July 8 2021 GM

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Glitter Meetups

Glitter Meetup is the weekly town hall of the Internet Freedom community at the IFF Square on the IFF Mattermost, at 9am EDT / 1pm UTC. Do you need an invite? Learn how to get one here.

  • Date: Thursday, July 8
  • Time: 9am EST / 1pm UTC
  • Topic: Community Health Report Debrief
  • Featured Guests: Selma Zaki, Director of Community Mental Health Program @ Team CommUNITY

During this very special Glitter Meetup, we will feature Team CommUNITY’s NEW Director of Community Mental Health Program, Selma Zaki, who will share the findings of the 2020 Community Health Report: Building Stronger Communities - The case for mental health support for digital rights defenders.

This is a great opportunity to share your reactions to the findings, and provide input on the psychosocial services and workshops that Team CommUNITY will be offering in the coming months.

The report was designed to help validate digital rights defenders' experiences in the last year, while allowing them to better identify what specific interventions are needed. It is also a tool to support organizational leaders and decision makers, providing them an evidence base, so they can better strategize and design solutions that help the people they serve become more resilient.

The report will be published on July 7.

Bio: Selma Zaki is a licensed Mental Health Counselor based in New York City who has provided therapy services between practices, community mental health centers and hospitals. In addition, she has has been published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology for studying the experiences of gender amongst Arab American women., and founded the organization, Lezem, geared at creating space for Lebanese youth to address community issues through creative projects. She is currently Team CommUNITY's director of the Community Mental Health Program.

Topic of Discussion: Community Health Report Debrief

Selma Zaki is Team CommUNITY’s Director of the Community Mental Health Program and you can find her on Mattermost as @Selma. She has conducted the 2020 Community Health Report.

We will have two CKS workshops for a Community Health Report debrief with Selma next Tuesday, July 13th. RSVP here

  • The report is meant to provide a snapshot of the wellbeing of Internet freedom networks around the world. Through a community health lens, it offers insight into the psychosocial challenges faced by people who work to secure digital rights for all and it helps us understand the impact Covid-19 pandemic has had on these networks. With this information, we can collectively design a path forward for the teams, movements, and communities we serve.
  • The report is meant to capture, mirror and validate the experience of digital right defenders. It is also there to support organizational leaders and decision makers in making healthy decisions for the community. Finally, the hope for the report (and continued efforts post report) is to shift the culture and center community and mental health.

What is the thing that most stood out for you when you were conducting the research? What did you observe as a therapist that may be unique to our community?

  • Several things come to mind:
    • 1) The imbalance between what is needed and what is available to community members and how that is affecting members of the community (and how it's normalized). The signs of burnout and fatigue and being drained were visible.
    • 2) Trust seems to be absent in many spaces and from what Selma observed that's both the consequence of the nature of the work many folks do here but it's also the consequence of a lot of ruptures and abuse occurring in the space without any accountability and healing.
    • 3) The last thing that comes to mind is how resilient this community is - understanding that resiliency is often used to justify all the traumas a community or a collective has been through. But also resiliency is such a powerful thing and it's definitely part of this community
  • So essentially, resilience is great, but maybe we can one day have structures and systems that support us so we don't always have to be resilient

What do you think are the report's most important findings?

  • It was clear in the report that community members believe that healthy relationships are the foundation of a healthy community. Two main threats to healthy relationships are:
    • Psychological health: how do we maintain health relationships when we are psychologically struggling ** Toxicity and abuse: there are no healthy relationships when there is toxicity
  • So in order to have healthy relationships to have a healthy community there is a serious need to
    • 1) Address mental health
    • 2) Develop conflict resolution systems/tools/resources for accountability and healing
  • Also - it's important to note that the approach of this research comes from something named "PAR" (Participatory action research) which believes that those most impacted by the research (community members) are the ones who need to be the most involved in shaping the research process and the outcomes of the research (ie: what do our solutions look like?)
  • This removes this idea that there's an "expert" here to "impose" solutions and instead focuses on creating something from within the collective
  • And so hopefully we will have more conversations/circles together to brainstorm what's needed

What are examples of conflict resolution tools or systems?

  • So one example is having a code of conduct which was interesting to see in the interviews that some organizations had no guidelines in terms of how to address conflict.
  • Another example is to have an external facilitator to create facilitated conversations when there's conflict
  • A big part of conflict resolution work is developing communication tools and skills but also the type of tools needed depends on the type of conflict (if there's abuse or not)

What can people do going forward to strengthen the community, their teams and organizations?

  • This might come off as an individualistic answer but it's coming from the belief that everything is relational and when we take care of inner worlds, our external worlds also shift (it's not enough of course but it's a start): the first step is for members to give more space to their needs and to normalize attending to themselves (for that to be possible though, the work the community does needs to be more sustainable but that's another conversation)
  • This is said because Selma noticed in the interviews that many people felt like they could not give themselves the space they needed because otherwise things would fall apart
  • And so to simplify: two things come to mind:
    • 1) creating more space to take care of yourself: watering your cup and attending to your needs.
    • 2) creating spaces to think of how to make the work the community does more sustainable (ex: sustainable funding, having more community managers/leaders... etc)

How would we know when we need to create more space?

  • Sometimes, individuals seem to have a beast of burden mentality of just suffering to get things done, and it’s led us to some unhealthy places. But we also only seem to realise things way after most people would have stopped.
  • You noticing the mentality is already you listening to signs that space is needed: Our bodies are always communicating with us about what we need but most of us have disconnected relationships with our bodies because of how we're socialized and because of the demands on life
  • So we know we need space and care when we bring our attention back to our bodies and we listen to what we need (this is a skill we can collectively build together)

You will be designing services and products for our community in the fall. Can you share what you think they will be and also how can people help you co-design them?

  • We are still in the process of brainstorming the next steps but what we hope to offer is:
    • 1) individual one-on-one therapy/psychosocial support
    • 2) group sessions/therapy
    • 3) psychoeducational material on different topics related to the community
    • 4) using creative methods/means for healing, etc
  • In terms of helping with co-design, it would be lovely to have a conversation with community members once they've had time to sit with the report and as I develop ideas, my intention is to share them with community members for feedback and so we co-create that way!