Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Harassment (PSEAH) should be expected in any context where there is a power differential. In 2018, PSEAH has once again caught media attention with high profile reporting in the media triggering a series of exposures of SEA incidents from different aid agencies. This very public storm has had serious consequences for the agencies and has dented the public and donor confidence in aid agencies.
We believe that organisations need robust policies and procedures, however, these are not enough. More focus needs to be centred on organisational and team culture. Many teams (especially in the non-profit sector) work in very difficult conditions under tremendous pressure and stress. They are just surviving. We have also observed how these external challenges often have negative consequences at a personal or interpersonal level, such as burnout, workplace harassment, breakdown in trust and relationships. We try to mitigate these by putting in place well-intentioned safeguarding procedures and policies, however, we have come to realize that these are only one dimension and temporary fixes at best. Too often the same issues resurface again and again because policies and procedures are not enough without change in attitude and mindsets.
We have come to the conclusion that the real solution must involve re-thinking and re-inventing the work environment we create as leaders and as team members. Only then will we be able to truly serve our staff, partners and communities in a sustainable way.
We have been exploring what this concretely means and how to go about facilitating these kinds of changes. We are now convinced that the solution is actually much simpler (not necessarily easier) than the equally important safeguarding policy approaches. If we want to rebuild trust & resilience within teams and with our external stakeholders, there is a need to be more focused on WHO we want to be and HOW we want to BE with each other. Sustainable change starts at a personal BEING level and the focus must be on shifting our attitudes and mindsets vs adding new layers of controls and policies.
Imagine a team or organization choosing to BECOME more aware of team potential, investing in shared team values and standards of BEING and employees applying their true potential in their day to day job, or being more compassionate while focusing on the greater good of the people they serve. What might then naturally unfold in terms of new work environment, actions, strategies, vision and ultimately purpose?
We can review and assist in strengthening safeguarding policies, procedures and practice to create and maintain a safe environment. We can accompany your HQ and field staff to put into place preventive and protective measures with the participation of affected populations. We can accompany your local and national partners to strengthen safeguarding. We can carry out safer programming audit to identify risks and provide recommendations to strengthen programming.
Rules and Values: Develop both (2019) Strengthening policies and procedures and sending stronger signals about zero tolerance and possible sanctions is needed. But a culture of ‘compliance’ can usefully be complemented by a culture of ‘commitment’ - the conscious cultivation of an overall organisational atmosphere and culture of respect.