for those purposes? That's not what we designed them for. Facebook is really a place where you can go and connect with the classmates that you haven't heard from in a long time." For us, that's them saying, "we're not building this for you and we never will." If these are the people who are setting the rules, setting the stage, then that's all they're ever going to care about. We can't force them to care about us.
Baratunde Thurston 13:31
That scene is so familiar and so infuriating, so what have you built as a contrast? How does Ahwaa work, and what is it providing for this LGBTQ+ community that a Facebook or Twitter wasn't willing to provide?
Esra'a Al Shafei 13:46
Well, first of all, we spoke to everybody that we could: what are you using to find support in this space and why isn't it working? That's where we started finding the void in what was already available. It's okay, we don't have proper anonymity; Facebook, obviously, for a long time discouraged anonymity altogether. It was crazy. I'm not boarding a flight, I'm using a social media site, so for a lot of people that's really where the line was drawn and they felt that they just didn't have that security. For us, what we felt was, "what if we built a platform where everybody was welcome?" We didn't want to build something cliquey, and we didn't want to build anything that was invite-only where somebody had to know somebody to know somebody to come in, because most of the time they target communities that you are scared to even express sometimes, to even come out to yourself. We said, "okay, you can log in, you can introduce yourself a little by little based on the type of interactions that you're having on the site." If you're posting something that's helpful, some people say they would mark that contribution as helpful and that gives you more points. Based on the number of points you have, you unlock more sections of the platform, for example, access to a page of resources where if you have 3000 points, now you can have resources organized by country; like in Lebanon, this is where you can go to do this, in Saudi Arabia, this is a counselor that is very LGBT-friendly, for example. Then you are able to create a chat room, you're able to join a chat room, all based on the different level of points that you have. The thing is, of course, you can game the system, but it requires you to be super tolerant, supportive, kind for hundreds of posts so that you can call somebody a jerk for one second, and for that you lose all your points.
Baratunde Thurston 15:44
This is amazing. You've increased the price of trolling.
Esra'a Al Shafei 15:49
I mean, it's exhausting.
Baratunde Thurston 15:50
Basically, if you're going to effectively troll on this platform, you've got to go undercover as a decent person for weeks.
Esra'a Al Shafei 16:00
Most homophobic people in our communities don't even put themselves in that. Well, we have had a couple of stories where people would say, "look, I came here to troll, I'm not gonna lie. I saw this, somebody posted about this; but when I put myself in that situation with fake support, I realized I was actually connecting with people, it was actually changing some mindset," because they realize, "wow, I'm talking to somebody who would rather kill themselves than come out." They would really put themselves in that shoes and they started empathizing. We didn't just want to build a place where it's an advocacy organization, like "recognize us, we need this," we wanted a place where it humanized the community in all of its different phases with many different people. We never wanted to say that this was a singular story. It was thousands of stories. I mean, now we have about 11,000 users; that's 11,000 very different experiences.
Baratunde Thurston 16:58
That clicks with me because the other platforms are very flat and their incentive structure is around pretty much letting everyone do as much as possible as quickly as possible, so there's no investment. It's almost like when I go on a place like Twitter, people are showing up with such disrespect because they're not actually invested in the platform. They haven't had to work for any of it, so, of course, you can trash somebody else's house, and what you set up is a kind of a different incentive structure where people have a sense of belonging, they put time in, which is a form of investment. Here's what I'm not hearing, Esra'a. I'm not hearing scale. I'm not hearing growth. I'm not hearing maximize shareholder value. In the language of the commercial internet, this is small, this is cute, this is a failure. Why are you not building to make this the biggest, fastest-growing, most amazing thing? You got all these great people. Now, add some zeros behind that 11,000. Why are you not doing that?
Esra'a Al Shafei 18:04
Because scale is moronic, honestly. Every platform that has built for scale sucks; either the people there suck or the features suck, or both, more often than not, both, honestly. People always complain like, "oh, the internet's full of idiots," because that's by design. Mark Zuckerberg was very famed for saying this, "oh, you have to move fast and break things." The thing that you're breaking are people's confidence, people's spirits, people's banks. I mean, these are the things that you break: people's dignity, people's security; these are all things that you cannot build at scale, period. That's why the internet today looks very homogenous, so when you move away from that, the internet starts looking a lot better, a lot healthier.
