Doing Good Work, Better
By: Andrea Flynn, Senior Director and Jhumpa Bhattacharya, VP of Programs and Strategy
Too often, non-profit organizations that aim to do transformative work in the world fail to do good inside their organizations. In recent years we have seen many of our peers working in conditions that contradict the progressive values that guide their work. We have seen organizations replicate the very conditions we collectively criticize about our neoliberal economic system, including reinforcing the race and gender privileges so many of us are working to dismantle in the world. These ongoing experiences are harmful to individuals and are detrimental to our organizations and movements more broadly. It doesn’t need to be like this.
The pandemic demanded we all work differently, but not necessarily better. As a national economic justice organization that puts race and gender at the center of progressive change, the Insight Center is committed to modeling better ways of working. We recognize that our current models of work are rooted in white supremacist patriarchal values and culture, impacting the health and sanity of women of color profoundly.
The last 18 months have been traumatic, particularly for Black and brown women who have shouldered the greatest burden of our overlapping public health and economic crises. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Insight has acknowledged that we cannot expect our team members or our colleagues to forge ahead as if it were the “before” times; and that even in the “before” times the system wasn’t working, especially for women of color.
We deserve better. We deserve the time and space to rest, and heal, and restore while we are fighting for progressive change. We deserve to have our humanity intact while we work. We can and should have all of those things. What does that look like inside an organization? At Insight it means:
- We continue to let staff work from home full time, and are coordinating with all members of our team to determine when and how we return to the office. Our few in-person meetings have been planned collaboratively with our staff. We have a bi-coastal team that has been successfully working together remotely for a year-and-a-half. Our staff members continue to juggle challenging childcare issues and none of us know what the fall will bring. Decisions about returning to the office should not be made lightly or hastily.
- We now close our office for a week every 3–4 months. We acknowledge that it is difficult to truly take time off when others are working, and that when one person on a small team takes time off, it often increases the workload for the rest of us. But when we are all offline, it feels really different. We are committed to continuing this practice for the remainder of the pandemic to ensure our team has the time to heal, rest, and restore as we live and work through these incredibly challenging times. These quarterly mandated rest periods fall outside of our normal vacation benefits which start at 3 weeks for new employees. We will consider making quarterly breaks part of our organizational culture after the pandemic is behind us.
- In recognition that many families of color hold tight knit relationships with those outside of their immediate family, we have expanded our family bereavement leave policy to apply to cousins, grandparents, aunts/uncles etc to ensure staff members have the time they need to heal and grieve those that are closest to them.
We plan to re-evaluate frequently over the course of the next year and recalibrate as needed. We are confident we can be committed to the causes that fuel us without depleting our staff. We hope these changes help inspire other organizations that are reshaping and re-imagining organizational culture at this moment, and we look forward to learning from many of you along the way.