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Fostering Organizational Resilience

Our WCSAP Annual Conference theme this year is "Celebrate Resilience!" We celebrate the resilience of survivors who go on to have productive and joyful lives, and advocates who nurture that resilience in others and in themselves. I believe it is also important to celebrate and strengthen the resilience of our programs as we serve sexual assault survivors and the community.

Resilience begins with and builds upon sustainability. Programs must be well managed, have adequate resources, and invest in planning for the future in order to be sustainable. This is the foundation for a resilient organization. But just as we hope to help individuals who have been abused or assaulted to thrive rather than simply survive, we want robust, creative, bold programs that exceed expectations for services, are well respected in the community, and are great places to work. Besides all that, we want to change the world!

What are some practical things you can do as a manager in order to foster resilience in your program or organization?

  • Focus on improving communication within your program. Staff should feel comfortable to raise difficult issues and to handle conflict respectfully but directly, as well as to admit mistakes. Emphasize and practice calm, kind, open communication, and offer tools to help others build these skills.
  • Share and cross-train. Staff will do a better job when they can see the big picture, and they can help each other. When individuals change roles or move on to other opportunities, their co-workers will have a better handle on how to keep things moving.
  • Take care of yourself. I know you are probably sick of hearing this, but it is hard to have a healthy organization with a stressed-out and depleted manager. Tending your own needs well is both a model and a gift to those you supervise.
  • Identify, acknowledge, and pay attention to the effects of trauma on the entire staff (including you!)-and also identify, acknowledge, and pay attention to the strengths each person brings to the work. This is how we help survivors build resilience, and we need to apply these strategies to ourselves.
  • Encourage an atmosphere of joy and hope. The work we do can be dark and difficult, and we have to have some fun and frolic to counterbalance it. Notice and celebrate successes, help workers to create routines that create connection (a monthly potluck?), and share humor when you can.
Reviewed: April 14th, 2015