I have been going back and forth on how I should say what I’m about to say. All the usual anxieties and old belief patterns have kept me from saying it for quite some time. Today, I checked my 2020 intentions and saw “Be LOUDer in Leadership” and realized quiet isn’t part of that. So, as an act of self-care and also being true to my intentions, here it goes…
I believe that if you want to truthfully say your programs have survivor leadership, survivors cannot be an afterthought, an add on, or faces on your brochures. If you want to say your program includes survivor leadership, is survivor driven, survivor centered, or whatever we’re calling it now, survivors must be the first thought.
Survivors must be the first sentence of your mission, your first hires, the first voices you hear, have the first ideas shared, be the first faces seen in the board room. Survivors must have ownership, leadership, and authority. Survivors must be the ones creating the grants, informing foundations, and dispersing the funds. Survivors must be evaluating success, not just for them as clients but also for the programs and people that serve them. Survivors must be compensated, and compensated well. Space must be cleared for survivors who desire to train and/or be trained without having to forfeit benefits or salary. And this must go beyond programs, survivors must be truly central to movements and coalitions and partnerships too.
You must start seeing this sacred space as space that does not, and never did, belong to you. Your task becomes the work of honoring and turning up the volume on the work survivors are already doing. Not because you’re doing something amazing or innovative, it can’t be for the fame. You must do it because you believe that survivors are the experts and authority in this field, and because you respect the house you are in. If you cannot do that, you cannot claim survivors have meaningful impact in the work of your program, agency, organization, task force, movement, or coalition.
There it is, that’s my two cents for today.
If you want to learn more, want to engage in conversation about this, I invite you to contact me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let’s get to work together.
Until next time, take good care friends.