OUR COMMITMENT TO WELLBEING, SAFETY & AN ENVIRONMENT FREE FROM ABUSE

Please review our FAQs regarding our SHEA procedures

We are committed as All Hands and Hearts to creating and maintaining a safe environment in which all people can thrive in their work with us and with our community partners.

To fulfill our commitment to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our volunteers, staff, community members and partners, we recognize the need for continuous evolution and improvement. In this spirit, we are sharing progress updates on our commitments toward this strategic, vital element of our work.

As these updates detail, we’ve been busy creating comprehensive training for all staff and volunteers, improving on how we provide thorough survivor care and support, and ensuring that everyone involved with our organization has a voice on these critical issues. To make this happen, we continue to listen, learn and respond. These updates and actions are simply the starting point, signaling a new era.

With several steps in place to ensure safety and best practices, including independent reviews and background checks, and more to come in the new year, including an updated policy & training framework, we hope that you will continue to grow with us while we push towards our biggest 2022 goal of building All Hands and Hearts into a “High-Trust Organization” built around the principles of humanity, transparency, credibility and reliability.

The safety and wellbeing of our volunteers, staff, community members and partners comes first for us at All Hands and Hearts.

In recent months, we have taken note of comments on our social media regarding our handling of historic allegations of sexual and behavioral misconduct.

We take these concerns extremely seriously, and we thank those who have raised them for doing so. We take any allegations seriously in order to protect all volunteers, staff and communities we serve.

Concerns for confidentiality and protection of sources and survivors prevent us from commenting on specific allegations, including on social media platforms, but we can share what we’ve done and what we are doing as an organization to prevent the risk of future incidents, to mitigate their impact, and to hold ourselves accountable to high standards for the wellbeing and safety of all those with whom we work.

We remain committed to creating and maintaining a safe environment for everyone within the organization and in our work. We put this commitment into practice via:

  • Comprehensive Training for all Staff and Volunteers. We have a strict set of trainings and protocols that we give to our staff and volunteers to prevent these situations from occurring, but also to inform how to respond if any situation does occur.
  • Formal Process & Immediate Action. Upon learning of any accusation of sexual assault or harassment, we immediately follow our formal Sexual Harassment Exploitation Abuse (SHEA) process and conduct a confidential investigation.
  • Disciplinary Action. After a thorough investigation has taken place, supported by outside experts when necessary, we take full disciplinary action in line with our policies including and up to permanent termination. Where laws have potentially been broken, we support survivors in reporting to relevant authorities if they wish.
  • Survivor Care & Support. We support survivors and respect their wishes. We keep any cases confidential, offer to assist law enforcement with any separate criminal proceedings, and provide support through counseling services to help aid in the survivor’s recovery.

Sadly, a small number of incidents have happened. Our accountability means acknowledging our flaws, learning from historic incidents and relentlessly committing to continuous improvement in all that we do. We never want anybody to suffer sexual harassment of any kind in our work, and this drives our commitment to continuously learning, growing and taking action as an organization. In recent months, such action has included:

  • Independent Review. Recognizing the need for All Hands and Hearts to continue to find ways to better support survivors and improve SHEA trainings. With the strong support of our Board of Directors, we engaged a leading anti-sexual violence organization to review our SHEA policies and to identify opportunities for us to further strengthen our protocols and enforcement.
  • Internal Team. We have created a strong team who will drive our policies and procedures in line with the advice from the external review of our SHEA policies, and who will ensure that we implement key changes arising from this review.
  • New Senior Staffing. Recognizing the need for greater internal expertise, we recently established a new role, Director of Wellbeing, who will be charged with supporting the mental health and wellness of all volunteers and staff. This person will serve as a trained, trauma-informed point of contact for anyone who experiences sexual harassment or assault. This person will also help us to bolster our SHEA training, for both volunteers and on-program staff. Our Director of Wellbeing began in September 2021.

Additionally, we would like to address the concerns some have raised on social media about comments being deleted or hidden on our social media platforms. Our online platforms build informed, engaged, and supportive communities; however, there are certain topics we will not discuss on our social platforms. These include content that discloses any confidential or otherwise sensitive information. While interacting on our social media channels, we ask that everyone follow our Social Media Community Guidelines.

