Courage - Transparency - Innovative Leadership
Competence - Stewardship
These are the ideals, concepts and values that drive Petra Peacebuilders more than any other.
The Petra humanitarian community works in difficult places. Petra staff are prepared to go to difficult places to come alongside and support our valued colleagues. If there are peacebuilders and humanitarians there, if we can get access to them, and if we have the financial and logistical means to do so, we'd like to try.
Courage doesn't just mean physical bravery or moral courage in the field. Courage is also required to look deep within, to receive the type of support a group like Petra provides, to maybe even take a step back from the field even though there may be a price to do so. This kind of courage (which not everyone has) grants us healthier ways of being our best selves so that our organizations are run better and so that the communities we're serving are truly getting the best of what we have to offer.
In the aid and development world, it is a courageous step to admit our shortcomings, or perhaps to admit that we need time to heal. It's hard because there is often little to nothing built in to support that kind of approach -- we know this about the sector all too well! But you can do it, especially when there are others to support you. Petra lives to strengthen courageous leaders who don't let public opinion stop them. Together we find ways for you to prioritize your health when needed, so that you can get strong and stay strong in the field.
At Petra, transparency means wholesome honesty with oneself, and also with others. There's nothing we love more than helping people grow, deepen, and prosper. Transparency makes this growth possible.
Our staff is capable of accepting anything and everything you're willing to put on the table -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. Petra will openly walk with you through any situation you are facing. And if the depth of the matter exceeds our professional qualifications, we'll link you up with one of our partners who offers what you need.
We understand that facing the demons within and outside us in this crazy world of ours can be extremely daunting. It can be difficult to look in the mirror or face our circumstances to confront what we see there. This is especially true for people in our sector who see and experience really difficult situations, and who are taught or told that you have to be equally tough to make it. We realize that the sector itself doesn't do a great job about admitting weakness or needing help.
At Petra, however, we are dedicated to staying true to our motto of Strengthening Courageous Leadership. If you have the courage to face it, we definitely have the ability to stand with you and help you walk through it. If you're willing to look in the mirror and be transparent about what is there, then Petra is probably for you. We exist to passionately assist courageous individuals in the global humanitarian sector deal with all the junk and pain that's all around. It often requires getting a little messy.
Perhaps the sector hasn't done this kind of thing before, and it doesn't see the need for strategic coaching for resilience. Maybe your employer or colleagues can't imagine why we'd put energy and resources into peacebuilding and aid leaders when "we're already so underfunded..." These hindrances don't mean that a new approach isn't needed, regardless of the obstacles. The sector's lack of precedent in coaching support doesn't stop us here at Petra. We see a gaping human need and we aim to fill it to the best of our abilities, not only to decrease attrition but also because it's the right way to treat our people -- to the benefit of the sector as a whole.
Thinking and acting outside the box requires leadership. It requires not giving in to the negative messages of the naysayers and instead focusing on the mission at hand, choosing to galvanize the people who do begin to understand the need once it is clearly presented, who begin to realize that the business-as-usual approach is unsustainable because we're losing people who are too valuable to lose.
Peacebuilders out there: You're in your line of work because you believe there is a better way, one that challenges the status quo. We believe in your work, and we believe in you. We share your groundbreaking approach to our work. Our innovative and leadership-based approach means that with Petra, you have a like-minded partner, cheerleader, and companion on your journey.
Petra was founded to introduce life and organizational coaching into the peacebuilding and development sectors in order to complement the existing counseling and psychological intervention that's being done by some really incredible organizations. That's not to say that the boundaries of what we can competently offer don't occasionally cross over into certain aspects of psychology or counseling. But we won't reinvent the wheel in the counseling department when there are other partners out there who have been doing this longer than we have. Rather, our aim is to collaborate with the best possible agencies out there to provide transformative synergy by adding strategic coaching to the resilience mix. We will never offer services outside our stated capabilities, regardless of the enormity of the need (a need which can feel overwhelming). This means that whatever we put our hand to, you can count on our competence 100%.
At Petra we do believe there are certain qualities and competencies that our coaching staff and those with whom we collaborate simply must possess in order for us to provide the wider Petra peacebuilder community with the care they need. Two competencies are particularly important to us: A cross-cultural framework, and an understanding of the complexities of geopolitical conflict.
1. Cross-Cultural Framework
It is virtually impossible for the average counselor or psychologist, no matter how gifted or experienced, to truly meet the need of humanitarian professionals and peacebuilders without a thorough understanding of how cross-cultural work outside one's home country or with cross-cultural teams in one's own country affects the psyche. This is a conviction based in years of trial and error on the part of Petra's leadership to find competent help from professionals who really got it. The challenge is that there are so few counselors and coaches who have even a theoretical understanding of cross-cultural issues, much less who possess experiential wisdom based in their own work abroad. At Petra, we firmly prioritize both.
The disappointing lack of a cross-cultural framework within existing intervention options is an enormously important part of why Petra was even founded. When clients come to us for help, we know exactly what they're talking about...because we've been there too.
