Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Pay Them With Meaning

I've been thinking a lot about board composition and volunteer fatigue these days.   I confess to wondering if it is time to pay volunteers so that they can be held accountable.  How many times have you had to look past dropped balls because those in charge are volunteers?  As is always the case within non-profit orgs this then leads to..."show me the money" and there's precious little to show.  So how, then, do we attract the best and brightest to service?  and how do we incentivize those already serving to show up and do what they signed on to do?    Susan Ellis of Energize Magazine proposes that we pay our volunteers with "meaning".   Just let that sink in for a minute.   MEANING.   Goals reached, activities completed...  a feeling of contribution.   This is catnip for those volunteers wanting to make the most of the time they donate and for those who want to make a difference.  It is, however, a tall order for some organizations though.  For orgs to compensate volunteers with meaning they'd have to trust them to create, to innovate and to try new and adventurous things AND they'd have to put in place all the supports that allow that volunteer the space and accountibility to come through.   There would need to be a culture of completion.   hmmm.   Think about the places where you donate your leadership time.   Is there a dominant culture of completion?   I've had the pleasure of serving some organizations where that was the case and it was a joyful and fulfilling experience that definitely spoiled me into looking to find that everywhere I served.    Turns out it is a rare thing indeed.   So as you walk through your day and encounter those who are volunteering, look a little deeper into their action.  See if you can find the "meaning" that keeps them there and then look to see how it was afforded them.    

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Passion for The Mission

I'm keenly interested in how our organizations run, what makes local and national groups tick and what directions they choose to move in.  In a recent newsletter of Blue Avocado Magazine the author discusses  of the relevance of "passion for the mission" when it comes to board members and volunteers.   This author is suggesting that just having a passion for the mission of the organization isn't enough.  The board members need passion for what the organization NEEDS to survive and to complete its mission.   That's quite a different matter.  
I notice that even at the local levels, doula organizations suffer from "volunteer fatigue".   We all live very busy lives and it's hard to carve out time for volunteer service in our industry and if we are going to make that time, many would prefer to serve women in birth rather than at a leadership level.  But, I ask you, how will your professional needs be advanced if there isn't a local and national group out there working effectively in your best interest?   And... to muddy the waters even further, are those organizations pointed in the direction we need them to be?  or are they unclear about their "mission"?  
I wonder if the doula profession is now at a place when we need our organizations functioning much like trade unions.  We need representation at every table where birth policy is being drafted, where women's health and choices are being discussed, where legislation is written and funding is being allocated.   We need focus groups on the ground and clear pathways defined for members to have their voices heard, their needs communicated and for the latest trends to be identified.    In many ways, this is progress talking.   Had those that came before us not been so successful in their efforts to mainstream the doula, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
Take interest in who is representing you at the local and national level.   Find ways to have your voices and needs heard and consider what it means to step into service yourself.  These things are vital to our moving forward and the time has come for us all to consider the global doula movement.  

Monday, 18 February 2013

For the Greater Good.. ?

In the last two weeks I've had Four doula organizations share the draft documents for their new and ready to be ratified "limits to practice" section of their OWN Standards of Practice.   While each has it's own subtle differences, there is one common thread among the four documents.  They all prohibit a doula that is member of that organization from attending Planned Unassisted Births - PUBs.    One went so far as to define the ownership of photos and documents and one was very specific on social media.    Each of the four groups that drafted these documents felt the need to move forward with this for themselves.  I'm interested in the genesis of this.   Is it that the national orgs that they are associated with have failed to hear their voices?  or is it that this kind of change happens from the local "economy" and then is adjusted at a national level?   In either case, the local organizations didn't feel that the documents generally accepted as guidelines for doula practice went far enough to professionalize them and to address the local issues they were noticing.  

The three "economies" of the doula profession, or any profession for that matter, individual, local and national  all need to upload or download according to their capacity to address an issue.  If something is beyond the purview of the individual it should be uploaded to the local scene and addressed by a group etc and if an issue is far reaching and beyond the capability of a local group it is then moved up the chain to the national level.  That's how Government works, or SHOULD at any rate.

