Q. Who are you, and what are you doing on Kickstarter?
I’m Anne Pellicciotto. I’m an entrepreneur, change consultant and coach and, now, returned Peace Corps Volunteer from México (2010-12). I’m writing my México memoir, the story of my two years of service South of the Border.
Working as a sustainability specialist for the Mexican EPA in rural and indigenous communities of Central México, I had a chance to put my SeeChange consulting tools (and my Spanish) to the test. It was the toughest job I’ll ever love.
In this book I share my stories, photos, challenges and lessons-learned. The working title* is Cultivating Sustainability: Life Lessons from South of the Border. I’m here on Kickstarter to tell you about my project, seek your support, and offer some great rewards.
*Note: Working title means it's in flux; it keeps changing as the creative process proceeds and the real title, eventually, magically emerges.
Q. What’s your book about?
From the marble halls of Washington, DC to the community halls of rural México and back again, this book takes you on a journey.
I joined the Peace Corps in mid-career, with years of business and life experience under my belt and a backpack full of organization development tools and strategic methodologies ready to be applied. I was eager to have an impact.
Turns out, I had a lot to learn from the people of these rural communities – those who face, on a daily basis, the realities of climate change – drought, deforestation, erosion, and contamination – those most dependent on the land for their survival.
Travel with me along the winding dirt roads of the Zona Media of San Luis Potosí, through the Federale checkpoints, along the sketchy Huesteca border, and into the high plains desert ejido (land grant) communities of Paso de Botello and Zamachihue where I confronted the truth about myself – and what it really means to be sustainable.
Q. Why are you writing this book?
This book represents a synthesis of my business expertise, my human and organization development knowledge, and now the third piece in the sustainability puzzle, environmental awareness. My experience in México awakened me to the importance of cultivating balance in my own life, in my relationships across the culture divide, and in my connection to the planet.
Writing this book is allowing me to put voice to what I discovered and share the experience with others. The writing process is creative and cathartic: it’s helping me appreciate the complexity of the problem – and clarify solutions that lie at the intersection of People, Planet and Profits.
Also, this book celebrates my Mexican teachers: the women of Zamachihue with whom I worked, my counterparts from the Mexican EPA, my students and colleagues at Universidad Polytechnica de San Luis Potosi, and friends and neighbors from my casa adoptada of Rioverde who supported and humored me through the process.
Q.Who’s your target audience?
First and foremost, this book is for readers who appreciate a good journey story – those curious to get a different take on Mexico. Beyond the margaritas and mariachis, the drug wars and immigration woes, what does it look like through the eye of the gringa?
I hope readers might also be inspired by the sustainability challenges and lessons to bring a new perspective to their work and lives. Are you...
• An educator or social service provider trying to *do good* yet hitting the wall of your own sustainability and effectiveness?
• An entrepreneur or business manager searching for innovative ways to balance people, planet and profits?
• An institutional leader, policy adviser, or consultant who sees opportunities to reach beyond superficial fixes and have a real impact on your organization and the world?
• A regular José (or Josefina), worried that the planet is under threat and wondering: what can I possibly do to help?
If so, then this book’s for you.
Q. You refer a lot to sustainability. What does that really mean?
In my role as a Peace Corps Sustainability Specialist, I was responsible for facilitating government-community partnerships leading to win:win development outcomes.
But it took a year of challenges and mistakes, heat exhaustion and homesickness, cross-cultural confusion and miscommunication, parasites, corrupt politicians and naysayers before I realized: Sustainability begins with ME.
I had to let go of my ego, my idea of what Peace Corps service and even sustainable development was supposed to be and, ironically, focus on myself. I had an organization development practitioner’s eye for inefficiency and injustice, and a desire to have a positive impact on a broken system; but I had to relinquish that too.
I had to focus my energy, take care of myself, make some friends, dance the Huapango, eat the móle (the sauce not the animal), and get some balance in my Mexican life…if I was going to have any hope of enduring and being of service.
Now that was humbling.
Before I could help anyone…I had to help my SELF. That’s when this model emerged in my mind – the Pyramid Model of Sustainability. It became the basis for my work in the communities, and it’s the organizing principle for my book.
Q.What are some of the other big lessons in your book?
I learned, firsthand, that sustainability is about the capacity to endure in the face of challenges and threats. For humans, plants, any species, it’s about adaptation to constantly changing conditions.
This native palm plant, the chamal (or nameu in the native Xi’ui dialect) is a perfect example. It dates back to the Mesozoic era, 250 million years ago, when the dinosaurs roamed the planet!
Turns out the chamal is on Mexico’s endangered species list; and the indigenous community of Paso de Botello was cultivating the plant for sale – not only so the plant would endure, but so their people might as well.
I learned from Florencia and the other women of Zamachihue that sustainability is about putting in the effort and letting go of the result. It’s about diligently attending to the crop of baby mesquite trees, unsure of the outcome. That's a particularly tough lesson for a Washington-raised, results-driven product like me.
