Lately I’ve thought a lot about history. It’s something of a shock to realize that the beginning of the modern environmental movement, in the 1970s, is 40 years in the past. This new video is a discussion I had with Huey Johnson, one of the giants of that era. Huey led The Trust for Public Lands, which aggressively acquired open space and natural resources to preserve them for the future. It was such an exciting time. We believed that we could make enormous changes in the care of our planet; that once people understood how much was at stake attitudes and practices would change. In the video, Huey and I underscore the importance of moving ahead for progress although there is a risk. Pushing back against people who cannot take a risk is a message from the ‘70s that is still strong.

Many things affecting the planet did change. I sense that young people today understand what is at stake, and millions have changed their habits and patterns to ‘live more gently on the earth.’ Of course, many have not, and new challenges always arise, especially as the economy slows and works against long-term investment.

Michaela Walsh: Local Communities, Global Thinking from Resource Renewal Institute on Vimeo.


My friend Margaret Catley-Carlson, a Canadian world leader in the application of science and knowledge to environmental and development problems, wrote to me saying that when she read Founding a Movement, “ it recreates an era, brings a marvelous collection of people back to life, and describes well a time when there was such receptiveness to new ideas and concepts, and huge enthusiasm for things that ‘might work.’ …It was before donors became number obsessed rather than impact-interested.”
I do hope and pray that our continued focus on environmental issues will lead to a better path.

The other aspect of history that I sense is specifically around Women’s World Banking. I spent June in Europe and when speaking about the founding, I realize that almost no young people know the history. The fact that the founding was the first time that professional women came together to work in solidarity with low-income women around the world is lost. WWB is one of the few institutions from that time still functioning. It seems we need to teach and learn these lessons over and over again.

Please send me your own stories, so that we can continue to share and celebrate the current history being made for all women, and for the environment.

Summer 2013 update

As summer arrives in New York, I reflect back on the many connections that Founding a Movement: Women’s World Banking 1975-1990 has renewed for me since the extraordinary launch at the United Nations on December 5—and on new connections that all of us are forging to strengthen opportunities for women around the world.

Since the release of the book I have had great opportunities to tell this story of women learning from one another, and I have particularly loved telling the story to students. It has been my pleasure to speak at the Ivey School of Business in Ontario, NYU’s Stern School of Business, The United Nations Association Young Professionals Program, and other campuses and organizations.

So much of my life has been spent encouraging young women to step out into the world and take on something real. I find that much of the power of our history as founders is that we were determined to solve a real problem, not just talk about it. When young people ask me what they can do to help, I encourage them to grab a backpack, go somewhere they’ve not been, and spend at least a month just listening and feeling—no thinking yet! As part of creating WWB we listened to each other, and shared feelings as well as knowledge. That was a true secret weapon.

In honor of this history, over the next few months I plan to use this website to share stories of what people are doing now. This will include people who were part of the founding, and younger people who are finding new ways to step up. If you have a story to share that shows what happens when women solve a problem, contact me and we will try to share that information.Among others you will hear from Shamina de Conzaga, who worked so closely with me on the book, and is in touch with many students, artists and people working for a better world.

I am happy to tell you that very soon, the interviews contained in Founding a Movement will be available online through Princeton’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. The Mudd Library also houses the WWB archives and my own papers.

WBC071On April 7, the Women’s Bond Club of New York, founded in 1921 as one of the first organizations for women in finance in the city, celebrated an annual awards program at the Museum of Natural History. Amazingly, I found myself seated below the Great Whale in a room packed with more than 800 extraordinary people—mostly female! The Bond Club honored me with the Isabel Benham Award, which recognizes exceptional dedication to the advancement of women. It was a thrilling night, and I particularly loved the WBC tradition of identifying “rising stars’ – the next cohort of leaders. My notes for the event and pictures of the evening are on my website. Take a look and glimpse the excitement we all shared.

New Year’s Reflection

All of us are drawn to reflection as a new year begins, and to thoughts of what we may seek or do or work toward.

I enter this new year encouraged and moved by an event on December 5 at the United Nations. The permanent mission to the UN of The Kingdom of the Netherlands sponsored a panel discussion honoring the founders of Women’s World Banking, and the launching of Founding a Movement:  Women’s World Banking 1975-1990.
Almost 400 people participated in the event and, to my great joy, many of the original founders and donors who made WWB possible were reunited. It was wonderful to be in the room and to hear people recount their memories of WWB and what WWB had meant in their lives and their countries.

Participants included Zohreh Tabatabai, Mary Okelo, Barbro Dahlbom Hall, Hon. Dag Nissen, Ron Leger, Ann Roberts, Mary Houghton, Ron Grzywinski, John Hammock, Russell Phillips, Mary Ellen Iskendarian,  Peg Snyder, Chokyun Rha, Sara Stuart and Gretchen Maynes.  Several children and grandchildren of founders also came.

On my website are some pictures from the event, and the remarks of the Ambassador from The Netherlands, Hon. Herman Schaper.

The Dutch played a major role in establishing WWB, which was incorporated there in 1979, and all of us are grateful for their continuing commitment to fair development, opportunities for women, and an ethical approach to world trade.

The UN event and other talks and visits in December (see our Media page) reinforce my belief that our message has value for the current generation of international development professionals, investors, leaders and students. By working together and creating networks based on trust, by learning from and relying on local entrepreneurs to know their business, and by seeing one another as peers rather than experts v. learners we can continue to solve problems.

There are always problems, but we do not need a whole new set of techniques to solve them.

We need honesty, trust, focus on results and constant clear communication

Michaela Walsh
January 2013

Pics from The UN Book Launch