Same same, but different is our regularly irregular wonderings and wanderings on life, business, evaluation and design.

Same same, but different. 

Issue Nº 9, August 2022
Hello fellow people,

It’s been a while since we’ve sent out the last Same, same, but Different musing. We’ve laughed, cried, birthed new beginnings and grieved losses of all shapes and sizes. We’ve also walked alongside people, projects and organizations providing support to do the good work of navigating complexity. Our hearts have been full as our minds have been alive with all this life-worthy work.

Amidst all of this, and likely because of it, we found ourselves regularly in conversation about feminism, what it means for each of us, and being more explicit about the ways it shapes our work. Cassie Denbow, our friend and former strategic writer mused about whether there is such a thing as a feminist business within a capitalist, patriarchal society (and what does it mean). Sonja Ausen, our director of operations explored how feminism informs our approach and strategy. Anna—newly back from maternity leave (hooray!)—together with Jennifer Compton our senior learning consultant, offer up what feminist evaluation looks like within our practice. Katrina explores what feminism has to offer design. And Katrina and Jennifer bring it all together asking, “What does it mean to be a feminist evaluation and design studio?” We’ve included little snippets of each of these explorations below.

It could be that feminism is on our minds because of the multiple projects we are currently working on that have a strong gender component—gender action research around women’s economic empowerment in Rwanda with Venture 37, complexity coaching and complexity-aware MEL design with Shadhika as they move to trust-based model, or crafting materials that support a shift of status quo delivery from didactic teaching to family-centered change for multi-sectoral nutrition support in Zambia. 

It could be that feminism is on our mind as a business trying to operate in new ways—including as we have two new moms and are committed to providing the space for new parents to heal, bond and care for these new lives even as our society does not provide support. A commitment that offers many opportunities for reflection and growth.

It could be that the retraction of women’s rights in the United States (and around the world) has necessarily called us into greater action and toward clarity of voice and vision. Or that in these impossible times we see a beautiful expansion in awareness of what feminism might offer our world (feminist foreign policy, or inclusive and non-violent language).

Whatever the reason(s), feminism is at the center of many of our conversations these days. Everybody is a feminist, asserts bell hooks. Feminism is one of the many places where we experience our sameness and our difference as transdisciplinary practitioners and as people. We are all feminists and we each have dfferent perspectives on what that means. What it means for us, for business, and for our practices.

You'll find a new In Practice newsletter in your inbox in the coming weeks with information on upcoming offerings, the goodness of our work, and practical tools for complexity-aware and people-centered work. Until then (and beyond!) we hope you find something for yourself in our wonderings around feminism and our practice.

Hit reply. We’d love to hear from you!

In solidarity and with so much love,  

Katrina & Anna

As feminists before us have said, feminism is an embodied practice. This is not to say it does not include action, but it starts with our posture—the questions we ask, the principles we hold, the way we approach experiences, and how we consider our own and others’ perspectives. It calls us to ask who is and is not included, and why? It is a constant reminder to question our motives and beliefs and consider our positionality. And it demands that we seek liberation from all forms of oppression and violence. Read more about what it means to be a feminist evaluation and design studio here >>>

There is no singular, packaged definition of a feminist strategy and, in fact, the lack of a unilateral definition speaks to the nature of feminism itself—that it is emergent, responsive, and embraces the unknown. When we are mindful of feminism, we are curious about the unknown and aware of our agency within any present moment. This allows for a strategy that is responsive, more applicable, and more deeply able to accommodate the reality of impermanence. Read more about feminism in our approach and strategy here >>>

Feminist evaluation calls us to bring specific values (social justice, gender equity, participation, inclusion)  forward as we shape our questions, design our methods, make meaning, and disseminate information—in ways that uplift, benefit, and do no harm to those who are most marginalized. This assertion of values calls us into a space of rigor to live up to these values and relief that we feel free to address the structural and systemic challenges posed by patriarchy and other oppressions (rather than pretend they are not present). Not surprisingly, this can mean different things in practice to different people. What does it mean to us? Read more on what we mean by feminist evaluation here >>>

There is no need to define a feminist design, to codify or limit the engagement of feminist thinking as it applies to design research and design practice. Just as there is so much room for feminism in the world, there is so much room to explore feminist principles at play in design practice. When we looked at what excites us about feminism and design, we came to four themes: participatory, rooted, nurturing, beautiful. Design isn’t by default any of these things. These are ways of being, questions, mindsets, frames, points of view, lenses we put on or embody or lean into or dance within. They are opportunities. What ways of being designerly do you embody? What questions does design ask of you? Where are the edges you are exploring in your design practice? And, in what ways do you see design and feminism intertwined? May something in these wanderings sparkle for you >>>

Guest writer Cassie Denbow offers up thoughts on her experience working with Picture Impact and what operationalizing feminism in business looked like. She writes: “feminism in the development context emphasizes the need for participation, co-creation, and dignity — core values that guide our internal and external work at Picture Impact and support our accountability to our partners and the communities they serve. On a day-to-day level, we operationalize our feminism and its accompanying values in a few core ways: end of project debriefs; evaluating business opportunities from an ecosystem lens; using our specific positionality to speak up; knowing our lane — and doing our best to stay in it. Read Cassie’s reflection here >>>
a woman can’t survive

by her own breath


she must know

the voices of mountains

she must recognize

the foreverness of blue sky

she must flow

with the elusive


of night wind women

who will take her into

her own self

look at me

I am not a separate woman

I am a continuance

of blue sky

I am the throat


by Joy Harjo

Picture Impact is a women-owned small business.
December 2020. All rights reserved.

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