NCB’s annual training institute for 2015 was on the topic of “Holistic Sustainability”, and was held July 28 – 30 in St. Paul, MN.
The term Holistic Sustainability was first used in the context of environmentalism and sustainable living. In the context of Survivors of Torture (SoT) Programs, we define holistic sustainability as an approach that encompasses the whole body of the organization, promoting the synergistic understanding of the financial, cultural, local, and political factors of a certain organization and how each of these factors leads to a more sustainable, healthy, vibrant organization. A holistically sustainable SoT program is able to develop a diverse revenue base and meet the needs of the current and future client population; able to recruit, retain, and support high quality staff; and has policies and procedures in place that allow leadership and staff to respond effectively to new opportunities or challenging situations.
Strong community partnerships are vital to the holistic nature of care that torture survivors require, and good partnerships can sometimes lead to additional funding as well as those key services. A diverse, financially sustainable program will be able to attract higher quality staff, afford better facilities, and weather funding changes. A commitment to staff retention will reduce turnover and burnout, improve performance, reduce gaps in staffing, and improve overall morale.
Here are a few highlights along with selected resources.
Day 1: Strategic Partnerships for Sustainability:
- Dr. Richard Mollica called for integrated holistic approaches to delivering care, as torture survivors often require specialized services, with interventions that have multiple dimensions, and looked at several treatment models.
- Providing a theoretical basis for SoT partnerships, Ed Cohen, Ph.D. concluded that relationships which are successful benefit both parties, rely on a shared vision, and allow for a seamless use of resources.
- A panel including Patty Shannon, Ph.D., Alison Beckman, MSW, LICSW, and representatives from Hennepin County talked about the pros and cons of different types of partnerships that SoT programs can pursue.
Day 2: Financial Sustainability:
- To engage potential donors in your organization’s mission, Lori Jacobwith, through her Ignited Fundraising series, explained that it is crucial to employ concise, descriptive stories which evoke a feeling. See her Sustainable Fundraising videos on HealTorture.org.
- Andrea Northwood Ph.D. discussed the implications of sharing clients’ stories and emphasized that, while the experience can prove beneficial for some individuals, programs must establish boundaries for interviews and speaking engagements and empower clients to decline the opportunity if they choose.
- Drawing on her work at CVT, Betsy Brown described the organization’s communications strategy. To convey its work, CVT first identified its most relevant and most different aspects through stakeholder research and then created a “brand statement” to inform its development strategies.
- Pete Dross led a rich discussion of different development methods and tools in the afternoon.
- An informative session on Medical Billing led at least one attendee to comment on how lucrative this process can be and how it would allow them to expand services to torture survivors if they implemented it.
Day 3: Sustaining our Staff:
Throughout the institute, presenters offered different approaches to self-care including meditation and acupressure.
- On the final day, Adeyinka Akinsulure-Smith, Ph.D., led the group through a series of activities to reflect on motivations for working in SoT programs.
- Stressing that recognition is essential, she described the symptoms of vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue and offered strategies to prevent or mitigate their impact. Check out NCB’s webinar on vicarious trauma.
- Much like a marathon, Dr. Akinsulure-Smith said, torture treatment work makes numerous demands upon staff, and thus self-care is ongoing and requires constant reevaluation.