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WomenExplore Lecture and Discussion Forum

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Human Service Organizations, Human Services

Target demographics: WomenExplore is an open learning community of thoughtful women, who, each year, organize two series of lectures in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The topics examined in the series arise from the issues that the participants encounter in their lives. Each week the day begins with a short lecture from one of participants on how the day's issue relates to her personal life. This is followed by an expert speaker and then discussion by members of the audience. WE began in the Harvard Divinity School as the Theological Opportunities Program. WomenExplore has no religious or other affiliations.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 150-200

Geographic areas served: Boston/Cambridge and surrounding towns

Programs: a "share and care" community support group. World-class speakers discuss important personal, professional, societal, and global issues. Participants also plan the lecture series from topics that arise from their own interests and/or daily lives.

Community Stories

21 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Advisor

Rating: 5

WomenExplore is more than JUST a lecture series! It has been providing the community with thought provoking lecture given by world class speakers for 40 years. It offers the women and men who attend the forum a platform to discuss what is of great importance to them in their personal or professional lives. It is centered in a caring community, and each week before the lectures individuals are encouraged to join for a "Sharing and Caring" circle which gives them an opportunity to share with others what is on their minds and receive support. The planning sessions that take place after the lectures are a chance for individuals to plan the series taking place next year.

It has truly changed my life, and the people that are a part of the organization have enriched my life in countless ways! I am honored to be a part of the community. I can not think of a better place to spend my Thursdays!!! I love this group and individuals who are a part of it. It truly is the people that make it such an incredible place to be.

Liz B.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

TOP is getting very exciting. We were so inspired by the young people who came to visit. Our conversations relate to women world wide and of all ages. I love this group!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I make WE a priority in my plans and travel over an hour to reach this provocative collective each week. The Sharing and Caring starter hour never fails to remind me how our struggles are felt so similarly regardless of the circumstances. It is through listening deeply to others and their perspectives that I see new possibilities and gather strength to craft my life. Likewise the afternoon Planning Circle reminds me again of how we are touched individually and collectively by shared issues. The individual becomes global and the global returns to each individual. Throughout, I am moved by the willingness of each of us to engage authentically and trust the wisdom of the collective. We care so much to grasp the precise meaning of an issue for our lives and focus the lecture forum to explore this specific angle. I am regularly amazed that the lecture series itself attracts such notable experts who enthusiastically accept WE's invitations to engage with us in authentic dialogue. The women of WE are incredible. The whole experience informs and supports the various practices I integrate within my spiritual journey.

Previous Stories
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Board Member

Rating: 5

I saw brochure over year ago and was attracted to notable speakers on timely societal topics close to my heart and life. Attending the sessions I found a large group of very well-informed women (some men) with strong voices on a wide range of current issues - social, political, personal, environment. Lectures and discussion are provocative eliciting many views and out-of-the box ideas for moving forward as well as personal anecdotes documenting the real lives and issues for women. My own perspectives have enlarged, and I deeply value the friendship within the group. It is very welcoming and supportive to all. The lecture planning process, open to all and by consensus, takes patience and can lag, and is extremely engaging. I travel more than an hour each way, as do many others, to participate year-round in this important, 35+ year old group, that has touched the lives of so many women.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been a member for 30+ years. Women/Explore has been a vital help in reshaping how I see myself as a woman -- both through the lecture series we design ourselves based on our own issues, and through giving us a safe place to speak our own truths. We listen to each other and are listened to. What a gift, an organization to grow in!

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I discovered WomenExplore in the '70's (then called T.O.P.) and have been involved ever since. It is a place for women to explore issues central to our lives from a feminist perspective; it is a safe place for women to share their stories. We follow a unique democratic process in which the entire group designs the topics for lectures together and chooses the speakers; in addition to main speakers one of us gives a 15-minute "focus" talk on the subject from our own personal experience. Anyone who chooses to attend the planning sessions participates, it is not a closed group. On occasion we have designed very meaningful rituals for ourselves, one-time, one-of-a-kind ritual that speaks to our needs. I have experienced such growth over the years. My connections with women in the group go beyond the superficial because of our shared stories of our lives.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been involved with WomenExplore for a few years now. I learned about it from a friend whoe said the WomenExplore group was outstanding in what they do with their two 10-lecture series each year. She was right! the lectures are highly professional & the lecturers come from many of the universities in the Cambridge area. And it's also possible to get to know the group of women as well because each formal lecture is preceded by a short intro lecture by one of the members of the group from the personal perspective of her own life. It's a terrific collection of smart, thoughtful & creative women. I love it & willingly contribute time, energy & money to this fine organization! -Elaine