Baratunde Thurston 18:56
We'll be right back.
You've painted a hilarious, truthful and clear picture, a contrast in how the Internet has been built and then a bit of how else we can build it with a platform like Ahwaa. Who's maintaining Ahwaa? Who are the people that have been operating it for the past decade?
Esra'a Al Shafei 19:21
We have a very small group of volunteers. Primarily, a lot of us are women, women in Lebanon, we have women in Jordan. It's not a lot. It's a small team, but we don't need a lot, and that's the beauty of it. Then we have a community of volunteers, as well. These volunteers, they show up and they help moderate some of the content, just to make sure that people are not maybe sharing something like an address or outing somebody, just to kind of keep things a little bit more safe. Oftentimes, they're also helping people with onboarding. Nobody's paid and that's tough, but at the same time, it kind of keeps things sustainable, as well, because you know that they're doing this because they want to, they're doing this because they care about the platform, they care about the community, they care about the integrity of the information that's being shared out there. It's all volunteers.
Baratunde Thurston 20:11
That also is remarkable, I think two parts of that: one, the human interaction, and second is the role of women. On the human side, so many of the platforms most of us are used to, we don't interact with people, right? They try to automate as much of the onboarding as possible to get us on as fast as possible, to get us producing as much as possible like we're factory workers on the internet model that most of us experience. It's like, "get on there, give us your data, interact, smash that like button," and to have a human slows all that down, and makes it more intimate, and, again, increases that investment. I think the role of women is also fascinating because, in the very early internet in the U.S., there's a history in the early bulletin board systems and forums where women were actually about half or even a near majority of the users. They were designing different types of spaces that weren't about scale, that weren't about aggression as much, and they essentially got chased out by a bunch of dudes who were like, "but we can, we can maximize things. Scram." Before the trolling and the abuse took over, there was a different internet possible here and I'm glad to see it's more than possible, you're building a part of it there, so thank you. I'm still curious, how was this all funded? How do you keep this all going?
Esra'a Al Shafei 21:33
Unfortunately, in the region, when you're building these types of tools, it's very difficult to get them funded. That's one of the biggest challenges that we've had, but also biggest frustrating points because we see the colossal waste that the philanthropic community in the Global North, whether it's in the U.K., or Canada, but primarily the U.S., where a lot of private foundations give a lot of money to people who don't know what they're doing. You see that, also, when people are trying to build a tech platform, it's like, "well, that person had to have gone to Stanford and then went on to work at Twitter, and only they will know what an Arab lesbian may need in Saudi Arabia." Those are the people that helped destroy what the internet could be like, and now we're paying them to do the same but in the nonprofit industry. It really kills us to see that when we go and when we're asking for funding, and we have... Look, this is decade's worth of work. I mean, other people, they would show up with no track record whatsoever, but simply because of who they are and who they may know, they get access to funding a lot quicker. Not just access to 100,000, these are people getting access to millions and millions, and we see platforms blow through $50 million because, again, they were trying to do things at scale and not work directly with the activist communities, with the journalist communities, and they're not collaborating with us. The thing that bothers me the most is the lack of collaboration and the fact that a lot of private foundations are now encouraging competitiveness. That's what's killing organizations. That's where you come in and they say, "we want metrics, we want scale, and we want you to do it, by the way, in a very dangerous setting. Let's get as many LGBT people together to use a tool that doesn't have a proven concept or has not been tested for security." Now we are putting lives at risk, so that you can say that you risked this many people. I mean, I'm just very frustrated at the current environment of philanthropy. I think it's so broken, and they are so in denial that it is, and it's just upsetting. Something's got to give. You either remove the obsession with metrics, or you make sure that access to funding is equitable, that it's genuinely inclusive, and not just you want to fund the two token organizations that everybody funds to say, "well, we funded this and that organization, and that shows that we're not racist." You are still, you know, in many different ways, and I love reminding this. By the way, that's another reason why sometimes it's hard to get funding, it's because we became outspoken. You know, for too many years, I was sitting and I was like, "I'm not gonna say anything because it's gonna ruffle their feathers and they're not going to give me access to money." Then I realized, "you know what, I've always been broke. They will never give me money, so now the gloves have totally come off." Every time I come across this, I tell them to their face, "what you're doing is idiotic. Your strategy doesn't work, it hasn't worked for years, and you're part of the problem." It doesn't bother me that they get... Some of them actually say, "you know what, we needed to hear this," and then they go back to not doing anything about it.
