Cultivating Space for Collaboration — Planting SEADs

By Michael Sasorith | May 2019

Michael shares his experience collaborating with one of our Happy(our): Collaboration panelists, Chanida Phaengdara Potter, and how she represents collaboration by leading the efforts of organizing community members, storytellers, and artists to come together and publish Plant the SEADs.

Downtown Minneapolis skyline above community garden

A hazy sunny sky before a storm.


Preparing for a Storm

In North Minneapolis, on the property of Olson Towne Homes, there is a large open space of grass. In the southeast corner on this piece of land is an equally massive community garden. If you stand on the other end of the lot, opposite to the garden, you get this beautiful view of the Downtown Minneapolis skyline towering over plants and vegetables.

On a Saturday morning, after setting up tents and chairs for a scheduled outdoor community discussion, I stepped aside to take a picture. The tall downtown buildings were against a hazy sky with the sun attempting to filter through. It was forecasted to storm that day, and although there was worry about how this might affect attendance, it was almost symbolic to this exchange of Lao elders, youth, and community members touching on the difficult topic of war and memory.


Elevating Visibility

ArcStone recently had a discussion about our core value collaboration. There was a question if it was truly unique to our company, because who doesn’t collaborate in their work? As that conversation lingered and we were contemplating about who best represented the core value and can be one of the panelists for our upcoming Happy(our): Collaboration event, I instantly thought of Chanida Phaengdara Potter.

When I think about the word collaboration, I think about community and how any form of success and social impact comes from groups of people working together. Chanida is the founder and Executive Director of The SEAD (Southeast Asian Diaspora) Project. On a daily basis, she’s working alongside four Southeast-Asian American communities (Cambodian, Hmong, Lao, Viet) and fighting to elevate their visibility.

Chanida Phaengdara Potter sitting in a crowd.

Chanida sitting with other attendees at the "Plant the SEADs" book launch event. This photo is from The SEAD Project's Facebook page.


Cultivating Connections

Most recently, she truly embodied collaboration by leading the efforts of organizing community members, storytellers, and artists to come together and publish Plant the SEADs. This is the first book to have an anthology of stories that come directly from the voices of four different SEA communities that share a similar history.

Gathering the stories for the book was a huge achievement. Preceding the publishing, it required coordinating community discussions, interviews, and translations — all multiplied by four. Through collaboration, it resulted in an accomplishment that brought tears of joy for many people.

Even though many people collaborate in their work, I believe that collaboration is more than just the act of working alongside other people. It’s the connection you create with those people, and developing this shared consciousness to work towards accomplishing a goal. People like Chanida, who cultivate these connections, are essential to making real social impact and change for the world.


Rain is a Good Thing

At the Lao community discussion, fifteen to twenty people huddled together under two tents as the rain poured down and the thunder roared. But, there was this strong connection between us all and it was as if there was this unspoken agreement to stick it out because the conversation was important. One of the elders even gave us spirit, as he reminded us that in Lao culture rain is a good thing — it washes away the old and replenishes the new.


Topics: Inside ArcStone, Digital