As the world faces the climate crisis, international protests for racial justice, a global pandemic, and an economic downturn, the social change sector is struggling. Organizations across the spectrum are experiencing funding delays and decreases, project slowdowns, and staff reductions. In the midst of these challenges, staff resilience, collaboration, and innovation are emerging as sector-wide priorities, and leaders are asking what steps they can take to create healthier organizational cultures that support these needs.

Our research at The Wellbeing Project (TWP) has shown that leaders who advocate for and model individual well-being and self-care, and engage with their staff in a well-being learning process can create healthier, more effective organizations. Self-care practices includes actions as diverse as self-inquiry, cultivating emotional intelligence, and spending time in nature. Leaders committed to promoting well-being within their organization can also benefit from working with a coach or facilitator experienced in group dynamics and dialogue, co-developing an organizational well-being strategy with staff, and integrating well-being strategies into the daily workflow through incremental changes to structure, policy, and practice. Indeed, many leaders believe that now—when so many organizations are necessarily changing the way they work—is an optimal time to enact small shifts that foster organizational well-being.

While organizations need to tailor their approach to their own unique needs and culture, those that commit wholeheartedly to organizational well-being, lay a strong capability groundwork, and engage all staff members in the process can boost both staff resilience and mission achievement. Below, we explore each of these aspects of implementation, and share how two of the eight organizations currently participating in TWP’s Organizational Exploratory Program (OEP)—a three-year, co-created program focused on organizational well-being—are integrating well-being into their daily organizational lives. Our initial research revealed how changes in individual well-being produced ripple effects at the organizational level, including creating new ways of working that foster staff well-being and institutional effectiveness.

  1. Commit Wholeheartedly
  2. Lay the Capability Groundwork
  3. Encourage Active Staff Participation

In summary, to bring organizational well-being to life, social change leaders must actively commit to implementing, encouraging, learning, and leading by example. Assisted by an experienced facilitator or coach, organizations can collaboratively develop and integrate small well-being initiatives—customized for their unique needs and culture—into policies, procedures, and activities without placing additional burdens on staff or funding sources. And including all staff voices in the design and implementation process will deepen commitment, and foster staff ownership and engagement over the long term.

Read the full article about organizational well-being by Linda Mitz Sadiq at Stanford Social Innovation Review.