Community development, Human rights

Activist Support Centre

Empowering local activists with training and support and promoting a safe working environment to strengthen civic cohesion and engagement while creating a positive social change.

Creators

Who is behind this?

Lena Bielska

HerStory Foundation

http://fundacjaherstory.org

Poland

Who is joining forces?

Kultura Równości (Culture of Equality Association)

https://kulturarownosci.org

Poland


Centrum Praw Kobiet (The Women's Rights Centre Foundation, WRC)

https://cpk.org.pl/en/

Poland


We also plan to partner with Ulex Project - a hub for collaboration run by a non-profit organization Ecolise that designs and delivers residential trainings.

Idea

Idea pitch

According to the latest Democracy Index, Poland is just one step away from falling into a transitional or hybrid regime. In such an oppressive political environment, active members of civil society who fight for equality, freedom, and justice for all are even more vulnerable to discrimination and violence, often leading to activist burnout. We want to prevent this and help them continue their important work by providing training and support so they can act as peers in their local communities.

Where will your project idea take place?

Wrocław, Lower Silesia, Poland

What is the specific societal challenge faced by this region?

Most citizens engage in civic activities for personal satisfaction. Unfortunately, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, exploitive practices in organizations, and a hostile political environment provide solid ground for crisis and frustration rather than strength and motivation. Especially when activism often requires unpaid, responsible, and dangerous work. Long-term accumulating chronic stress leads to deteriorating mental and physical health and creates a sense of helplessness. In this context, groups find it difficult to develop and maintain good practices and a safe work environment based on self-care. It causes many people to burn out and withdraw from activism, while Poland still lacks systematic support to empower and educate civil society on how to act effectively.

Who are you doing it for?

NGOs and activist groups are the foundation of civil society. Our Centre will provide psycho-educational support and mentoring to political, environmental, human and animal rights activists, nonformal educators, trainers, grassroots movements, and nonprofit organizations, who experience signs of burnout. According to a 2020 study of informal activist groups in Poland, as many as 43% reported feeling very or extremely stressed, and 38% reported feeling burned out. Nearly half felt pressure to work more (45%) while feeling they were accomplishing less than they should (49%). In comparison, a 2018 international online survey of people involved in human rights activism found that 19% had PTSD, 19% had significant PTSD-related symptoms, 15% showed signs of depression, and 19% reported burnout.

How do you plan to get there?

We will support 6 informal activist groups/nonprofits, up to 15 people each, who work in areas that are particularly vulnerable to political oppression (LGBT+ and women's rights, animal rights, climate emergency). While designing our annual support program, we will focus on groups from small towns and cities in Lower Silesia, especially those formed after 2015, when there's clear evidence of intensification of far-right and fascist activity in Poland. Each group will be provided with mentoring and supervision, which will support the harmonious development of their own standards and strategies on crisis prevention and burnout in their group, and will receive:
20h of supervision and mentoring sessions
1 x 2-day workshop on activist burnout prevention
1 x 1-day workshop on managing diversity and incorporating the perspective of radical empathy
1 x 1-day workshop on project management and team building
1 x 2-day workshop on communication and conflict resolution
The steps:
-preparation, recruitment, promotion
-kick-off and networking meeting
-implementation (supervision, workshops, networking, dissemination, monitoring)
-follow-up, evaluation, dissemination
-final report
We will monitor and revise the needs of our target groups during the entire process, which will help us develop the offer of the ASC, which we plan to continue to run after the project is over.

What are the expected results?

We will create a new network of support, directly empower 50 to 90 civil society members in Lower Silesia, run 24 workshops, and provide 120 hours of supervision and mentoring support to all our beneficiaries. As a result, participants will have the tools to review their mental state and know how to set boundaries in the sacrifices they give each day to continue the fight. They will increase their ability to cope with pandemic and political reality and raise awareness about reaching critical moments of work exhaustion. Groups and organizations will work more sustainably, with healthier approach and better practices in their workplace, sharing their knowledge with others. The ASC will gain valuable experience on which we will build our continued program to support the changemakers.

How does your idea strengthen active citizenship at a local and community level?

We believe that for someone to be actively involved in social or political issues in their community, they must first acquire the skills and knowledge of how to be effective, but most importantly, how to take care of their well-being. The Activist Support Center will strengthen active citizenship by providing tools and support to community members, not only to prevent burnout but also to implement and promote a safe work environment. Our resilience is based on our experience - each partner and participant will have space to respond to their needs. Through this idea, activists and NGO workers, essential members of civil society who are struggling financially and mentally in these difficult times, will be able to continue their important work towards a difference for a better world.

Why is this idea important to you?

We are motivated by the need of citizens working in the NGO sector who are increasingly withdrawing from activism due to burnout. Our core team consists of experienced political and social activists, NGO workers, project managers, team leaders, educators, trainers, and policy-makers who have been working for human rights in the Lower Silesia region and Poland for many years: Lena Bielska - activist, founder of HerStory Foundation, educator, WenDo trainer; Alina Szeptycka - activist, Founder of Kultura Równości Association, educator, policy-maker; Agnieszka Zaranek, Agnieszka Wywrot, Anna Paluszkiewicz - activists, leader and team members of Wroclaw's division of CWR; Karolina Mróz - activist, trainer, project manager; Nina Ptak - activist, a fundraiser for HerStory, project manager.

€ 35000,-

Total budget

€ 35000,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

Major expenses

Personel costs related to workshops, mentoring, and training: 14000€
Personel costs related to coordination, promotion, and fundraising for ASC: 14850€
Workshop materials: 250€
Office rent: 1900€
Workshops room space rent: 1000€
Travel and accomodation: 1700€
Network meetings (travel, room space, lunch for participants): 1300€

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

We invite everyone who feels like our project is important to comment and share experiences or tips. We assume there must be activists here who can relate to the issue that we are trying to tackle!

Team

HerStory Foundation

Idea created on April 25, 2021
Last edit on April 26, 2021

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