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What Does It Takes to Be Happy at Work? FRIDA Tries to Answer through the Happiness Manifestx

As a young feminist-led fund, our internal politics reflect those of the broader young feminist movement, and as such, self-care has become a central point of discussion, organizational development, and advocacy at FRIDA. We talk about care all the time. Through online campaigns such as the Solidarity Storms; offline when we meet as staff, convene our advisors, grantees, and board; and when we talk to other funders and donors. But most often we find ourselves talking about it when we are edging towards exhaustion—otherwise known as burnout. Sometimes though, out of moments of hardship, beautiful things are born.

Sitting together in a tiny coworking space in Lima in 2017, after a particularly intense staff meeting, we realized we needed to have a more transformative discussion about care together. From this realization, the FRIDA team began to expose our vulnerabilities—our fatigue, the challenges we face—as well as our love for each other and our communities, and exercise our drive for change in an effort to radically transform our understanding of self-care. In an effort to demonstrate our commitment to care, FRIDA’s Happiness Manifestx was born.

The Happiness Manifestx, created by and for FRIDA staff members, is an effort to re-imagine the scope of self-care and collective well-being by giving importance to the practices that will keep us mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy. We created this manifestx of happiness that will accompany and guide us along our journey and hold each other accountable for our individual and collective well-being.

White board with different-colored sticky notes under the headings FRIDA Happiness Manifesto, I WILL, and WE WILL

At FRIDA, we have found that working on self-care requires us to continue to unlearn and decolonize the cultures of capitalism and heteropatriarchy that tell us that if we do more, if we compete against each other and equate our inherent value as humans to productivity, we will thrive. The opposite is true. By politicizing the practice of self-care, we are setting the intention to foster the happiness and well-being of our staff and community members. We unravel and begin the long process of dismantling the structures that pressure activists to overwork, neglect our own well-being, and eventually burn out. As activists ourselves with strong ties to FRIDA’s community of grantee partners, we strive to model a form of working together that challenges the common strains of (self-) exploitation that we often see in activist culture and beyond. FRIDA as an institution can carefully and intentionally center care, in a way that inspires other activists, funders, and community members to do the same.

The time spent on these reflections in this last period has reminded us that to really engage in an individual, collective, and organizational process of placing care at the center of our work is an ongoing self-reflection and critique. We have also learned that kindness to yourself and to others, with the understanding that every day is a new moment of learning, is a way to live life better and embrace the values that we really believe in. The Happiness Manifestx was created as a symbol of this practice.

Drawing of three diverse people hugging each other beneath the statement I WILL BE KIND, LOVING AND RESPECTABLE TO MY COLLEAGUES

While The Happiness Manifestx marks an important turning point in FRIDA’s journey, it is a part of a deeper transformation that FRIDA is undergoing, alongside its community, to influence radical systemic change. We’ve committed to investing in the process of transformation—we’re rewriting policies, reworking systems, and challenging ourselves to deconstruct and re-appropriate language. We’re practicing, as individuals and as a collective, deep systemic shifts around care and culture of care, and we’re implementing strategic and political budgeting that prioritizes care. We support staff to use some work hours for reflection, creativity, and their own activism. We model flexibility in our employment benefits, where the notion of a health benefit spans to include mental health, well-being, and self-care. As a virtual office, we are constantly reinventing ways to connect as staff members, like having calls about nothing, and creating collective processes for planning our regular staff retreats, so that everyone feels a part of the space we create. We undertake this task humbly, with the awareness that these are aspirations by which we try to live our lives at FRIDA, fully aware that cultivating an organizational culture that is wholly feminist, creative, and valuing of the time of its community, costs money, takes time, commitment, and unconditional love.

We have taken scribbled words on post-its and tried to transform them into artlovingly created by Kruttika Susarla, a young feminist artist from the Global South. We feel it enables deeper reflection and captures the beauty of care. Finding ways to visualise, celebrate, and illustrate the beauty of the communities of care that we belong to forms an integral part of FRIDA’s DNA. Through this manifestx, we also wish to emphasize and destigmatize the vulnerabilities of being an activist and the overwhelmed nature of our movements. While we may be afraid to talk about what we go through, vulnerability in its rawest and most authentic form, is beautiful and a powerful tool of deep systemic transformation.

What makes YOU happy at your workplace? Do you have some practises and mantras to share? Tweet them out using the hashtag #HappinessManifestx and tag @FRIDAfund in your tweets.

Nadia Elboubkri

Nadia Elboubkri

  Ruby Johnson

Ruby Johnson


Nadia Elboubkri is senior communities & culture coordinator and Ruby Johnson is outgoing co-executive director at FRIDA, a fund run by young feminists to support and establish other emerging feminist organizations, collectives, and movements.

Topics: work-life balance wellness Healthy Nonprofit Practices