There have been some new and exciting developments with my work in recent weeks, and I’m thrilled to share some updates with you – on my new website, a self-care and resilience workshop I ran for mental health volunteers, and another workshop I co-facilitated at AidEx in Brussels, on compassionate and inclusive leadership.
Firstly, if you are a regular reader of the Life in Crisis blog, you will see it has metamorphosed into a fully fledged website, which includes information about the support services I offer for aid workers and change-makers, as well as my regular reflections and ideas concerning stress and wellbeing. Feel free to look around, sign up to the newsletter, or contact me if you wish to hear more about how I can support you and your organisation!
AidEx Brussels: Inclusion in Aid Work
Last week was a busy one for my work on creating compassionate working environments for aid workers and change-makers. First I was in Brussels for the annual AidEx conference, the theme of which this year was: The Importance of Inclusiveness to Global Progress – Is the Aid and Development Sector doing enough? It is a conference attended by hundreds of professionals working in humanitarian interventions, security and risk management. The featured image at the top of this page was an interactive display showing who they were and where they’d come from! Its agenda included discussions about supporting people with disabilities – both sector staff and aid recipients – and security for LGBTQ+ people in field locations.
As part of the conference, I had the pleasure of co-facilitating a workshop with Dr. Addy Adelaine, founder of Ladders4Action, an organisation that generates and shares knowledge and ideas concerning inclusion and diversity in the not-for-profit sector. The theme was Compassionate and Inclusive Leadership, and drew on both our expertise researching and working with organisations on internal dynamics of power and how this influences wellbeing. Among the topics we discussed were how gender, nationality and race feed into the experiences and treatment of aid workers, the policies and systems that may help or hinder the cultivation of inclusive organisations, and how power may be used positively or negatively in the pursuit of more equal and just working practices.
Our participants, who came from a number of different countries and organisations, engaged in group work aimed at helping them to reflect on how power manifests in their workplace, and how they may change particular behaviours in order to encourage more inclusive working practices. We received some really lovely feedback from some of them, who valued the interactive nature of the workshop, and found it to be one of the more useful and inspiring discussions on inclusion at AidEx.
We would have loved more time beyond the hour and a half we had to discuss these crucial issues in our sector! It is our aim to continue this work in other settings in Europe and in East Africa; it is essential if we are to truly change the damaging organisational culture that leads to poor management, lack of systematic support to staff, and ultimately absenteeism and burnout. If you would like to learn more feel free to drop me a line!
Self-Care for Mental Health Volunteers, with Bird
Not long after returning from Brussels, I facilitated a workshop on self-care for a wonderful, committed and engaged group of volunteers who are part of Thrive LDN, a network of individuals in London seeking to raise awareness about mental health in their communities. They were spending a day out of their weekend to discuss campaign strategies, leadership and resilience, as part of a capacity-building initiative organised by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation.
I delivered this workshop on behalf of Bird, a team of experts and facilitators working on wellbeing in the not-for-profit sector. The workshop included knowledge sharing of key stressors we are familiar with in the modern world we live in, and self-care practices and techniques to support the volunteers and build a sense of resilience.
It was interesting that one volunteer commented that mental health isn’t just an individual’s problem or responsibility; we must always remember the structural dynamics at play that lead to health problems. This very much chimes with my own understanding of how we address mental health and wellbeing as change-makers; it is never just an inside job, and we must always be aware of how socio-economic factors, workplace environment and government policies (and if we’re talking about Britain this implies austerity!) influence the degree to which people are able to look after themselves and each other. This is why I am not only committed to supporting aid workers and change-makers in self and collective care, but in challenging systems and policies that fail to uphold humanitarian values.
I really enjoyed working with this lively group of volunteers, from all walks of life, who had given up part of their weekend to attend a day of reflections and strategising about their voluntary efforts, including my slot on self-care. And I am thrilled to have been part of Bird’s team – do have a look at their website if you are interested in support in the form of resilience coaching or workshops.
That rounds off my update on recent developments. It is an exciting time for me as I embark on taking my research and wellbeing work out into the social change sector, determined and hopeful to make a difference in how organisations and social movements operate and become more compassionate and inclusive. Watch this space!