So, I ask you... have you communicated the state of affairs you notice at your local levels to your national organization?  and if you have, were you heard? and if you haven't, should you?   Because while I am excited that these local organizations of doulas are moving things forward in their own communities, and don't get me wrong, I absolutely applaud them, I wonder about the in-consistencies that will inevitably arise and how the caregiver community will deal with them.   They already are very confused about doulas and what we do and do not do, does this create another problem or does it fix one?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Going in Blind

It would be nice if we, in the birth world, had a crystal ball and could see what is ahead for women and babies.  I notice, as do many of my cohorts, that the only constant these days, is change itself.  Women are changing, families are changing, the entire world is changing around us and we as servants to those women must figure a way to change with it.   It is my opinion, after observation and a few years of personal experience, that doula, childbirth educator, midwifery and medical organizations find themselves at a crossroads.   Change or become obsolete.  Move into a new way of serving members and the women we serve or become irrelevant.  The big question is not whether change is necessary, but instead, what does this change need to look like? and will those in places of opportunity allow the change to occur.
Growing pains are a necessary part of life, even professional life, but the ailments that plague our associations, at local and national levels, aren't simply about growth, they are also about sacred cows and talking the talk but being afraid to walk the walk.  Change is scary and the type of change needed in the birth world is blind.... we don't know what is ahead, we can't see around the corners and there's no way to plan long term.  Only the fearless and innovative will be successful in navigating these waters.  Cling to the old ways of doing things, stick to what only works for yourself instead of what is necessary for the big picture, and you'll get exactly where you are going.  Right back to where you started; no place NEW.  

I don't feel the news is bad here.  In fact, I see a new and exciting consumer groundswell happening and I do feel that wherever we are going, doulas will be part of the solution.   Good, consumer based childbirth education will be part of the solution.  Midwives and Physicians will be part of the solution.  But for us to get to THAT place, we'll need to start looking deeply at ourselves and respecting each other.  Above all, we'll all need to give authoritative knowledge back to the mother, and she will need to accept the responsibility of having it.   That's a tall order.   Until we get there, we will have to feel our way along, blindly and find a way to honor the brave change-making innovators among us instead of vilifying them; quit shooting the messengers and be willing to LISTEN to hard truths in order to figure where to step next.

As I said before, this all begins when we take the time to examine our own industries in the true light of day and with the willingness to leave behind what no longer serves us.  Be brave and take a look.  I'm very interested to hear what you find.  

Monday, 11 February 2013

Asking the Tough Questions

After a long "break" I've decided to breath new life into "Doula Speak" and pick up where I left off.   The last three years have blown by me like a city bus and have brought me a wealth of new experience that leaves me more confused than ever about the state of affairs in the doula world.  I'd like this blog to be a place where those of us questioning the doula profession and wondering just where it is going, can share ideas and observations.  
So for those of you that see the "pink elephants" and observe that nobody really wants to talk about them....welcome.
On the table are subjects like- is this a "profession"? or a "vocation"?  and if we are going to call it a profession what do we then need from our local and national organizations?   We say we want change.  We're all out to "change" birth, but what exactly do we want changed in a system that has birthed the need for us in the first place?    And if we are successful in changing it, do we not author our own demise?

When I speak to doula communities about what they want to change ( a relatively simple question don't you think?) there are the typical answers and then , after a few minutes and a few pointed questions, there is this palpable realization that they don't REALLY know what they want changed.   Most groups, interestingly, lead themselves off into the land of self serving professionalization instead of changing birth itself.  
In the coming posts I'll be asking the tough questions and digging in uncomfortable places because that is how real change comes about.   I hope you will be along for the ride and that you'll feel empowered to say here, what you have not been welcome to say elsewhere.  
Let's, above all, be interested in the questions and unafraid of the answers.