Baratunde Thurston 24:49
Yeah. Oh, Esra'a.
Esra'a Al Shafei 24:52
Don't get me started on this...
Baratunde Thurston 24:54
I think... I feel like I wound you up.
Esra'a Al Shafei 24:56
You wound me up.
Baratunde Thurston 25:04
What would it take for other social media platforms to create safe digital spaces like Ahwaa has?
Esra'a Al Shafei 25:13
I don't think they can.
Baratunde Thurston 25:13
Is it too late for them?
Esra'a Al Shafei 25:14
Yeah, absolutely. I don't think they can, I don't think they will, and, honestly, I don't think they should. I think it's time for other creators, if they work at these organizations and at these companies and they feel, "I don't feel like I'm doing the right thing," leave it and create something else, and don't think that it's gotta have all these different metrics to succeed. It doesn't matter, if even you have 5,000 super-active users that are enjoying, generally enjoying your tool, that are finding it super helpful, and you grow every year. We grow by just 1000 users, just 1000. We're at 11,000 now. We've been going for a little over 11 years, and that's just fine. We have enjoyed that type of growth, because it's meaningful growth, and it enables us to test out these features at a scale that is reasonable and that is manageable, and that is more efficient and secure, and that's fine. I think we need to start understanding that the internet is not what is already out there and we stick to it. That's not the internet, those are just tools on there. It's kind of like saying there's all this land, and we all have to cram ourselves into these two buildings because we can't build. Honestly, we need to stop looking at the Internet as if, "what can you do for me?" What can YOU do for the internet? What role can you play in building these communities, you know?
Baratunde Thurston 26:41
Did you just John-F-Kennedy-quote the internet? Ask not what the internet can do for you, but what you can do for the internet. Esra'a, you got me fired up. I mean, I feel like the parallels to what you're describing abound if we thought if the only way we could create food is through some giant agribusiness versus starting with our backyards and growing a few tomatoes, and it's not all our food needs, but those tomatoes are gonna be bomb, right? It's gonna be amazing.
Esra'a Al Shafei 27:09
Yeah, grow those damn tomatoes, and every now and then you're going to be like, "you know what, I'm going to get some cilantro, as well, and parsley," and suddenly you see that vibrant, amazing thing that you don't have to go to somebody else to rely on. That is empowering. Sometimes we're like, "well, we have to wait for that empowerment to arrive to us." We have to do that ourselves most of the time, because nobody gives a crap about us the way that we want them to. We're never going to be somebody else's priority. We're not saying completely dismantle it. I mean, you know me, I'm on Twitter, as well. Let me assure you, you're going to grow tomatoes, but then you got to go to the store and get something else, baking soda, I don't know, something that you can't make yourself. It's really about creating that healthy balance, but making sure that you don't wait for somebody else to give you a voice.
Baratunde Thurston 27:58
Esra'a, this show is called How to Citizen. We use citizen as a verb. Taking that interpretation, what does it mean for you? What does "to citizen" mean?
Esra'a Al Shafei 28:12
It's to be responsible. It's to hold yourself accountable when you're falling short, and to hold others accountable when they're abusing your rights or the rights of those around you. It's the way that I can live with myself to wake up every day and say, "I think I citizened my ass off today. How can I citizen even better?" That's really where the tools come in because it's not just about you, but sometimes it's about giving those in your position the tools to do exactly what you did, and to facilitate that.
Baratunde Thurston 28:45
People are going to be fired up when they hear you, Esra'a, and they're going to be like, "what... What can I do? Tell me what to do." How can we support your work?
Esra'a Al Shafei 28:57
The most important thing is to help spread the word that scale is not good, and to do it in any setting, in for-profit setting, in nonprofit setting. We need to get rid of that word or we need to reclaim how it is defined. The second thing would be build your platforms. Support open source communities because just finding places like that where you can contribute to a different kind of web, that would be great. You can do it with your skills, you can do it by spreading the word, you can do it with your money. Speaking of money, I'll never say "no" to that. I remember that, actually, you had tweeted about Majal and you said, "hey, I just heard this talk and everybody should give this organization money." I regret to inform you that nobody took you up on that offer, so this is the second opportunity for those, but organizations like ours, we operate on very little and that's not by choice; but it is by choice that we will continue to work despite having so little.
