This summer, Wendy McCaig and Cheryl Groce-Wright concluded Phase I of the Soul Care For Community Builders Initiative. Through a listening project, Wendy and Cheryl discovered what helped the community builders survive and thrive through the many challenges of the past year and a half. Although many themes emerged from participant responses, the strongest theme was: “Even encouragers need encouragement.” We are especially grateful to Talaya for naming this, as it is the heart of the project. This dominant theme begs the question, what does it look like to encourage each other and help each other thrive?
With burnout a prevalent experience for community builders, each participant had a practice that they returned to repeatedly to sustain themselves through the many challenges of 2020 and that continue to be a source of replenishment that they will take forward into the future.
Listening Project Outcomes
The list above are some of the specific activities that those we interviewed named are important to them remaining resilient.
When participants were asked what they would do to help other community builders thrive as we enter a new normal, four focus areas emerged:
The specific responses shared during the interviews were captured and shared on a virtual dream wall leading up to a facilitated conversation about what was learned. Below is a summary of the specific ideas that were shared by interviewees.
Who: Diverse Groups of Peers
What: Sharing stories, listening, reflecting, connecting, processing, encouraging, supporting, co-creating, learning, valuing, grieving, thought partners, idea exchange, truth-telling
How: Create safe space, facilitate conversations, small groups, dinners
What: Choose self, joy, tap into calling/passion/values, grieve well, connect to nature, letting go of roles, dancing, music, movement, unplug
How: Intentionally taking the time, Spiritual Practices, Retreats
Who: Seasoned and Emerging Leaders
What: Soul Friending, Modeling, Asking Good Questions and Listening Deeply, Redefine Leadership, Value All
Who: Institutional Leaders
What: Value everyone equally, no matter what their role is
How: Change the Narratives, Shift the Culture
During the interviews there were a number of important subtexts that emerged in several of our interviews and that will be used as a backdrop to future conversations:
The subtexts offer both hope and opportunities to challenge ourselves through inquiry and reflection. What will we dream of together, and how will we design a new normal for ourselves and our communities? How will we make space for ourselves and others to heal from this past season? Moving forward, how will we transform our relationship to time? How do we recognize, value and celebrate the good work that is already happening? These are just some of the questions we can ask ourselves as we move forward together.
Insights from Group Gathering
At the end of August, the listening project participants were invited to a facilitated conversation about the insights gained during the interviews. The strongest image to emerge for these action groups was “circles of encouragers offering encouragement to each other on a regular basis.” The group felt that creating safe spaces to be together is how mentorship for emerging leaders will become possible and this requires small, intimate gatherings to help build trust and for all to feel safe enough to share deeply.
Those in attendance were excited about the insights from the project and wanted to work together to bring the vision to life through a pilot group. This pilot group will meet monthly to co-create a safe space for sharing personal practices and learning new ones from one another. The group consensus was that Soul Care is the pilot group’s “why” for coming together, and is “the most important activity we can do for ourselves, each other, and our communities.”
We want to thank everyone who contributed to this initiative thus far. We are grateful for the honesty, vulnerability, and courage that was demonstrated in both our individual interviews as well as our group conversation.
While our focus thus far has been with those who were included in this initial phase of the project, our dream is that the pilot grows into something larger that could be replicated for other groups who would like a place for the “encouragers to find encouragement.”
We want to leave you with these questions: How are you practicing Soul Care for yourself? How might you provide encouragement to the encouragers in your life?
If this is an area where you would like to connect with other community builders, please reach out to us here, and we will add you to our mailing list for future opportunities.