Your NameMaria Canelhas
Cohort AssignmentEurope Summer-Fall 2023, Cohort 1
1. What do you see as your primary work at this stage of your life?

For more than 10 years I’ve been working in the food sector, mainly on projects focusing on social innovation and community empowerment to overcome specific issues (like food waste or social exclusion).
My primary work at the moment is to reconnect people in the city with food and agriculture. I work in an association called Upfarming - an NGO that designs and implements participatory urban farms as a means to support community development, environmental awareness, healthier diets and greener cities.
On a broader sense, I feel like my work is to contribute to bring up innovative ideas that will help communities transition to new ways of living, more conscious, and reach deeper connections with themselves and the environment.

2. What role do you see as yours to play?

I am both the planner and the "doer": I turn dreams and ideas into feasible projects, which I then very much like to execute. Currently my role is to bring different people together around food and participatory farming in a specific project called "From sky to table" - a community greenhouse in the heart of Lisbon with four 20-feet rotating tower farms. My role besides managing the farm's operations is to define the model of shared governance and to manage the events and activities in the greenhouse, including educational programs.

3. What goals or aims do you have in regard to the above?

In this job, my goal is to help redesign urban public spaces so as to make urban farming accessible for everyone, bringing people closer to food production and food sharing, and raising a collective awareness as to how we can improve our food systems. More specifically, I would like to turn the previously mentioned greenhouse into an urban farming academy.

4. Where do you feel your next arenas for personal growth are?

4. Where do you feel your next arenas for personal growth are?*
Considering the “arena for personal growth” as being a subjective place where I can personally grow and evolve into a better version of myself, I would say that the next arenas are my spirituality, my creativity and my communication.
Firstly, I am searching to understand and deepen my spirituality, searching for a broader sense of purpose in life and understanding how to apply it in my day-to-day and in relation with others.
Also, I find it important to develop activities that will boost my creativity, allowing me to listen and explore my inner truths and develop ways of self-expression.
Lastly, regarding my communication, I would like to improve my communication in public, developing my self-confidence so as to express my thoughts and opinions and advocate for what I believe in. Also, I am looking to improve the way I manage conflict, whether it’s internal or external between other people.

5. And for professional growth?

Professionally I’ve been having many different experiences. From working as a waitress in order to pay for my studies to being a programme manager for an european innovation institute, I have performed different roles and responsibilities and faced hard challenges that have made me learn and grow a lot professionally. I can adapt to different organisations working with different people. I am an extremely organised individual, having developed my project management skills over the years. I have a thirst for continuous learning and studying, which feeds my creative nature and allows me to explore different ideas and projects throughout my life.
An important step for my professional growth would be to lead an organisation whose mission combines the fight for social justice and well-being with environmental awareness and regeneration.
For this, I would like to improve my leadership and communication skills, particularly in terms of guiding teams through conflict and uncertainty. I'm looking forward to seeking out leadership development opportunities and mentorship to improve this aspect of my professional growth.

6. What have you invested in to get you where you are?

First it is important to explore “where I am”. I am in a place of deep and constant learning and evolution. Personally I am on good terms with myself and the people around me, and have quite a wonderful life. Professionally, I am in a challenging phase, having started a new job recently, restructuring and trying to reorganise chaos in a recently founded startup. I like challenges, and I always look at them as a means to improve ourselves and our work. But I am in a place where I enjoy my work a lot, and I believe in what I am doing, I am respected for my experience, knowledge and skills, I have autonomy in my decisions and I have the creative freedom that I need in order to be motivated. And I enjoy working with my team.
To get here, I have invested hard work and dedication, many hours of study, deep and creative thinking, dedication, sense of sacrifice, patience and passion.

7. What fields of learning and which thinkers have been important in your life?

I am daughter of an architect, which has surely shaped, since an early age, the lens through which I interpret the world around me. Increasingly more I see the role of architecture in the way we relate to one another and to nature on a broader sense, and how important it is as a tool for regenerative development.
Later on I chose the path of social sciences, pursuing my interest for sociology at an academic level. I have studied and been influenced by Emile Durkheim and he’s theory of how social integration and cohesion contribute to maintaining stability within societies; Max Weber and the rise of bureaucratic organisations; Karl Marx and the study of power struggles and inequalities between different social classes; Pierre Bordieu and how social inequalities are reproduced across generations through the transmission of cultural capital, economic resources, and social networks; Michel Foucault and the relationship between power and knowledge and how they are used as a control tool by social institutions; Simone de Beauvoir and the concept of the other, exploring the social construction of the idea and identity of women. Lastly, I have studied Hannah Arendt and her theories about the human condition, totalitarian regimes, power and violence, action and plurality.
Other than sociology, I have always had an interest for ecology and environmental protection. I am influenced by authors like Naomi Watts and her book “This changes everything”, understanding the climate crisis is a symptom of a larger problem related to our social, economical and political systems, and what strategies we can adopt to analyse and reverse it.
Having developed a particular interest for regenerative development, authors like Daniel C. Wahl, Laura Storm and Patrick Worms ahave been my biggest influences at the moment.

8. Can you frame your philosophy or cosmology of life? What role(s) do humans play in it?

I see life as a dynamic force in constant evolution, formed by multiple interconnected and ever-adapting elements highly organised in ecosystems. I see humans as one element of life, an integral part of a larger ecosystem.
We need to use our consciousness, self-awareness and the ability of self-determination to figure out how we can evolve our activities in harmony with the natural world which we are a part of.
We carry responsibility over our actions. We need to use our ability to think and learn in order to figure out how we can play our part as a piece within the big puzzle capable of generating and maintaining life, instead of a central element around which everything revolves and is sacrificed for.
20 years ago my environmentalist uncle once told me something that pops in my head from time to time: “Humans cannot regenerate without the planet, but the planet can regenerate without humans”. This helped me put into perspective our place in the world.
We need to redesign our social and economical systems with a more holistic approach. We need to start working with nature, understand our role as part of this big wonderful interdependent living organism which we are a part of.
I live my life with gratitude and absolute respect, always trying to reach deeper understanding and honouring this interdependence between all living beings.

Date CreatedAugust 28, 2023