Walking the Talk: Balance, Transparency, and a New YearRachel Clark
2021 has been a big year. To no one’s surprise.
As we close out on this chapter, our team wanted to take a moment to be transparent with our supporter base about where we’re currently at, what’s delayed, and where we’re going to be reigning in our work.
Spoiler alert: The punchline of this article is that DanceSafe is pretty much going offline for the last two weeks of the year.
For those of you who don’t know, DanceSafe has five staff members and about a dozen contractors. That’s the full extent of our team. We have dozens of projects on the backburner at any given moment, while fielding hundreds of DMs per week and thousands of emails every month. We are constantly balancing the need to do our work properly with the urgency of responding in a timely manner when things go wrong. (And in this field, things go wrong all the time.)
Some of our projects have been delayed for years. (Read: Years.) Behind the scenes, things are moving at the speed of light. As an organization that places heavy emphasis on workplace culture and employee health, we sometimes need to say no to forward momentum when it is clear that our team simply cannot work at a sustainable pace.
The last few months, for instance, have been largely dedicated to onboarding a new staff member, redesigning many of our existing systems and materials, and slowly and carefully beginning to rebuild our existing Chapters.
In the past two years it has often felt like there is always an urgent new issue that needs to be dealt with immediately, be it a discrepancy in fentanyl strip sensitivity, the California fires that evacuated our lab, the Astroworld tragedy, spades of fentanyl-related deaths in various regions, mysterious health problems, bizarre MDMA reactions with Simon’s, the emergence of eutylone, and so on (and so on… and so on…). Not to even mention the ongoing global pandemic. All of these urgent matters delay other projects, and everything is important in different ways.
Doing this kind of work also means that it is essential to be as up-to-date as possible on an infinite number of adjacent topics. Our staff spends hundreds of hours communicating with impacted communities, learning new things, researching relevant material, and studying dynamic systems and workflow optimization. It is honestly impossible to understate how complex it is to balance productivity, ethics, and health in this field.
For these reasons, we will generally be stepping away from work until 2022. Some of our staff have experienced significant personal hardships this year. We’ve been able to take small breaks here and there, but sometimes a longer pause is needed.
Before we do so, we’d like to shed some light on what, exactly, we’re currently working on. This is just a snapshot of some of our larger projects that you can expect to see in the near future.
WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO
- Expanding our team and processes
- Revamping instructions for all of our drug checking materials (reagents & strips)
- Revamping our cocaine testing kit
- Developing our FTIR training series, to begin deploying our FTIR machines at events
- Finishing articles pertaining to the Astroworld tragedy, including how-to guides around essential emergency response
- Preparing additional #WeLoveConsent materials, particularly a campaign addressing power dynamics in collaboration with Mimi Page, Goodnight Out Vancouver, and RAINN
- Designing new merch for release
- Fundraising for, and then crafting and executing, a massive fentanyl awareness campaign
- NOTE: donations of $1,000 or more are matched through the end of the year, up to $40,000. This means that, including a $60k initial donation, we could bring in $140,000 in the next two weeks to dedicate towards fentanyl awareness.
- You can donate to support this effort at donate.dancesafe.org. Remember: All donations are essential for us to continue expanding our work, but donations of $1,000 or more are doubled until 12/31/21.
- Preparing to launch the Test It! Advocacy program, a workshop & webinar program around organizing and lobbying in support of drug checking policies
- Reorganizing our internal structures, frameworks, and processes around operations and workflows
- Developing our first ever Outreach Coordinator program, wherein Chapter Officers and long-standing volunteers are paid to oversee National events
- Editing and rewriting our existing drug information
- Expanding our reagent test kit manufacturing operations to meet growing demand
- Auditing every single page of our website and flagging material to be corrected
- Identifying and implementing a new volunteer CRM
- Engaging in DEI training
- Writing and releasing an internal COVID policy
- Revitalizing existing Chapters that have lost momentum and capacity due to the pandemic
- Expanding the quality and intentionality of our content across all social media platforms
- Engaging in relationship building with dozens of other organizations and individuals in risk reduction, benefit maximization, and beyond
- Our website/brand refresh has hit some significant snags and delays. While it remains a top priority for us, it is going to take a bit more time.
- Much of the content on our website will be revamped and edited for accuracy and clarity, which is an arduous process.
- Drug checking instructional videos have been in our backlog for as long as we can remember.
- We have been delaying the process of recording and releasing instructional videos because of the amount of essential internal work that needs to come first.
- Producing new educational materials is very important to us, but we need to ensure that anything we put out is vetted, accurate, and in line with our values. This means that we are taking our time and releasing content slowly and steadily as we are able.
- Revamping and expanding our volunteer training has also been on our minds for quite some time, but it will need to wait until our other ducks are in a row.
WHAT WE’RE REIGNING IN
- We are not establishing any new Chapters at this time, and we are prioritizing the re-launch of dormant existing Chapters based on the volume of interest.
- Our capacity for outreach may be more limited as we restructure and improve our existing systems.
- We’ve previously been able to supply consistent and in-depth back-and-forth responses to questions over DMs, which is unsustainable for a team of our size. Going forward, we will be implementing auto-responders in some areas and supplying lists of resources rather than directly answering most questions.
- Some of our favorites for drug information are www.psychonautwiki.org, www.erowid.org, www.bluelight.org, www.examine.com, and www.thedrugclassroom.com.
- You can check some interactions at www.tripsit.me as well as www.drugs.com.
- We’ve already answered most of the questions we receive in our Instagram highlights, found at www.instagram.com/dancesafe_. This includes lots of Q&A about drug checking.
- Pretty much everything you need to know about our kits/strips is written on the instructions that come with them. These instructions are also in PDF form on shop pages at www.dancesafe.org/shop.
- All questions about orders should always be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- We are all offline on the weekends, with very rare exceptions. Please keep this in mind if a response seems delayed.
- We receive many inquiries about collaboration, offers to help, and opportunities to get involved in movements or projects, but we are simply overflowing right now. We will be focusing on finishing our existing projects and improving what we currently have going on before we accept most new opportunities.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHILE WE’RE OFFLINE
- Social media content is almost always scheduled in advance and then checked up on by our one (1) part-time (part-time!) education manager. While some social media content will likely still be getting pushed out, we may or may not be around to moderate it.
- This might mean that we turn off commenting on some posts, as a measure of ensuring that no hate speech or violence takes place in the comment sections without us being there to respond to it. (Yes, this happens.)
- Our responsiveness over DMs will dwindle significantly during this period.
- Our store will be closing on the 24th and 31st, during which times our customer service (email@example.com) will be slower to respond.
- All inquiries regarding event staffing should be directed to the Chapter nearest you via their social media or email. As always, there is no guarantee that a Chapter will be available to staff your event, especially on short notice.
We are all human and we all struggle with personal and work-related challenges, especially given the fact we are entering year 3 of a global pandemic. We hope that this insight into the inner workings of DanceSafe provides some clarity into what we can say yes to, and what we must say no to right now (in other words, we’re setting our boundaries!). If you have suggestions or feedback that you would like to supply, you can use this form to do so.
We’re dizzy with gratitude for the amount of growth that we have been able to experience this year, as an organization, as a team, and as individuals. It’s time for us to take a rest.
Thank you for being here with us, and we cannot wait to return in full force – after we’ve taken a pause to recuperate, rejuvenate, and care for ourselves. Get ready for it.
All our love,
The DanceSafe Team