"Same Brain, Different Operating System"
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Posted by: Leah Dean
The following article appeared on our "Let's F.E.A.ST." Blog:
I love metaphors. A few days ago on I scrolled by a meme
on Facebook related to autism awareness. It got me thinking about eating disorders and brain
science and my work with F.E.A.S.T., and I thought it would be a great title
for a blog entry, so here goes…
I’m sorry to disappoint anyone, but this isn't going to be
a blog on neuroscience or technology or even directly about eating disorders - it’s
about advocacy and relationship building and how F.E.A.S.T. works to support
our mission and achieve our goals.
I have been puzzled by the latest flurry of "old vs
new" attitudes between ED advocacy groups with similar goals which is
occurring on social media.
Of course some groups are older than others, but that
doesn't mean that a "new" approach is any better than another group's
"old" approach. Every group needs to work according to their own
operating structure, which will be different,
not "good /bad" or "old /new."
Basic Advocacy is Simple.
Anyone can advocate for something they believe in. On the
surface it is a simple recipe:
Along the way, you will probably find others with the
same goals. Collaboration is good and can broaden your voice; but, as a wise
friend once told me, collaboration is about relationships, and relationships
are far from simple.
F.E.A.S.T. began with simple. A group of parents found
each other through whatever networks they could - conferences, online groups,
letter writing, phone calls, etc. They identified a similar mission and similar
goals and they got to work. The “Around the Dinner Table” forum was the result
of that first effort, and continues to be a place for caregivers to connect and
share resources, experiences, and support each other through the crisis that is
a loved-one with an eating disorder.
This group realized that the ineffectiveness of many
eating disorder treatments, the lack of research, the lack of support for
families and the stigma around mental illness were creating huge barriers to understand
and treating eating disorders, and were breaking apart families needlessly.
By creating F.E.A.S.T., choosing a Board of Directors,
establishing a set of Principles, adopting by-laws, and filing for legal status
as a non-profit organization, F.E.A.S.T. was poised to start building relationships
with other organizations in the eating disorder community. As F.E.A.S.T.'s
membership grew, the voices of families and caregivers began to be heard by
professionals and other advocacy groups in the field.
Mission is to Empower Caregivers.
We do this in three ways:
2. We provide access to facts and resources for
caregivers to educate themselves and others about eating disorders.
3. We provide public spaces for discussion of ideas and
F.E.A.S.T.’s discussion spaces are public because we
believe transparency fosters a broader dissemination of ideas, and a broader
point of view for all stakeholders in the eating disorder community. F.E.A.S.T. does not censor discussions even
when they do not align with our principles and our discussion spaces are
moderated because we hold high standards of conduct.
Censorship is not the same thing as refusing to tolerate
bad behavior. Kindness and civility is our first and most important rule and we
will step in to stop personal attacks, or self-promotion and will occasionally
close down a thread when a discussion becomes disrespectful, hurtful, or when others
use F.E.A.S.T.’s spaces to promote their
own agendas, events, or initiatives without permission.
Censorship is also not the same as setting requirements for
participation. Our ATDT Forum is public for anyone on the internet to read;
however, only caregiving members may join the discussion. We have important
reasons why we do this, but that is the subject of another blog!
Relationships are Complicated.
F.E.A.S.T. believes that educating caregivers gives them
the tools to advocate, and we are excited to see new advocates starting new
groups with similar goals. Unfortunately, sharing goals doesn't always make for
effective collaboration with groups that have different missions, different strategies,
and different operating procedures. Alliances work when relationships work.
Relationships work when we respect each other's differences.
F.E.A.S.T. believes in a
collaborative approach to advocacy that requires mutual respect.
F.E.A.S.T. welcomes opportunities to collaborate with
other non-profit organizations in the eating disorder field, and individual
advocates and other advocacy groups working on specific initiatives. These
proposals are brought to a committee or the F.E.A.S.T. Board and discussed
before a decision is made to partner with or join an initiative, support a
position paper, publicize an event, etc.
F.E.A.S.T. understands that challenging an idea is different from challenging an
organization or an individual. F.E.A.S.T. believes in having difficult
conversations in order to open doors and build relationships. F.E.A.S.T. has never shied away from
criticizing ideas that contradict our principles or scientific fact, but we do
not find it productive to do so by publically putting a potential ally on the spot,
or by demanding insight into an organization’s internal operations or
F.E.A.S.T. plans its advocacy efforts through our Board
of Directors, Committees and Task Forces. We welcome new ideas, constructive
criticism, and individuals who want to join our volunteer pool and help with
specific tasks or programs. F.E.A.S.T. is only as strong as its members and its
relationships and we hope you will join us or work alongside us in the spirit
of respectful collaboration.
Executive Director, F.E.A.S.T.