I also discovered that sustainability is about thinking innovatively, working with what you have, turning an old milk crate into a wheelbarrow and a soda bottle into a planter. Thanks to my friend Rita for showing me the beauty and functionality of trash.
And perhaps most important of all, sustainability is about hooking up with heroes like the Zama Mamas, who were ready for their own sea change.
Q. Who were the Zama Mamas and how do they figure into the book?
The Zama Mamas are the women of Zamachihue.They became my friends and partners in action.
They welcomed me when I arrived in their community armed with flipcharts and Powerpoints; they participated enthusiastically in our workshops, oftentimes in heat of the desert afternoon; and at the end of the day, they always treated me to their downhome casero cooking: beans and rice, móle de puerco, nopal cactus stew, caldo de pollo, and the true corn tortilla, hecho a mano, made by hand.
That’s when I moved up to LEVEL 2 of the Pyramid of Sustainability, working por, para y con la gente – by, for and with the people.
In this book you will hear the story of the Zama Mamas and the project we spawned together, Viva Viveros – Cultivating Native Plants and Sustainable Lives.
Q.Were you successful?
Just making an attempt at sustainability is its own success.
Here's the 'after' photo of the Zama Mamas. You be the judge.
Of course, in my book, you’ll get the full, unexpurgated story.
Q. How do you plan to make this project really sustainable - and why Kickstarter?
Writing this book will keep the story of the Zama Mamas alive within me. Publishing this book will allow me to share the story.
I’m taking that ‘road less traveled’ with this Kickstarter campaign, and this whole self-publishing and promotion process, because I’ve taken the traditional road before. It’s full of potholes, isolation, frustration, lots of waiting… and rejection.
This time I want to reach out and involve supporters like you – friends, neighbors and colleagues who will keep me accountable. In fact, with one of my rewards you can be part of the real-time creative process by reviewing monthly chapter installments!
With today’s crowd-funding and self-publishing tools, this project is completely do-able – and will be both fun and engaging. Collectively you, my backers, act as both agent and publisher. That’s why I need your financial support – to help to cover the basic costs to write, edit, design, and print the book in both electronic and paper formats.
Marketing and distribution is another ballgame. However, I hope this collaborative crowd-funding process will literally and figuratively kickstart that process as well.
Q. What’s your timeframe for delivery? And what happens if you don't raise the funds?
My goal is to have the 150 to 200-page manuscript complete by mid-year 2014 – challenging but do-able. I kept daily journals during my two and a half years in Mexico – I blogged monthly about the ups and downs. I’m tapping into thousands of pages of material for the book which is fully outlined and already half-written!
I’m putting myself on a deadline. And we’re on a deadline with this Kickstarter campaign too.
We have just 30 days to raise $15k. It’s an ALL OR NOTHING campaign. If I don’t make the goal, the pledges revert back to you…and I go on writing. But without that support, it will be a much slower process and certainly a riskier venture for me.
So please, become part of the process.
Fund me at whatever level best fits. Choose a reward that compels you. And share this link with others.
Because Sustainability really does begin with YOU!
Muchisimas gracias, thanks for visiting, and thanks so much for your contribution.
Risks and challenges
The only risk is in NOT writing the book. The #1 challenge is maintaining my creative focus. But I'm committed: the manuscript is half-written, all the chapters are outlined, and I have the fire in the belly. I will not let you, my supporters, future readers and sustainability advocates, down. Let me tell you a little story that might make that promise come to life...
It was one very difficult month for me in Mexico. My host-country agency was absorbed in election-year politics and there was no time or money left to support *special projects* like the Zama Mamas. So I resolved to take the bus to the community for the board development workshops. Time was running out – I had just six months left in my service – and there were many unknowns ahead.
The heat was particularly oppressive that day, as the Vencedor bus (the verdadita) navigated through the blazing desert, along isolated backroads so pot-holed that guys stood on the shoulders with t-shirts draped over their heads shoveling sand in the holes, hoping the bus would stop and donate a few pesos for their volunteer efforts.
When I arrived in Ciudad del Maiz three bumpy hours later, already covered in sweat and dust, it was another hour with Angelica in a borrowed truck to get to the community.
At high noon I found a shady spot beneath the bamboo awning and began to setup for the workshop. We had important decisions to make as a group and piles of paperwork to complete in order initiate the business registration process. I was on a mission that day.
But Abuelita (Little Grandma) stopped me in the garden, taking a pause in her morning tortilla prep chores. She held me by the wrist and fixed a grey-eyed gaze on me. ‘Anna,’ she said, pulling me closer, ‘I have something to say to you.’
I nodded and braced myself for some bad news.
‘You always come when you say you’re going to come,’ she said.
'Oh,' I replied, stunned. I didn’t think anyone noticed...I hardly noticed... I didn’t have time to. But she had; and in an outward display rare for a Mexican she wanted to be sure I knew.
Abuelita gave me a little boost that day - just when it was needed. And she helped to remind me of one of the most important things I had to offer the Zama Mamas: my word.
Now I offer that to you.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)