Over the past 15 months in my work with Klinic and SERC (Sexuality Education Resource Centre) I have had many opportunities to talk to our staff, volunteers, board and partners about our histories, our futures, and what our organizations are really about. In my case, the decision to join a new organization (in this case 2!) comes with a great deal of self-reflection and outward discovery. I have, for most of my career, had the luxury of working in organizations that are congruent with my own values. I know that, like most people, this is important to my personal and professional goals.
“Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.” Rumi
When I joined Klinic and SERC one of the key reasons was because I was familiar with these organizations’ values, and I knew that that they were my own. This meant they were something that I would not only support and encourage, but fight for. I hope this passion is something that everyone can find in their own work.
At Klinic, as we began talking about values and how we express them publicly, we were able to identify a few opportunities to strengthen our connection and make our outsides match our insides. One way was by looking at our public image and talking about whether the look and words matched who we were today, and what we hoped others would see. This led to the new look that Klinic launched last spring, including our expanded tagline, “Just Care, For Everyone”.
As Just Care had for some time been the tagline of Klinic, the expansion was meant to clarify about who we thought was deserving of Just Care: everyone. We had many opportunities to talk about what Just Care is, and how it connects to our social justice roots.
Klinic’s long history as a social justice based organization is a key ingredient in our community presence, and can be seen every day in how our committed staff and volunteers approach their work. In fact, every time I do a Day in the Life Blog entry, I see our social justice foundation seamlessly integrated in our service delivery. I also see a deep commitment and eagerness to do more, and I understand the challenges we face in staying connected to these roots as we continue to grow and evolve.
Over the last year, Klinic has re-envisioned its approach to social justice through the work of the Social Justice Committee. This committee brings board members, staff, and community representatives together to talk about how we describe our values, and in turn, develop actions. During this time the committee has engaged in a consultation process with our staff to identify important areas in which our organization could be more active. Working with the board the first five areas of focus included: refugee healthcare, access to care, violence, poverty and trauma. Since identifying these priorities the committee has developed comprehensive position papers on all of these topics, each paper defining our interest in the area and setting goals for our work both internally and externally.
This week I had the opportunity to attend the final consultation feedback session set up for board, staff and volunteers to provide feedback on each of the developed papers. We have held four of these over the past three months. The focus of this week’s discussion was the paper on violence, and about 15 staff and board members had committed part of their evening to join us for this discussion. All staff and board members have been offered multiple ways to provide feedback in addition to attending these sessions.
As this group passionately debated particular language choices, including whether it is realistic and helpful to have a goal to end violence as opposed to reducing it (and yes, we will stick with end), I was thinking about the layers of social justice in an organization. This moment of open non-judgmental discussion, happening between people who represent very different program areas and focuses within the organization, is a moment of what I believe is social justice in action.
Watching these sessions has helped me to further consider the fact that the principles of social justice have to be as much about our inside as our outside. I am reminded that my job includes making sure that this lens is applied to everything we do. If we really want to represent the true foundation of Just Care, For Everyone- it starts with us.
This weekend I read an incredible piece created by the Girl’s Action Foundation, and shared with me by a colleague at SERC who will be part of our newly established Policy and Advocacy Committee. This committee is composed of board and staff members of SERC and will help us shape our positions and actions connected to our social justice based roots.
The piece is entitled Decolonizing Social Justice Based Work; it was an important and humbling reminder of not only why I do this work, but also why we have to be constantly vigilant of our own story and power when engaging with exploited and marginalized communities, and in fact, with anyone. I will end with these powerful tips in the insights to NGO’s section:
“Do believe people when they tell you that you have something to learn. Even with your commitment to social justice, you cannot know everything and you will make mistakes.”
“Don’t state that you do something that you don’t actually practice. If you claim to be an organization that works for social justice and against oppression, walk the talk.”
-From the Girls Action Foundation, Decolonizing Social Justice Work http://girlsactionfoundation.ca/en/decolonizing-social-justice-work