Philanthropy can be a great place to start a career. EPIP members recognize the tremendous power philanthropy has to change systems and advance equity. Members often talk about the opportunities they have to see entire fields, connect with nonprofit leaders and even just have phone calls returned promptly -- opportunities that are particularly unusual for early-career professionals. I still remember giving a presentation for the Fed at the age of 22, when I had just started out at Living Cities (though honestly, when I made the move from nonprofit to philanthropy, I was glad just to be getting paid on time).
At the same time, navigating the field can be psychically and emotionally demanding, particularly for EPIP members whose identities are not always privileged in the workplace. I often hear stories from members about the challenges they face in showing up at work as their authentic selves.
Outside of work, many of our members report feeling exhausted from the emotional toll of the moment we are living in today. That exhaustion was especially pronounced following the shootings in Orlando and the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. However, for many of our members, this kind of fatigue may be more of a constant that spikes with current events. Sometimes, being at work can make it worse when colleagues don't understand or respect the psychic impact these kinds of events can have.
Our members are strong and resilient. Nonetheless, many of them are carrying weights that should not be theirs to bear, and it is limiting both their long-term prospects and what they can bring to their organizations.
EPIP has long been a safe space for people to process their experiences and develop strategies to navigate their organizations and careers. This year, as we've heard more and more of these stories, we've begun to experiment with a more intentional approach toward healing and rejuvenation.
We've been weaving this into our webinars throughout the year. For example, earlier this summer, we hosted a webinar on taking action when your passion starts to fizzle (which sometimes can happen because of the issues mentioned above), and another on coping with microaggressions in the workplace.
At our conference, thanks to EPIP DC and planning committee member Alison McNeil, we will be hosting dedicated spaces for healing and rejuvenation. On Wednesday September 14th, Erika Totten, Founder of Unchained, will lead interested participants in small group healing sessions. In Erika's words, these sessions will "help us move from 'head work' to 'heart work' and explore how our souls are impacted by and connected to the philanthropic work that we do." The sessions are focused specifically on healing associated with race-related trauma, be it the demands of navigating the world as a person of color or dealing with the fragility that comes with our heritage of white supremacy. On Thursday, Erika and Unchained will host a "healing lounge" with more individualized activities around similar themes.
Additional information about these sessions is available on the conference website (and by the way, our room block closes this afternoon, but there's still time to register!).
So far, the response to these and related efforts has been positive, and we will consider ways to build on this focus going forward. At the same time, the need for this kind of healing suggests conditions in our workplaces that should be cause for concern for all of us, despite real progress being made by many trailblazing foundations. We will be exploring this theme at our conference and beyond. Let's work together to advance culture and practice in our institutions so that they are safe spaces for all of us.
Tamir Novotny is the Executive Director of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, an organization which cultivates social change leaders committed to advancing a just, equitable and sustainable world.