We will not stop here, as anything short of continuous learning and improvement is insufficient.

We equally know that we cannot effectively bring change without your support. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment, exploitation, abuse, sexism or racism on or off our program sites, we would like to speak with you so that we can open an investigation into any specific details provided. If you have concerns, please contact our Human Resources Manager, Claudia, at [email protected].

“As the new CEO of All Hands and Hearts, I am thrilled to serve this vibrant, driven and powerful community of volunteers making change happen around the world when it is needed most.

I am aware of many important questions asked of us in social media recently. Regarding a small number of incidents in which volunteers were alleged to have suffered harm during their time with us, please let me be unreservedly clear: the safety and wellbeing of our people – community members, volunteers and staff alike – comes first for me and will always come first for our organization as long as I serve All Hands and Hearts.

I deeply apologize to those of you who felt unheard, unsupported or ignored when you raised concerns, because that is simply not the All Hands and Hearts that I joined, nor does it reflect the All Hands and Hearts community that has positively impacted the lives of millions.

All voices are essential to help us continuously learn and to improve our work. To do so we must listen, learn and respond. Please know that our statement is simply a starting point, signalling a new era and our public commitments. Far more important are the actions, plans and changes to our work that I have asked our teams to prioritize from my first day, including ending our relative silence when these issues are raised on social media. Within weeks, we will share our actionable commitments publicly so that you can see our plans and hold us to account.

The actions of a few individuals alleged to have broken our high standards are not representative of who we are as All Hands and Hearts. Those people are no longer part of our community, nor will they return. Their behaviour has no home here, and we will work tirelessly to ensure that all future volunteers and staff represent the best of All Hands and Hearts.

As those of you who have already met me know, I have made one thing clear in my first days as CEO: the wellbeing, safety and health of our people is the top priority. I look forward to that journey with you all, with equal parts hunger and humility to grow, and to building on the very best of this excellent organization powered by volunteers and partners like you.” – Perry Maddox, Chief Executive Officer

We will give an update on progress, and a number of other areas in which we are improving our systems, training, and culture, by January 5, 2022. Our work involves partnering with several external experts on a number of initiatives aimed at strengthening our SHEA policies, procedures and training.

We sincerely thank you for voicing your concerns. We will accountably provide updates on our progress in the future.

Sincerely,

The All Hands and Hearts Board of Directors and Leadership Team

Why We’re Here

Do no harm. First things first, we must do no harm. This imperative spans our work with communities, volunteers, staff and partners alike.

Sexual Misconduct is Unacceptable. Sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse must have no home in All Hands and Hearts.

What happened? We are aware of four allegations of sexual misconduct against: one staff member, one community member, and three volunteers from 2018 to present (Dec 10).  During this period we worked with >16,000 volunteers, hundreds of staff and thousands of community members,  but any one incident is one too many.

Our response to these incidents at the time included a support package for survivors (medical, travel, etc), full investigations and disciplinary action; however, our response and our care for survivors then was not to our standards today. Under our new CEO, we have publicly apologized and are pursuing restorative conversations with survivors, if welcomed by them.

Communications. When these issues were raised online in early 2021, our previous executive chose not to respond publicly, nor to update our staff or our leadership team. This led some survivors to feel unheard and to a loss of trust. Our new CEO changed this approach from day one in the role, communicating openly and transparently, while leading significant change organizationally.

Negative Social Media Conversations. 
A small group has taken their concerns to our social media channels, flagging the issues on our posts and sharing their concerns with others in a way that is monopolizing the conversation of improvement we are trying to put forth. We recognize that some of the points they are making are true which is why we have posted a statement and are working internally to make progress on restructuring our safety protocols.

However, even though we have tried to show and communicate our improvement, negative comments and confidential/private information continue to pop up on all of our posts which are not allowing our organization to show that we are taking the necessary steps that should come out of these incidents.