Baratunde Thurston 30:06
Well, Esra'a, you are not alone. We hear you, we will get some money to you this time. My tweet failed, but I'm going to blame the algorithm and the lack of context. We have a lot more context here. Is it Majal.org? Is that the best place to direct people?
Esra'a Al Shafei 30:21
Yes, Majal.org would be the best place. People can connect with me if they want to support in any other way, and I will say that if you fail this time, there will be dire consequences. I won't go into detail... There will be dire consequences.
Baratunde Thurston 30:36
There goes the threat. She promised when the video is off and she's got that anonymity, sometimes she makes threats.
Esra'a Al Shafei 30:42
Exactly, and, you know what, if somebody comes after me after this, I'll say it's a deep fake. There.
Baratunde Thurston 30:51
Thank you, Esra'a Al Shafei. Thank you so much for this time. I am fired up and ready to go.
Esra'a Al Shafei 30:58
Good, good, and I hope you stay fired up, and thank you so much for amplifying the story. This is always a great opportunity to speak with you, and it was definitely the least-boring podcast I've been a part of, so that's good.
Baratunde Thurston 31:13
Yo, can you put that on our iTunes review? How to Citizen: the least-boring podcast I've been a part of. Okay, if after that my social media following doesn't give money to Majal, yo, let's just say we might not even get season 4 of How to Citizen, because this is how you citizen. It's right there in front of you, so please don't make me look bad, people, come on y'all. In all seriousness, that's the kind of fire we need to truly think outside the box, or maybe as Esra'a might put it, smash the box completely. Next episode, we're speaking with Pia Mancini, another huge advocate of open source. I'm starting to see a theme here. She's co-founder of Open Collective, an organization that enables collectives to receive funding without needing a legal entity or a bank account to do so.
Pia Mancini 32:13
You can't be the nation state, so stop trying, build around it until it becomes obsolete; but the nation states weren't always here, and they're not going to be here always.
Baratunde Thurston 32:27
As part of How to Citizen, we want to offer you more than a chance to listen to cool conversation. We want to give you ways you can citizen. That's why we're building a universe of citizen actions over at howtocitizen.com. For this episode, here are some things you can do. Personally reflect on when have you felt concern for your safety and security online? What features made you feel vulnerable or exposed? Was it something you could control or was it outside of your control? Next type of action, get informed and question the idea of scale in philanthropy. I want you to check out Majal.org, M-A-J-A-L.org--that's Esra'a's joint--and take a look at all the platforms they create. Then beyond Esra'a's work, when you're engaging with nonprofits and philanthropic organizations, take a look at who founded the group and who runs it, who's funding it. Then try to find groups that are run by people closest to the problem or experiencing their problem directly. Here's a great way to start that learning journey: read this dope book by Edgar Villanueva. He's an indigenous person, former philanthropic operator and he's written this beautiful book called, Decolonizing Wealth. I can't recommend it enough. Third level of the game: publicly participate by challenging some of those philanthropic norms. Many of us support large organizations that emphasize scale and unsustainable growth in the way they try to help. Instead, I want you to consider getting as local and grassroots as you can. I want you to do an extra favor to all of us here because you heard Esra'a call us out: donate to Majal.org, M-A-J-A-L.org. All this is available at howtocitizen.com. Find us on Instagram @howtocitizen to share your thoughts and learn from others, and why don't you post with that #howtocitizen? Goodbye, for now. How to Citizen with Baratunde is a production of iHeartRadio Podcasts and Dustlight Productions. Our executive producers are me, Baratunde Thurston, Elizabeth Stewart and Misha Euceph. Our senior producer is Tamika Adams, our producer is Alie Kilts, and our assistant producer is Sam Paulson. Stephanie Cohn is our editor, Valentino Rivera is our senior engineer, and Matthew Lai is our apprentice. Additional production help from Arwen Nicks. Original music by Andrew Eapen, with additional original music for season 3 from Andrew Clausen. This episode was produced and sound designed by Alie Kilts. Special thanks to Joelle Smith from iHeartRadio and Rachael Garcia at Dustlight Productions.
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