Board Member

Rating: 5

I've been coming to WomenExplore for about 5 years, drawn at first by the amazing lecture series the group offers. For an almost token price, $15 per lecture, one gets to hear dynamic, thoughtful speakers and to participate in lively Q&A and comment sessions after the talks. In the last couple of years I've become a more active member, participating in the unique open lecture planning process and now, as a board member, helping with the administrative efforts necessary to keep the organization running smoothly. W/E offers a unique opportunity to engage with a varied group of bright, interesting, and thinking women. I'm grateful to the friend that introduced me to WomenExplore.

Previous Stories

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been attending the Women Explore lecture and discussion series for about 3 years. I was retired and looking for something that would provide an interesting and intellectually stimulating environment, partly just to keep my brain active, but also to be exposed to ideas and issues I never had much time for in a busy business career. In Women Explore I found all this and more. In addition to provocative topics, developed by the membership in an open and participatory process, and great speakers, experts in their field, there are the members themselves - bright, interesting, welcoming and supportive. Recently I joined the board feeling that I ought to contribute in some way to the ongoing success of this amazing organization.

tracey h

Volunteer

Rating: 5

WomenExplore Lecture and Discussion Forum holds a distinctive place in the keeping and expanding of progressive ideas. It offers a provocative and stimulating lecture series in both the fall and spring each year. The series is born out of a collaborative, egalitarian, and decidedly feminist process of discernment. What makes WomenExplore so incredible is its core group of intellectual and welcoming feminists and its genuine openness to other interested, progressive, individuals. My life is enriched through the lecture series, planning, discussions, and community of WomenExplore.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This organization, first called the "Theological Opportunities Program" and now called "WomenExplore", has provided not only the most enjoyable but the most worthwhile and thoughtful moments of my last 20 years! It makes me feel alive, and heathy, and truly fortunate. I attended originally because a woman whom I had just met in Canterbury England at a Berkshire ChoralFestival rehearsal said I MUST! Just from talking to me for 5 minutes over breakfast, she knew I'd love it. And love it I have - I've never been sorry I followed her advice. She also became one of my best friends, and persuaded me that to be totally involved in all phases of the lecture/discussion series (including the planning and, eventually, giving some of the focus talks from personal experience, by way of introduction to the more professional speakers) was the only way to optimize the pleasure of belonging to this group. Now, it's just "what I do on Thursdays", fall and spring, even though I have a commute of at least 2hrs, since I live down in Marion next to Cape Cod.

Susan96

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been coming to WomenExplore since 2004. From the start I engaged in lecture planning in the afternoons and over the years I've taken on more volunteer jobs. This is an enjoyable and productive way of making a difference in an organization that is very responsive to the needs of the women that it reaches. WomenExplore provides a loving, non-judgemental community for all the women who attend.

Previous Stories
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Volunteer

Rating: 5

I came to WomenExplore as a newly arrived foreigner in a strange land. I came because my landlady told me about it and because the experts' lectures looked interesting. I found it was so much more than that! The stories of the women who ground the topic of the day in their own lives are very special, and the process of creating a series from the concerns of those who attend the lectures is unique. I was quickly hooked. I found a community of thoughtful, intelligent women who are seeking to find new perspectives on the world in which we all live. WomenExplore has enabled many women to find their voices and change their lives. It is a very welcoming, supportive and non-judgmental community open to all the women who turn up at the lectures. These women have become my friends and I now volunteer to help maintain this wonderful organization as it struggles to remain financially viable and seeks to empower even more women.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

TOP/WomenExplore is on my calendar faithfully every spring and fall for the 10 week series........for several years............T.--thoughtful O. original P. provocative..........each week"s focus, lecture and discussion provides me with much to think about......often in very original ways.......and with very provocative questions and multi-dimensional explorings of culture, politics, global issues, spirituality, womens' lives and life challenges............attending women/explore has helped me to understand my own life with some deeper perspecitive......and within a broader historical/cultural context........i am so often inspired by the women who attend----their stories, their values, their political action, their seasoned thinking.......and their willingness to explore....any issue!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have belonged to TOP/WomenExplore since 1975. I joined with my mother when it was the Theological Opportunities Program, affiliated with the Harvard Divinity School. The organization has always been a lecture/discussion/support group/womens faith community, even as it has branched out widely from its original religious subject matter - into fields dealing with politics, spirituality, psychology, health, various scientific arenas, etc. ... Listening to the lectures by experts on this wide variety of topics has been educational and enriching for me. ... Participating as an introductory focus speaker on how the days topic reveals itself in my life, has helped me to understand and appreciate my life/experiences and has also served as encouragement for other women to do the same. ... This is a very important program for bringing women's issues to the forefront of public debate. PLEASE COUNT THIS REVIEW TOWARD THE CAMPAIGN - WOMEN 2012

