Supporting mental health and emotional well-being for changemakers boosts resilience, retention, and social impact, experience from The Wellbeing Project – an initiative co-created with Ashoka, Impact Hub, Porticus, the Skoll Foundation, and the Synergos Institute – suggests.

Covid-19 has underscored the importance of creating workplace cultures that actively work to support emotional and mental health. Within the social change sector, a culture that values ‘sacrifice for the greater good’ has traditionally ignored the importance of emotional and mental well-being. Individuals working for social change frequently identify so strongly with their organisation’s mission they disregard signs of burnout and ignore unhealthy workplace practices, choosing instead to soldier on and, frequently, to self-medicate. Some of this comes from the fact that many people working in the sector have a direct personal experience of the issue they are working on.

Moreover, people working for social change also operate in chronically stressful, under-resourced environments. To learn more about these challenges and catalyse a culture of wellbeing across the sector, The Wellbeing Project interviewed social change leaders from around the world and also conducted a sector-level study with an international group of 300 plus changemakers from 55 countries over a period of six months. Our research revealed that there was a significant need for well-being support and a need for a cultural change in the field. Although 75 per cent of respondents felt that looking after their well-being was ‘very important,’ merely 25 percent reported that they looked after their well-being ‘to a great extent’.

In response, The Wellbeing Project created model programmes to explore the types of supports that are needed by changemakers as well as the effect these supports have in their personal and professional lives. Initially, programme participants expressed guilt about taking care of themselves, but they came to recognise that a commitment to well-being is essential to their own and others’ long-term health and work. We learned that supporting the mental, emotional and social health of changemakers led to greater trust and delegation to colleagues, increased collaboration with peers, and healthier, more human-centric organisations.

Read the full article about mental health by Linda Bell Grdina and Aaron Pereira at Alliance Magazine.