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Making staff wellbeing an anti-racist, anti-colonial endeavour

Presentation Description

My presentation draws on doctoral research investigating stress among national and international aid workers in Kenya, and on my book "The Vulnerable Humanitarian" - to be published in 2021 by Routledge - which provides recommendations for self- and collective wellbeing within the aid sector. Recognising the positive developments of staff wellbeing and duty of care receiving greater attention by managers and organisations, I will point to the more worrying realities of an enduring organisational culture that makes some people feel unsafe, unheard and unsupported. National staff from the Global South have been particularly excluded from decision-making processes and from receiving the support and protections they need - and in spite of their increased presence in the wake of the pandemic. A decolonised aid system must include a commitment to challenging structures and processes that reinforce divisions in how staff are supported and who gets preferential treatment. What does this mean in practice? I will address this question through a series of guideposts, informed by feminist and anti-racist practitioners as well as my own work. The guideposts encourage managers and staff to explore individual and collective responsibilities in relation to wellbeing, and to creating a more compassionate and inclusive work force. They include questions to reflect on regarding recruitment and compensation of staff, decision-making around staff-care strategies, and how leadership may be reimagined to provide more opportunities for marginalised groups. The presentation challenges, and provides alternatives to, dominant approaches to wellbeing, thus contributing to the broader discussion on decolonising aid practice.

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