Sustaining Energy & Avoiding Burnout
There is a common culture in grassroots organising for people to burn out, that is to do too much for too long in a way that is unsustainable, which eventually 'burns you out', taking away your energy and enthusiasm for organising. This is caused by a wide diversity of factors, in which everyone is unique, and the responsibility lies with not only the person, but the group and movement culture we create.
“Burnout is defined, and subjectively experienced, as a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by long term involvement in situations that are emotionally demanding. The emotional demands are often caused by a combination of very high expectations and chronic situational stresses.
Burnout is accompanied by an array of symptoms including physical depletion, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, disillusionment and the development of negative self-concept and negative attitudes towards work, people and life itself. In its extreme form, burnout represents a breaking point beyond which the ability to cope with the environment is severely hampered.”
From Career Burnout - Causes and Cures, Ayala Pines and Elliott Aronson, The Free Press 1998
Even with smaller scale projects, combined with the stresses of life, it is very easy for organising to tip you over the edge in terms of feeling too in-demand and over-committed.
Fortunately, there are a huge number of resources available that can help you see the patterns of burnout and support yourself and others to avoid harming yourself and sustain your organising over the long haul.
Further resources & information
Anti-Oppression Practice & Awareness
In working to change our food systems and achieve social change, how we interact with each other is therefore very important.
The Anti Oppression Resource and Training Collective have some great resources to help you explore your group’s systems and structures and make changes to create an anti-oppression organising culture.
In their work, they identify an iceberg model of oppression:
Below are some examples of this in practice:
Together we can create groups that are committed to eradicating all forms of oppression.
Further information & resources
A huge number of groups, if not all of them, will experience conflict when organising together. Our values, ideas and beliefs can clash as well as our ways we think things should be done.
Turning conflict into a creative solution takes patience and skill but is an essential part of growth. We have tried to collate a few pioneering publications below that can support you and your group overcome and use conflict for positive change in your efforts.
Further information & resources
Active listening is a useful skill for all sorts of situations - whether you're taking part in meetings and workshops or dealing with conflict. By actively listening we can come to understand how the speaker feels about a subject or situation - this briefing explains how we can hear people through their words and tune into their underlying emotions, concerns and tensions
This 40 page booklet, written by Seeds for Change Oxford and published by EYFA is aimed at people and groups working for social change who want to develop an understanding of conflict and how to deal with it. There are sections on what conflict is, the benefits of addressing it, and tools to work though conflict and maintain healthy and effective social change groups. A5 PDF - 315k