Survivors have asked us to stop these people from commenting, but the group:

1) continues to comment,

2) refuses our invitations to raise their concerns directly with our CEO, HR or Board,

3) fabricates malicious, intentional disinformation in a coordinated manner, and

4) personally attacks potential volunteers, staff, community members, donors, and even family members.

We continue to invite all into meaningful conversation and resolution, but no one from this group has taken us up on this opportunity instead, these constant negative comments divert our attention from survivors and inhibit our ability to listen, learn & respond.

A New All Hands and Hearts Era

2022 will be a year of strategic, organizational transformation. Building from strong foundations in our volunteer-powered model, can-do ethos, and track record of success, we also commit to continuous improvement and to making needed changes in light of these historic incidents.

Our biggest 2022 goal is to build All Hands and Hearts into a “High-Trust Organization” built around the principles of humanity, transparency, credibility and reliability.  Against this vision, six strategic goals will guide our work from January to September 2022.

Prevention of Sexual Misconduct is Fundamental to Our New Era
We are driving a significant change process, detailed on the following page, to upgrade our approach to sexual misconduct prevention.  We are not alone. Most responsible nonprofits have been doing the same in recent years in the wake of #MeToo, if not long before.

We will never be a High Trust Organization if our people are not protected from harm.

That starts with accountability. 

A core part of this change process is transparently communicating with our people, partners and supporters.

Recap of Steps Taken & To Come

Steps Already Taken & Complete

  • Independent Review. Commissioned an independent review from a field-leading expert to review our policies, systems & training. This found a broadly positive framework already in place and provided recommendations to strengthen
  • Accountable Action Plan. Shared review findings & action plan with board for accountability
  • Incident Review. Conducted a historical review of our incident files, looking for trends, patterns and risk factors
  • Senior Staffing. Director of Wellbeing role created and a new CEO hired with deep expertise in this space.
  • Communications. From day one, our new CEO is leading into this, speaking publicly and reversing the communication silence to date. We have opened transparent communications through forums for staff and volunteers to safely raise questions, concerns and ideas.
  • Accountable Commitments were published online in September 2021, along with FAQs added in the coming weeks.
  • Background checks have been rolled out to all selected volunteers

Steps in Motion 

Actions from the independent review are on track:

  • Ombudsman & Whistleblowing Replacing our current ombudsman (who is a board member) with an independent consultant, linked to an improved whistleblowing channel
  • New Policy & Training Frameworks are being developed in partnership with an expert humanitarian HR organization
  • Safeguarding Umbrella. We are tying together numerous policies to create a holistic ecosystem around safeguarding (Code of Conduct, Sexual Misconduct Policy, Whistleblower Policy,  Anti-Harassment, Bullying & Discrimination Policy, Prevention of SHEA of Program Participants and Community Members, Child Protection & Child Code of Conduct, Safe Recruitment & Selection, Safe Programming)
  • Survivor Outreach.  We are reaching out to all survivors, in a manner bespoke to each individual, if welcomed by them
  • Sector Engagement. Best practice learning & exchange continues

Insight Talks. Recognizing that structural factors are only part of preventing sexual misconduct, these talks with staff and volunteers will help to identify underlying cultural risk factors to address (i.e. alcohol, relationships on program).

Steps to Come in the New Year

Insight Talks. The Insight Talks will inform and shape our next steps in this change process. Findings from the insight talks will be presented to the Leadership Team and Board in February to shape the actions in our subsequent phase of continuous improvement to run through 2022.

A High Trust Organization. More broadly, our commitment to safeguarding aligns with our fiscal year 2022 goal of building a high trust organization via six areas:

    • Putting People First
    • Defining the Volunteer Experience
    • Gaining Strategic Clarity
    • Telling Our Story Fearlessly, with Pride
    • Building a High Performing Organization
    • Resetting Our Structure for FY23

These strategic goals are in draft and will be shared with all staff once finalized.

Continued Board Development.  With a few recent changes and a few resulting vacancies on the board, we are working with the board to ensure that they have the skills, representation, structures and systems needed to perform their critical oversight role in this area.

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