Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Learning Organization’

Exhale is a community of people with personal abortion experiences and when it comes to storysharing, we advocate that:  1) women who have had abortions must have the ability to control their own narratives in our public discourse; and 2) that we must have authority and decision-making over when and how our stories are used by advocates.

Thaler Pekar has been writing about the ethical sharing of stories in a series of blog posts; and her insights offer critical thinking for our community members and the advocates who seek to have access to our stories.

In a two-part series in PhilanTopic, Thaler outlines the concept of Ethical StorySharing, in Part 1:

Because stories are powerful, and because they are wholly owned by the person who shares them, we have an ethical obligation to use story in ways that do no harm. Whether we are asking for stories to better understand an organizational challenge, to use in our organizational communications, or for an advocacy campaign, our goal should be to empower, not exploit…

The need to refrain from treating story as a commodity goes beyond nonprofit and advocacy work; it should inform all your work with narrative. True narrative intelligence respects the sharer of the story and recognizes that his or her story is a unique part of them that cannot, and should not, be taken and shared without permission.

In Ethical StorySharing, Part 2, Thaler gives more advice to advocates who seek to work with stories:

Thinking about the stories you’re not hearing is critical to the ethical use of story. Do you have a responsibility to seek them out? Also, do you plan to label and publicly present the stories you do gather? And if so, how will the context affect the way the audience perceives those stories?…

Or you may be working with a stigmatized population, in which case you have a special responsibility to protect the sharer of the story. For example, you have an ethical obligation to share any knowledge you may have about what could happen to the person, personally or professionally, if they decide to share their story. Might you need to provide for the person’s safety? Does the person sharing his or her story understand how s/he could lose control over the context in which the story is shared, especially in super-public places like YouTube?

In “Working with Stories,” on the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Thaler writes about the concept of empathetic engagement, first described by Sam Gregory of WITNESS:

Develop and engage a keen sense of empathy. Consider what people physically and emotionally need in order to share their stories. Make certain that people are in no way coerced into sharing a story, and explore and protect against any possibilities that the teller may be stigmatized, or even harmed, because he or she has shared a story.

Remember that each individual wholly owns his or her stories. Personal stories are not commodities, to be taken from one person and given to another, in exchange for reimbursement of some sort…Remember, too, that the audience is a partner in the story sharing. Create conditions favorable to the listener fully receiving and making sense of the story.

Understand that story begets story. Story is a contagion: By sharing a story, you will elicit stories in response. Keep this in mind, creating both the time and physical requirements that respect and enable a flow of stories.

In order to hear the real range of people’s complex experiences and emotions, you must avoid communicating that only certain stories are acceptable, welcome, and valued.  If you are too descriptive about the types of stories you want to hear, you may not hear anything at all.

Sagely, Thaler writes:

Refrain from starting a narrative project with a predetermined sense of the stories you will hear. When stories are elicited with honesty and benevolence (and they must be!), you will most likely be surprised, delighted, and frightened by what you hear. Commit yourself to the journey, not to the product.

Finally, in “Pro-Voice and Pro-Chaos” in PhilanTopic, Thaler describes how Pro-Voice is inherently a practice of Ethical StorySharing:

Being “pro-voice” means being anti-predetermined story. The people who work with and support Exhale understand that embracing reality is the only authentic choice for those advocating for sustainable conflict resolution and a more peaceful social climate. Imagine if more advocates let go of their fear of being surprised, contradicted, or losing control and looked to solicit and share stories that didn’t necessarily fit predetermined agendas. In their representation of the complexity of reality, the resulting stories might appear to be chaotic. But the odds are excellent that out of that chaos, profound insight would follow.

To learn more about Thaler and her thinking on Ethical StorySharing, follow her on Twitter: @thaler.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

By Aspen Baker

Julie Davidson-Gómez

Susan Osborne

Jennifer Rudy

“Are all your board members this involved?” Deb, a donor in Seattle, asked me as we both waved goodbye to Julie, a board member who had just co-hosted a fundraising party at Deb’s home in November 2009.

“Yep!” I said.  “It’s very impressive,” she replied.

Impressive is a great word to describe the board service of Jennifer Rudy, Julie Davidson-Gómez and Susan Osborne.  Brought onto the board of directors as a cohort in 2005, Jen, Julie and Susan have recently left the board after successful completion of our maximum board term: two, three-year stints of service.  From their board member orientation to their transition celebration, their leadership has shaped what Exhale is today; and what we will become in the future. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Dear Friends & Pro-Voice Allies,

There’s nothing quite like a partnership with MTV to get the word out!

Months after we worked with MTV on their groundbreaking special “No Easy Decision;” months after the Pro-Voice community stood together in peace taking a public stand besides the young women sharing their stories through “16 & Loved;” and months after the New York Times reported on our efforts and helped share our story… the word keeps spreading.

Our message is out. If you have a personal experience with abortion, Exhale is a community that welcomes you with love and respect.

