Retreating into activism

Everything we do at AVFM, success or failure, is a lesson. Our recent work toward ICMI ’15 was no exception. Indeed, it turns out to have been instrumental in identifying problems and finding solutions.

Identifying the problem in this case was simple. The combination of stress and workloads for such an endeavor was taking a heavy toll. We were, in fact, not fully recovered from last year, emotionally or financially. We have been forced to set healthy limits on our commitments. We also learned that we need alternatives that help ameliorate activist burnout, not increase it.

We think we have found such an alternative.

This Fall, at an undisclosed location in the Great Smokey Mountains, we are having the first ever AVFM MHRA retreat. It will be three days of food, drink and fellowship. There will be a couple of round table discussions scheduled in, but other than that it is about time together.

That is, after all, why most people wanted ICMI to begin with. It is not for hours of lectures, but for time spent in the company of likeminded friends in a pressure-free environment. Our online work is stressful and demanding. Our time together should be just exactly the opposite.

We also get the benefit of removing stress from organizers, as well as making it more accessible financially to MHRAs who want to attend. For instance, this Fall the costs to attendees for three days lodging in an excellent lodge is well under $200.00. The food buy in is $50.00 a head. That and the transportation to get there (many of us are carpooling), is all it takes. All the bennies of ICMI, none of the PITAs.

The first retreat has been scheduled and is already at capacity attendance. So, sorry, there is no more room for anyone else to attend this time. The only order of “business” at that event will be to set out a proposed schedule for future retreats so that any known MHRA who wants to can attend in the future.

There will be two, possibly three kinds of retreats. One, a general annual retreat for all MHRAs. Two, a men-only retreat. And three, a women-only retreat should they decide to have one.

There is only one other catch to sort out. These events will be invitation only, and if we don’t know you an invitation won’t be extended. We will establish a small committee to determine exact screening criteria, but the general idea is that those who want to attend will have to have vouching by well-established activists.

I would love to just open it up to the general public, but I think most people realize the countless reasons why that is not prudent.

This model of approaching group meetings is also advantageous for other reasons. Given that AVFM has ended all direct fundraising, the self-reliance qualifier of this model means no AVFM funds are collected or expended. It also means that the average person who wants to attend can do so for far less money than it would require to attend an ICMI.

Also, and I think very importantly, these retreats will probably be a much better model for networking and future activism than the ICMI model. More face time, less structure and the like make for better networking, planning and exploring ideas.

The Indian MHRAs are a very advanced group of activists. They have been wise enough to put as much focus on team building and burnout prevention as they do on activism. We are going to learn from them here at AVFM.

It is time to move our staff of volunteers and others in the MHRM toward more healing, which I think in the long run means more activism.

On behalf of Team AVFM, I hope that many of you choose to join us in the future.

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