People are talking about what used to be off limits…

2 December 2020

by Melissa Pittoti

The Initiative to Cultivate Caring, Compassionate Aid Organisations (CCCAO) has been connecting to and supporting several conversations about aid worker well-being and supportive work culture this month. It’s heartening to see how the issue is rising on the agenda.

Employee well-being was the theme of the first day of the CHS Alliance’s Humanitarian Human Resource (HHR) conference, held 3 – 6 November, sponsored by Cigna and Veldhoen + Company. Lisa Jachens, Melly Preira, Inge Schrever and Aimee Wielechowski provided different perspectives on the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on employee mental health and ingredients required for a healthy work environment. Participants were supported between sessions with guided mindfulness mediation, gentle desk yoga, and even dancing.

On 18 November, ALNAP featured a video about the CCCAO Initiative in its virtual curtain raiser for its 33rd Annual Meeting. The theme was “Facing the unknown: managing uncertainty in humanitarian action.”  John Kitui of Oxfam in Kenya remarked that the way humanitarians work was already stressful before the pandemic, and now people are being forced to adapt to new stressors. Emma Proud of Brink offered some reflections based on neuroscience, including walking participants through the SCARF model involving the five domains of human social experience (status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness).

On 3 December ICVA, the CHS Alliance and PHAP join together for a webinar conversation called “Organisational culture matters: Leadership, staff well-being, and living our values.” Dr. Liza Jachens of Webster University, Ann Muraya of Thrive Worldwide, and Melissa Pitotti of the CCCAO Initiative talked about mental health, organisational culture and a joint ICVA-CHS Alliance project engaging NGO leaders on these topics.  Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, CEO of Christian Aid, and Dhananjayan (Danny) Sriskandarajah, CEO of Oxfam GB, reflected on their own experiences leading culture change within their organisations.

Our “Embodying Change” podcast features two new episodes this month. Episode 10 is a conversation with Brendan McDonald of Uncomfortable Revolution reflecting on lessons learned from a concerted push to get aid worker well-being on the agenda of the World Humanitarian Summit. Episode 11 with Rachel Coghlan and Jules Frost considers palliative care and the value of “small but potent acts of compassion.”

In the meantime, regional contextualized cross-sector conversations are taking place in Africa, Asia (in partnership with Community World Service Asia), Europe, and MENA. In addition, interviews with CEOs are underway in partnership with ICVA, looking at the issues of risk, safeguarding staff well-being, cultivating supportive organisational culture and living our values. Findings will be share at a webinar on 3 December, with a report to follow in the new year. The ideas and momentum generated through these engagements are feeding into planning for a Global Gathering to be held in Spring 2021.

As we near the end of a tumultuous year, we thank all those who have taken time to support and participate in these important conversations.

To learn more about the Initiative, check out the Caring & Compassionate Aid Organisation’s page.