Attention progressives: Here is how to prevent burnout - Front Page Live

Attention progressives: Here is how to prevent burnout

Attn Progressives: Prepare for the future of community — and work — to be hybrid

Pegg, Marco Lachmann-Anke / Pixabay

By Nada Zohdy, Ambika Samarthya-Howard

This month marks a year since COVID-19 stay at home orders began. Companies and organizations across virtually all sectors worldwide have had to adapt. Many now plan to embrace a mix of home and office work and virtual and in-person meetings/events for the long-term. But people like us, working for mission-driven organizations, have had to rethink not only how we work, but also how we build community to sustain our work for the long haul.

We run one the world’s first innovation hubs focused on the theme of open government, which is also one of the first mission-driven coworking spaces — the unique Open Gov Hub in Washington, D.C. We support a network of 50 organizations to share resources (including a world-class coworking space) and collaborate — all working to help open up governments and empower citizens in different ways around the world. We thrive on meaningful professional community-building and networking in our work lives.

For many in 2020, COVID-19 presented a major shift in how they worked, moving from commutes, office cubicles, water-cooler chat and impromptu coffee hangs to working from home, with toddlers playing tea parties and endless Zoom calls. Nonprofits have had to embrace significant changes, beyond just moving towards flexible working hours, and really consider how to alleviate the bias that has been particularly felt by parents and other caregivers. And now, with vaccines being distributed, many organizations are left wondering which COVID-19 changes they will keep and what they will let go.

We initially responded to COVID-19 by temporarily reducing operations at our co-working space and offering member discounts. We also responded to our members and the times by significantly ramping up our remote support to them and their critical work through the pandemic with virtual trainings, events, and resources, and other new remote member benefits.

As a result of devoting our careers to “changing the world,” most of us face too little funding, too much burnout and not enough support in our work lives. The concerning thing is, the risk for burnout is also likely greater now while working from home.

But there is an antidote — adapting our professional communities and networks to hybrid ways of working can help us as a progressive nonprofit sector become more resilient, to better deliver on our critical social justice missions together for the longer-term.

What people need most today in our pandemic lives is connection. Even in a world of no offices, we know people will continue to need and crave community. So we need to find creative ways to deliver meaningful spaces for nonprofit professionals and progressive activists to really connect and support each other.

In 2020, we tried to do this the way we know best: as a convener that regularly brings together diverse organizations, ideas and resources who share common goals. For us, 2020 was not only a big year because of the pandemic, but because of many pressing social justice concerns of interest to our member network — especially defending democracy, fighting corruption, and promoting racial justice.

We held events and compiled resources about tracking the massive $1 trillion+ global COVID-19 relief funds and supplies, in the U.S. and abroad, to help avoid such funds going to waste from corruption. We brought people together to discuss bringing about more accountability in policing in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. We launched a collaborative DEI Task Force involving a dozen organizations who are committed to do better not only as individuals, but also as organizations and as a sector. And we hosted numerous events and compiled many resources about defending democracy, in the lead up to and since the 2020 presidential election.

Our 150+ convenings in 2020 were important not only to exchange ideas, but also to keep those of us behind such causes motivated and not feeling alone in our work.

And we’ve been seeing the results of our community-building efforts. All 50 of our member organizations have stayed with Open Gov Hub nearly 1 year into the pandemic, despite some facing financial and other challenges. This is a strong testament to the strength of our network, the value members get (well beyond just our coworking space), and the true connectedness of our mission-driven community, which has stayed together through this crisis.

And now, we are excited to grow the Open Gov Hub network and space this Spring after having many years of high demand. And we invite mission-aligned groups and individuals to consider joining us in our next phase.

COVID-19 may have upended how we work, but people will continue to crave meaningful exchange of ideas and human connections — in and out of the workplace. We’re doing our best to adapt accordingly, and make sure that our hard-working nonprofits can support each other to best deliver on their timely and important missions.

The fights against corruption and to preserve democracy and bring about more racial justice are all clearly a marathon, not a sprint. So we should all find ways to create support spaces for staff of nonprofits and progressive campaigns to help each other stay committed, fulfilled and motivated — for the long haul. Because in the end, no matter what social issues we may care about, we can achieve far more by working together than any of us can by working alone.

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