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January 2023 Newsletter: Compassion

Updated: Apr 5, 2023


How are you reader?

This year MindOpen Learning Strategies is celebrating its 5th birthday as a social justice-driven organizational development consulting firm. That’s over 35 customized client engagements and thousands of professional development participants. We are fueled by our core values: Connection, Compassion, Courage, and Critical Thinking. With this season's newsletter, we are reflecting on the role of Compassion in our origin and development.


The story of MindOpen starts in 2017, soon after our founder Elizabeth Speck experienced a spectacular professional downfall that made her want "to crawl under the covers and not come out– and that was, in the way these things often are, a blessing in disguise." Founding MindOpen turned out to be the key to unleashing her authentic self at work– starting with self-compassion for the unique, flawed, passionate agent of change that she had been evolving into since long before her professional career.


The compassion with which mentors shared their stories and advice with her in the early days of MindOpen has help to create the foundational principles. A resounding theme emerged from these mentors, a theme that is also present with the organizations we currently partner with. The power of compassion! Her early mentors showed how to take up space without apology while simultaneously recovering from work-related shame (a place many of us have been). We are hearing just as much about rupture without repair in today’s new context, especially in organizations where staff are working round-the-clock inside and outside of employment to advocate for social justice in all it's forms, often amplified for BIPOC folks experiencing those same inequities within those very workplaces and their communities. (Right on time: Our Learn with Us section highlights Minda Hart’s Right Within: Healing from Racial Trauma in the Workplace.)


We see an uptick in many professionals transitioning into consultancy, as a path out of workplace toxicity. Consulting may be one way to bring one’s whole, brilliant self to social justice work, but with so many folks on the same path, it sounds an alarm. The so-called ‘great resignation’ was brewing long before COVID-19. Emerging through the pandemic with growth for MindOpen, our team can't help but be struck and grateful for the compassionate relationships that have formed with our team and client organizations.

These relationships have allowed us each to show up imperfectly and with mutual compassion, sometimes even late or unfinished or still questioning a direction to go; and still to move forward and deepen our work together. In doing so, the quality and outcomes of the work becomes deeper, through new perspectives and shared responsibility. (Keep reading for a tool to leverage conflict in relationships.)


Regardless of what stage of your career you find yourself in--consulting, employee, public sector or private sector-- it is harder to succeed without self-compassion. Given all of the compounded discrimination and attempted overturning of human rights in our country and our world, all while our work environments are still emerging from the pandemic, it is imperative that we share the gift of compassion: first and foremost with ourselves.

In Compassion, The MindOpen Core Team Elizabeth Speck, Sarah Blas, Samantha King, & Nadira Ramcharan






Affiliate Consultant Tarik Green (shown here) and MindOpen Founder Elizabeth Speck kicked off our Fair Chance Forward: Leveraging The Workforce Of The Future training and consulting program with Rockland Works in New York state, helping them change the landscape of employment opportunities for job seekers who face barriers due to a criminal record.




We returned to an in person launch for the 2022 - 2023 Empowered Career Development Coaching Cadre at John Jay College's Institute for Justice and Opportunity for all the students in the Pinkerton and Tow fellowships.



We closed out a year of developing the Respect & Responsibility curriculum, part of the NYC Mayor's Office to End Gender Based Violence trauma-informed, restorative justice response to domestic violence! Melissa Shillingford of Make Ideas Work always helps us capture project management learnings. (pictured: Elizabeth, Melissa, Peggy Shorr [Curriculum Development Consultant], Sarah, Sam, Tarik, and Nadira)



- We facilitated De-escalation and Crisis Response train-the-trainer for the staff of the New York Criminal Justice Agency. These workshops help to build capacity of supervised release staff, whose input often gets left out of the conversation surrounding bail reform.

- We have completed the second cohort of our Curriculum Mastermind funded by the District Attorney of New York’s Criminal Justice Investment Initiative.

- We made a virtual keynote presentation weaving together anti-racist, trauma-informed, healing-centered principles, at the staff summit that Integral Health in Travis County, Texas held for their 900+ staff working on the front lines of mental health and developmental disability services.

- We facilitated a public workshop in collaboration with Safe Horizon & the DOVE Initiative called Practicing Hope Through Appreciative Inquiry, supporting advocates to explore goals and needs in a time of personal and collective trauma.

- Elizabeth and partner Melissa Elliot of AGAPE Family Therapy & Coaching facilitated several Reflective Resilience for Anti-Oppressive Relationships training series for nonprofit supervisors to reflect on shifting power dynamics.

- We facilitated Motivational Interviewing and Trauma-informed De-escalation training for ACE Programs for the Homeless, whose staff bring the compassion of lived experience to those in early recovery.

- We welcomed new consultant Roxanne Mustafa with a speciality in data, technology and advocacy around "techquity" initiatives across NYC. Melissa Shillingford, Sarah Blas and Roxanne Mustafa teamed up to help The Staten Island Urban Center create project management systems as they grow to serve more community members.



Team Members Nadira Ramcharan and Sarah Blas captivated audiences on a panel for Nonprofit NY, providing a deep dive into their equitable pay report, naming the impacts of institutionalized racism on fair pay, and sharing sustainable solutions for non profit organizations across NYC.




MindOpen's Communications and Project Associate Samantha King wrote eloquently about workplace mental health awareness in her latest blog. https://www.mindopenlearning.com/reflections





We welcomed in the New Year with seasoned and new consultants during our annual virtual MindOpen Consultant Mixer. We celebrated individual wins, provided an organizational overview and launched our brand new consultant guide.







Conflict Styles Assessment

The Conflict Styles Assessment created by the United States Institute of Peace, is a tool for identifying the way you respond to conflict which can help how you manage conflicts in the future. Knowledge about conflict styles is necessary as we face wars and advocate for human rights. This is important in our work especially for de-escalation, communication and compassion on our journey to creating an equitable and inclusive future.



Right Within: How To Heal from Racial Trauma in the Workplace

This book by Minda Harts offers advice and guidance to women of color facing racial trauma from microaggressions and bias in the workplace. It amplifies their voices,and is an insightful read for everyone because it allows people to reflect on the part they play in racial trauma in the workplace, which can influence change.




Nonprofit Quarterly

The Nonprofit Quarterly article “This is What Solidarity Looks Like: Global Justice in Antiwar Organizing'' by Kitana Ananda highlights the importance of including anti-racism in antiwar organizing. The article reminds readers of the “war at home” with colonialism, state violence, and militarism, calling for readers to think critically about how compassion is shown and not shown in U.S. policy and attitudes toward refugees seeking safety.

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