A (Radical) Organizational Sabbatical

Health GAP turns 20 next year and over the past few months, I’ve spent some time reflecting on the state of the global HIV response and our role in it. One thing is clear: we need creative disruption and relentless activism to dismantle the systems of injustice that fuel the pandemic, now more than ever. While we have made tremendous progress in advancing access to lifesaving HIV treatment and prevention, the path ahead is still long and steep.  

We need creativity to jolt decision-makers out of the malaise that has set in and to mobilize the resources needed to end the AIDS pandemic. We need innovation to craft new campaigns that will disrupt current systems for developing lifesaving medicines and technologies, making them more affordable for and accessible to the people who need them most. Within our organization, we also need new thinking about sustainable work practices and mobilizing additional resources, to better position our organization to continue its high-impact work.

Starting August 6, Health GAP will embark on a four-week organizational sabbatical.  Our intention for this collective time away is to rest, reflect, refuel and return in September with even more energy and power for the fights ahead. Importantly, to achieve this, we knew that we all needed to take the sabbatical simultaneously so that we can benefit from the positive effects of hitting pause both individually and as an organization. 

We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t feel it was mission critical.

If you know any of our staff personally, you can imagine how hard it is for us to press pause. In our movement, because the systems of injustice are relentless and insidious in their impact and reach, the work never stops. But when faced with high stakes, Health GAP has always been willing to flip the script, pushing decision-makers and allies alike to take risks that have had big payoffs. Likewise, our sabbatical is about care for our organization, our movement, and the individuals in it, at a do or die moment in the global HIV response. This is why, for me, taking time to rest at this moment in our movement’s trajectory (and against the current political backdrop) is not just counterintuitive—it feels like a radical act.

 

In case you're wondering, here are some more details about our approach and plans:

What this means for our work 

For four weeks, from August 6 to September 3, all Health GAP staff will be will be hitting the pause button on our work. We’re truly turning the lights off. We will not keep our social media feeds updated, check emails, or participate in conference calls or meetings during this time.

 

Connecting with Health GAP during the sabbatical

We have an incredible team of board and core steering committee members who have volunteered to support our staff by being on call to address any urgent matters while we’re on sabbatical.

If you have a request that can’t wait, just send a message to sabbatical@healthgap.org and T. Richard Corcoran (Board Chair), Brook Baker (Board Member), or Patricia Siplon (Core Steering Committee Member)  will get back to you within 48 hours.

What to expect after we return to work

Soon after we’re back to work, we’ll be in touch to share any learning or insights from our time away. Then at the beginning of October, Health GAP’s staff, board, and steering committee will gather for a time of strategic reflection and action planning. Stay tuned for key outcomes from our time together. 

How you can support us in this effort

  • Learn with us as we experiment with how collective rest might help fuel creative disruption by and for activist organizations, build stronger movements and contribute to more effective campaigning. We’ve tried to be deliberate and thoughtful in how we’ve structured this sabbatical.  To read some of the thinking that informed our approach, click here. If you’re intrigued by our plans and want to learn more, contact our thought partner, Kate Johnson, at hello@katejohnson.com. Kate and I will be in touch after the sabbatical about plans for a webinar where we’ll share key materials we’ve developed in the process and reflect on our sabbatical experiment from an organizational development and movement building perspective.  

  • Voice your support by sending our team good wishes as we start our sabbatical. Just reply to this email, and I’ll make sure your note is shared with the entire team.

  • Make a donation to support this radical act we’re undertaking to advance and sustain Health GAP’s high-impact activism to end the AIDS pandemic.

 

What we've been reading

  1. Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang 
  2. Creative Disruption: Sabbaticals for Capacity Building and Leadership Development in the Nonprofit Sector by TSNE MissionWorks
  3. From Creative Disruption to Systems Change: A 20-Year Retrospective on the Durfee Foundation Sabbatical Program by the Durfree Foundation
  4. The ‘Busy’ Trap by Tim Greider
  5. Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime by Ferris Jabr

 

Taking space and time for rest and reflection is a privilege (even though it shouldn’t be) which many small activist organizations like ours literally can’t afford. I’m grateful to all our private foundation donors and individual supporters like you for making it possible for us to give this a try. I am also grateful to our Board of Directors who felt that this was a sacrifice worth making, and have put skin in the game by stepping up themselves to support this effort in multiple ways.

 

We'll see you in September!


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