How come we’re all getting along so well?

How come we’re all getting along so well?

By Judy O’Leary and Laura Sacks

One thing we all can agree on is that 2020 was a challenging year for all. With human relationships at the core of our climate advocacy work, our approaches had to abruptly shift as we moved online. At the same time, it seemed harder to stay focused with all the distractions, like the latest news and concern over the wellbeing of our loved ones and communities. And just a week into the new year, 2021 has started off with its own challenges.

Despite all of that, members of our chapter have been getting along well with each other. We have noticed that the seemingly inevitable people “problems” have mostly gone away. There also seems to be more patience at meetings, with people listening more deeply to one another.

How come? Well, over the past few years, around half of our chapter’s core team have participated in at least one “Ongo” program—more than any other CCL chapter that we know of. Ongo is a program offered by CCL’s Resilience Building (formerly Peer Support) Action Team. It is a 12-week series that uses practical exercises to explore the connection between feelings, needs and actions. Although the time commitment can sound daunting, we feel that investment has been paid back many times over.

Ongo has helped our group connect on a deeper level by knowing we have this common language to tap into as needed. The group members who were fortunate enough to pair up as “Ongo buddies” found themselves enriched with a deeper understanding and appreciation coming from the practices we did together.

“I don’t know if my co-lead noticed, but I found I got better at listening without reacting,” reflects Judy. “So when she needs to process what she is thinking about something, I can now take it in without worrying about where it’s headed.”

As chapter leaders, Ongo also helped us consider not only people’s interests and skills but also their deeper needs. For example, one member had difficulties expressing how much they wished to contribute and have that contribution recognized. Their satisfaction and ours rose following that understanding. Someone else who was very shy to step up needed to feel safe and secure—what task would provide that feeling? 

“Climate advocacy and being a group leader continue to push me outside my comfort zone,” adds Laura. “The skills I learned in Ongo help me pull through, like learning how to overcome some of my self-limiting core beliefs and how to effectively calm my nervous system. These simple things make listening and empathizing much easier.”

As leaders, we have also realized how important it is to consider our own needs and set boundaries. Members who have taken Ongo seem to understand that easily and not take offense. So many benefits have come to our groups from the investment of time many of us made in Ongo—something we really appreciated during these challenging times.

CCL’s Education and Resilience Coordinator, Tamara Staton, emphasizes that these skills and resources will continue to be important—certainly after the frightening and emotional week we just had, but also into the rest of the new year and beyond. “We will continue to experience big wins and big losses, personally and politically, locally and globally. Clearly, our response to these events matters,” she says. “Resilience allows us to respond to external circumstances in a way that aligns with our values, and not only positively impacts our own lived experience but also directly benefits the change that we strive to create in the world.”

Our hope is that, by sharing our story, more CCL volunteers will take advantage of the many resilience building resources CCL has to offer, such as:

  • The new Resilience Hub in CCL Community
  • The Resilience Building Action Team
  • Future Ongo sessions, which you can sign up for here. The next one starts January 21.
  • The free “Active Hope for Climate Change Advocates” workshop, based on the work of Joanna Macy and tailored for CCL volunteers. The workshop takes place January 24. Learn more and register here.

All of these resources will build and deepen your ability to stay the course through the highs and the lows, and grow your capacity to bounce back from challenges. 

Judy O’Leary and Laura Sacks co-lead the Nelson – West Kootenay chapter of CCL in British Columbia, Canada, and Laura is a co-leader of the Resilience Building Action Team.