Now, let’s work together to make sure this message reaches the people who need it most: young women and men with personal abortion experiences. Exhale has been working with our technical partners to develop a brand-new online public platform that will engage our growing community of Pro-Voice peacemakers. We expect to launch the first phase in the fall, with more phases launched throughout the next year. You’ve probably already noticed some changes in the way we communicate with you, such as receiving email from Exhale, rather than just me. Thanks to the support of people like you who have helped to sustain and grow Exhale, we have been able to invest in new leaders and now, there are more voices, ambassadors, and peacemakers speaking for the Pro-Voice movement than ever before!

Our use of technology and social media is expanding along with the Pro-Voice movement, because we know how important technology is for our community of women who have had abortions.  Technology is critical to our ability to tell our own stories with abortion and be heard with dignity and respect.

We need your support with this next phase.  We are about to launch our new platform for online engagement with the Pro-Voice movement. To be successful, we need to raise an additional $15,000 by August 19th.  I’m hoping you will jump in.

Can you make a donation to Exhale today and accelerate the Pro-Voice Momentum?

With your support, we will reach more young women and men with our message of love and respect.  Our new online tools will seed and grow new Pro-Voice Ideas; leverage and expand Pro-Voice Innovations; grow and support new Pro-Voice Leadership; and strengthen the impact of our Pro-Voice Community so that our love grows more powerful than anger and hate.

“16 & Loved” wasn’t just a one-time project; it points the way forward, demonstrating the possibilities for transforming the culture around abortion. You know that Exhale has a long history of taking important risks and producing exceptional results: from the original launch of the talkline to our latest partnership with MTV.  Now is the time to take another leap and keep the momentum going. We are ready to do it again. Are you?

Please donate to Exhale today.

Aspen Baker

Executive Director at Exhale

Read Full Post »

Exhale is seeking candidates for a rare opportunity to join Exhale as members of our Board of Directors.

About Exhale:

Exhale is an award-winning, national organization whose mission is to create a social climate where each person’s unique experience with abortion is respected, supported and free from stigma. Through leadership development, communications, and direct services, Exhale’s pro-voice movement is transforming public dialogue about abortion. Exhale has a thriving organizational culture that emphasizes mission, innovation and excellence.

About Exhale’ s Board of Directors:

Exhale’s Board Members are leaders whose volunteer service to Exhale is critical to growing and engaging more people and communities in the Pro-Voice Movement. We seek individuals to join the Exhale Board who have a strong personal commitment to our Pro-Voice mission; deep leadership experience; and powerful relationship-building and network-building practices.

Exhale’s Board is committed to grassroots, social change strategies; loves trying new things and taking calculated risks; and are achievement-oriented. Our board members are known in their personal and professional networks as early adopters of technological innovations; creative thinkers; diligent about follow-through; and as people who make things happen for the causes they care about.  We are looking for Board candidates who share these commitments, experience and professional practices.

Board Member Role and Responsibilities Include: (more…)

Read Full Post »

On Friday, June 17th, Exhale Executive Director Aspen Baker participated in a panel presentation at Netroots Nation entitled “FTW: Social Networks, Down & Dirty for Change.” Assembled by 16 & Loved architect Deanna Zandt, the panel also included Cheryl Contee from Fission Strategy, Anita Jackson from Moms Rising, and Rachel LaBruyere from Mobile Commons and explored case studied of social media successes. Aspen Baker presented the 16 & Loved campaign to a standing-room only crowd, exploring campaign goals, media reaction, and lessons learned. You can watch the whole panel discussion below [a new browser window will open]:

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Nikko Merlander, Exhale Counselor

Nikko Merlander

As a volunteer with Exhale since early 2008, I have heard time and time again that women and men using Exhale’s services were grateful for Exhale’s support. Yet, as a social worker who is interested in the evaluation and effectiveness of services, I wanted to know more about why Exhale’s services seemed to be so well-received. I saw an opportunity for mutual learning—to both dive into research that is important to me and to contribute to Exhale’s ongoing learning about what works for the women reaching out for post-abortion support.

I created a survey to explore women’s experiences receiving services from Exhale. This was a chance for the women taking the survey to be heard, anonymously, in a larger arena.  What I most hoped for was that the feedback survey respondents gave could be used to give direction and guidance to professionals and organizations in the abortion field across the United States. What better way to understand how to improve post-abortion services than to listen to the needs and experiences of those who have had an abortion experience?

And so the women spoke! Survey respondents overwhelmingly stated that the most important aspects of their experiences with Exhale were those that connected them to other women, validated their experiences, and empowered them in finding well-being. Most simply put, respondents seemed to be saying that they come to Exhale to receive non-judgmental services that value their unique experiences while also reassuring them that they are not alone. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Cross-posted on VolunteerMatch!

In 2010, Exhale faced a number of challenges. Like many organizations, we saw our revenue go down and the demand for our services go up. Simultaneously, one of our long-time organizational leaders decided it was time to move on to other endeavors.

These challenges could have seemed insurmountable to many. The Exhale Board and Staff team considered the challenge, and, importantly, we considered our strengths. Exhale turned to one of our strongest resources: our counselors, who are volunteers.

