The Wellbeing Project—co-created with Ashoka, Esalen, the Impact Hub, Porticus, the Skoll Foundation, and Synergos–focuses on catalyzing a culture of inner well-being for all change makers. As part of its work, over the last 6 years, it has undertaken a significant research study into both the need for wellbeing support in the field of social change, and the connection between inner wellbeing and systems change.
Given how the term ‘wellbeing’ is in regular use across the fields of social change and health in various contexts, the Project does not prescribe to any single definition. For the Project, wellbeing is an ongoing personal journey towards wholeness and connection. It is a journey of inner work that encompasses increasing self-awareness, healing from past trauma, and moving toward healthier patterns of living.
The Project undertook a six-month Delphi study with a broad community of those working in social change in collaboration with the Ford Foundation and the Impact Hub Network. The findings (full report here) from both the processes revealed not only the need for wellbeing support broadly across the field, but also the intense barriers to wellbeing, particularly within the world of social change. We learned it was universally difficult for respondents to distance themselves from their work. They closely identified with their roles and they felt that working to exhaustion was still a badge of honor within the sector. It also became clear that organizations and the sector more generally played a significant part in enabling a culture that was either supportive, or dismissive, of their inner well-being.
To explore the need of inner wellbeing support for changemakers and to explore the connection between inner work and social change, the Project offered an Inner Development Program (IDP). This 18-month program accompanies social change leaders in a journey of cultivating a personal understanding and orientation toward wellbeing, via in-person retreats focused on inner work, a stipend for personal wellbeing discovery, peer group calls, and webinars and learning modules on wellbeing-related topics.
The research captures the shifts observed for changemakers when they received wellbeing support through the Inner Development Program.
At an Individual level, participants:
- Became kinder with themselves
- Rejected the hero model at work
- Redefined what success means to them
- Became open to the ideas of other people
- Became more emotionally resilient
- Recognized the need to take care of themselves before taking care of others
The changes observed by participants at an individual level also led to ripple effects at an organizational level, and even at a sectoral level.
At an organizational level, participants began to:
- Connect with others not just as professionals but as human beings
- Adopt a leadership style in which they were willing to be led by others, trusting in the capabilities of others
At a sectoral level, and this is where the connection with systems change emerged, the changemakers developed collaboration as a principle of working and began welcoming diverse perspectives to problem solve. This, in turn, led to deeper work in communities and with community members, working more collaboratively across silos, and restoring or building bridges that lead to more effective, holistic outcomes.
We are very excited to share this research and our complete report broadly and are energized by the growing conversation around the intersection of inner wellbeing and transformative social change.
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