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have attended and enjoyed WomenExplore lectures for many years. An ongoing, continuous lecture series based in Cambridge, WomenExplore explores pertinent cultural and personal issues via a ten week lecture series each spring and fall. The lectures and discussions interest me from an intellectual and experiential viewpoint. WomenExplore lectures are open to the public, and members of the Cambridge community and surrounding areas frequently attend. Being part of the organization has allowed me to share my own story as a woman, both formally as a focus presenter and informally, in a way that has led me to next steps in my life. Women Explore serves that purpose for many and I am grateful for it. Lecture topics are planned by consensus of an advisory committee, and lecture attendees are invited to participate in this original and egaletarian planning format. I have belonged to many organizations in the academic and business communities in the Cambridge/Boston area and WomenExplore definitely engages with thoughtful, interesting discussions as well presenting speakers who are experts in their fields. WomenExplore is an wonderful Cambridge entity! Paula Chandoha June 14, 2012, Women 2012

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have participated in this learning community for 30 odd years.In order to make it possible for me to be able to spend Thursdays with this amazing group of aware intellectually stimulating women and a few men who cared about each others thoughts and well-being, I shifted my practice of psychotherapy from Thursdays to the weekend. Participating in this community has afforded me the opportunity to share in inviting speakers I want to be able to learn from.I would never have been able to meet these authors and experts in any other way. This thoughtful community has become so important in my life that when my daughter asked me to join her in Maine I told her that as long as TOP/WE existed in Cambridge, and PBS offered me 7 different stations offering me knowledge that was not available 60 years ago when I went to college and those stations were all only accessible from my present location I was staying in my present location.The richness of this community amazes me every day. My early grad school training in Androgogy which was what Prof.Malcolm Knowles called adult education experiences such as TOP/WE affords did not lead me to envision an experience as rich as this group offers.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Finding our voice: By the time i list some of the personal issues and concerns this unique group of women have discussed over the past 20 years you will understand how valuable this kind of congress has been to the making of 21st century women. We have modified patriarchy by raising consciousness and are learning how to make fair boundaries, Our search for community has explored the issues that women face alone, supporting one another in our wish to trust our inner truth, and avoid conceptual traps. In our lecture series we have shared our problems and invited experts to share their wisdom. I know we are a model for many more groups like this to grow around the country. We run on volunteer enthusiasm and welcome support. Ann Sayre Wiseman

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first attended WomenExplore (formerly TOP, theological Opportunities Program) around 15 years ago. I walked into a room filled with grey-haired, outspoken, really smart feminists who passionately debated topics and issues, and felt I had found a home. I was in my 40s then and working in the business world and found it so inspiring and affirming to be with such a group of amazing women, so unlike the very male world I worked in. Over the past six years, I've gone to every lecture I could, wihtout even looking ahead of time at who the speaker would be or even the topic. I had learned it didn't matter! Each pair of speakers on each topic opened my heart, turned on my brain and made me feel alive and stimulated. I always leave WE energized and afire. And the friendships with the women in the group have become sweet and meaningful as well. I wish all women could attend this lecture series that's gone on for almost 35 years and could bask in the warmth of the community of women who create it.

1 Rebekah5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

TOP based in Cambridge MA is an unbelievable experience to be part of! My mother has been a member and speaker for over 25 years and I had the privilege of being a guest speaker with her several years back. The relationships within the organization are top notch and many, many lives have been changed as a result of participation. I wish I live closer to be able to participate more often.

1 Margaret9

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was introduced to Women Explore in 1981, under its prior title of TOPS. The way the group operates, with topic lectures and discussions of particular interest to women, and its open invitation, so important to women, to share their own experiences in the context of the day, is extremely effective! Those who attend the program sessions are introduced to a wide variety of speakers, and those who are able to participate in the open sharing and planning sessions become part of an amazing community. I am deeply grateful to TOP/Women Explore for so many years of inspiration, learning and fascinating friendships.