The counselors felt it was so important for Exhale to continue to offer welcoming, non-judgmental support to callers and members of our private online community, that they opted to manage these programs themselves. A team was formed to lead this effort. Dubbed the “Transition Team”, these four women – Holly Carpenter, Erika Jackson, Danielle Thomas and Carolina Gonzalez-Vilar – worked in tandem to ensure Exhale’s programs continued to operate with their usual standards of excellence.

The Transition Team led Exhale’s programs for six months, until a new Director of Programs, Jovida Ross, was hired and oriented. Jovida recently asked the Transition Team members to reflect on their experience.

Jovida: How did it feel to take on a higher level of responsibility, managing programs as a volunteer?

Holly: Stepping into leadership during the staffing transition felt really risky. I had never done it before, and it had never been done before at Exhale.

Danielle: When I initially took it on, I thought it wasn’t that big a deal. But as I got more involved with it, I realized how important it was.

Erika: There was a point, midway through, I had this moment of thinking, “How much longer are we going to do this? Are we doing a good job?” I felt less anxious when we were able to connect as a team.

Carolina: Seeing so many different people work together to do one person’s job helped me to see teamwork in different way, because we really had to work together to make sure everyone was on the same page.

Holly: You all are such incredible women! I felt such great peer support, as well as received great feedback from other counselors.

Danielle: The counselors were really receptive; at first I worried that things would fall apart or that counselors wouldn’t respond, but everyone really stepped up. That made this role feel good. It demonstrated to me that Exhale’s counselor model is ingrained in how we work together.

Jovida: How did you learn and grow through this experience?

Carolina: I definitely have a newfound respect for managing volunteers and how different it is from managing staff. With each volunteer, you have to understand what their motivation is [for participating] and speak to that.

Holly: Being the Lead Counselor forced me to slow down; I learned that nothing works better than being present. When I read a call form carefully, and put care into my response, I formed a better relationship with that counselor and there is more learning for both of us.

Danielle: Communication with the counselors was so key; I really strengthened my communication skills in this role. I also came to realize the value of holding people accountable. I have seen this value at Exhale more than anywhere else. Our counselors expect to be called out if they don’t follow through, and because of this I felt really comfortable saying, “This is what you have committed to, let’s have a conversation about why it isn’t happening, and how you can be supported to make it happen.”

Carolina: It was important to me to step up and demonstrate my participation to the other counselors. I wanted to role-model that sense of responsibility and teamwork. That felt very similar to the leadership skills I use at work, so I was able to draw on other experiences in this role.

Holly: Leadership involves more grunt work than I imagined! It’s not just about being an innovator, it takes work and follow-through. My understanding of non-profit organizations also increased.

Erika: This was the first time I stepped up into a leadership role at Exhale. I always thought before that I wouldn’t have time to do all these awesome things. Now I know that being a leader doesn’t mean I have to be available all the time, as long as there is clear communication.

Holly: Taking leadership within Exhale helped me recognize that I am valuable and have something to give, just by being myself. I also learned that when I really care about something, I can go beyond what I thought my limits were. I care that Exhale thrives because I find it to be so valuable. Taking this leadership position stretched me, and I accomplished more than I thought I could.

Erika: I’m more vocal now at Exhale meet-ups. I’ve always participated somewhat, but it’s given me the confidence and opportunity to be comfortable being more vocal in the Exhale community. I know that I do have knowledge and experience to share, that others can learn from.

Jovida: Did the experience change how you think about leadership, community, or what Pro-Voice means? If so, how?

Danielle: From the get-go, I knew that the Exhale community is a powerful, special community. My expectations in this role were exceeded—I had been really worried about folks not being open to the transition and to doing things differently. But the counselors were really supportive and communicative. I realized that Pro-Voice isn’t just something we talk about to our callers, it is a value we hold with each other as well.

Holly: Before this experience, Pro-Voice was an intangible idea. It was different to work behind the scenes, to see how much care and training goes into developing Pro-Voice counselors. Exhale is really a refuge.

Erika: It made Pro-Voice a very tangible thing I can talk to people about, and it helped me articulate what is different about this approach. The fact that we were trusted, as volunteers, and empowered to have really major responsibilities really exemplified having ownership, which is such a big part of what the Pro-Voice experience means to me. Beyond abortion stories, here is an organization that took a really radical approach to a staffing transition. Now I feel compelled to talk to other people about Exhale and the Pro-Voice message.

Holly: I have become more positive at Exhale. I came into this work because of a personally difficult experience. It has been powerful to turn that around and connect with others. It feels like love. There is so much room for creativity in this work; it feels like there is a ton of potential!  It’s exciting to be part of an organization that is learning and growing.

Accepting their Leadership Awards (from the left): Erika Jackson,  Holly Carpenter, Danielle Thomas (Carolina Gonzalez-Villar not pictured)

Celebrating the Transition Team (from the left): Aspen Baker, Holly Carpenter, Leah Uberseder, Jovida Ross, Erika Jackson and Danielle Thomas

From everyone at Exhale: Thank You Holly, Danielle, Erika and Carolina!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »