Youth-Run leadership conference II is a case study that highlights some indicators of success when youth take care of themselves and each other. As the case study highlights, for youth to practice self care there must be: opportunities to celebrate success; others who model realistic and healthy participation; intentional space for self care conversations/workshops/learning; opportunities to step aside; clear backup and contingency planning; strategies to support employees/volunteers through self care and burnout; clear expectations; and achievable goals.
Now, imagine a different youth-run leadership conference. You are among the group of young people that start organizing by putting together a planning and visioning session to get your ideas out. You all dream big but also discuss your schedules and how much time you will realistically be able to dedicate. You make agreements about how you will support one another in the organizing process. Among the goals the group sets for the conference is that you will strive to make the organizing process and the conference itself as enjoyable as possible for your team. You are excited for the event. You appreciate everyone’s positive energy and commitment but you also like how everyone is being clear about their own limits and boundaries and what they can realistically contribute to the event. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows — occasionally being this honest with each other involves some really hard moments, people make themselves vulnerable and have to take big risks. But you work through these tough times as a team and, as a result, you become stronger and more trusting of one another.
There are countless ideas for the conference but not all of them can be used this time. You establish a fair process to decide which ideas will be used this time and which will be put away for a future occasion so they won’t be lost.
The energy behind the conference continues to grow, and more people are drawn to help and contribute what they can. Everyone is working from their strengths and all involved are careful to recognize what each person gives to the conference, however big or small. Soon, there are enough people involved that everyone has at least one other person to share their role with. These pairs help each other out, bounce ideas around and share the workload as it grows. When, in a particularly stressful personal moment, you have to step back for awhile, there is someone to cover for you in your absence, once you have communicated your needs clearly.
As the conference approaches, excitement grows, and all involved feel good about your contribution. The huge number of volunteers that have been drawn to this positive, collaborative project proves once again that many hands do make light work; you even get to take a whole afternoon and evening off during the conference to sit back and enjoy it. When it is over, you are tired but also energized. You can hardly wait for next year!