2. Understanding of Geopolitics & International Conflict
An informed geopolitical understanding means that Petra staff are equipped and prepared to skillfully relate to peacebuilders involved in nation building at the highest levels. Working in difficult regions, managing corruption, negotiating for humanitarian access, juggling less-than-optimal relationships with local and government ministers and other foreign partners...this is your life. We get it. We've lived it too.
Coaches and counselors in your home country probably can't fully understand your frustrations in the field, but we do. We've not only studied these areas, having picked apart the theoretical elements of conflict and development, but we have working knowledge as well. In the context of a training or coaching relationship with Petra staff, you don't have to expend your limited energy in trying to paint a picture that we will understand, the way you would have to with other coaches or counselors who want to help but lack the frame of reference to do so without the shared background and experience -- this can be so exhausting.
We understand you. This means you can dedicate your time and energy, with our help, to putting into place systems that are going to work for you in the long run. No time wasted on getting on the same page. You don't have time for that!
We also believe that a conflict-sensitive and trauma-sensitive approach to staff care is 100% non-negotiable. Realizing that every single person who comes to us may have had traumatic encounters in the field immediately means that you're in a safe place where you can expect sympathetic intervention.
At Petra, stewardship is one of our favorite words. But what is stewardship, exactly?
- 'The activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something'
- 'An ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources'
- 'Acceptance or assignment of responsibility to shepherd and safeguard the valuables of others'
To whom much is given, much is required, and we take that seriously. Petra possesses an incredible vision for how personnel resilience can and should be mainstreamed in the sector, and we steward that vision to the best of our ability. The vision is modeled in our own Petra community, which includes our own staff as well as the clients who share their lives with us and entrust their enhanced resilience to our care.
First and foremost we steward the vision for resilience from an organizational standpoint as resilience leaders and champions within the sector, but our approach to stewardship is quite comprehensive, encompassing the following elements.
Mental & Emotional Stewardship
This is why Petra exists, after all: Because people aren't machines, and peacebuilders need like-minded professionals to walk alongside them, strengthening them in order to maximize who they can be and what they can achieve in their important work. Petra staff models this type of stewardship and never expects anyone else to do what we ourselves don't do. This means that we as Petra coaches and mentors have our own coaches and mentors who push us and care for us, just like we push you while caring for you, too.
Financial Stewardship as an Organization
Like any organization, we need proper financing to run our operations. But we're in this because we care about our clients and we love the work. There's other consulting and coaching we could be doing and making a lot more, but we've chosen to invest in the Petra community of peacebuilders for the sake of the sector.
Much of the aid and development world is used to throwing around big grants by the millions in order to show that the funds were fully spent in order to qualify for similar amounts in the next round. That is not us. Each project budget is carefully planned so as to maximize every donor dollar and every client's fee-for-service contribution. The same goes for all of Petra's operations: We take pride in doing more with less.
Scholarship recipients chosen to participate in Petra programming based on demonstrated financial need should also recognize the sacrificial nature of a large part of Petra's donor base. We take the stewardship of our donor dollars very seriously.
Physical Stewardship of our Bodies
In the field, our bodies take a beating. Often we're working long hours in intense projects, and who has time to be proactive about eating well and exercising when you're merely trying to survive out there! Even when you do have the margin, fresh fruits and vegetables can be hard to come by, or are only seasonal. Similarly, outdoor time, yoga and other healthy physical activity seem to be luxuries that we can't always afford due to our circumstances.
With the belief that mental, physical and spiritual health (and unhealth) are symbiotic, Petra is committed to incorporating physical health and wellness into all aspects of our programming. Environment is important; so are healthy food and exercise. At a Petra retreat, we'll help model physical health as best we can, to inspire and encourage you to live in a happier body while doing fieldwork and elsewhere. You may need to exercise like there's no tomorrow to release pent-up stress; you may need to fortify your body with all the good nutrients you've been missing, or maybe you just need to sleeeeeep way more than you normally would. In any case, a Petra retreat is tailored to your individual needs. Likewise with our field-based coaching: We help you craft a healthy, workable program that works for your circumstances in the field.
Relational Stewardship within the Petra community
We view the whole Petra Peacebuilders operation primarily as a comprehensive Petra community of peacebuilders. On a professional basis, people come to us as clients, meaning that all professional standards of confidentiality and the utmost in care and appropriate follow-up are given. Beyond the professional relationship, however, Petra is a community of humanitarians and peacebuilders who all identify with the concept that we can't do this alone and that we all need support.
We do not -- and cannot -- do humanitarian work in isolation. Yet it's amazing how isolated we can feel in the field. Maybe your philosophy or approach differs from those of our colleagues, which can be devastating when you're really invested in your work. Maybe there are difficult cultural stressors, or maybe you truly are alone. Our hope is that within the Petra community, you'll benefit from your encounters both with specialized Petra staff and also with other community members like yourself who will be a blessing and inspiration to you, both personally and professionally.
With these life-giving exchanges in mind, Petra is committed to providing a platform for Petra community members to interact, support, strengthen and collaborate with one another by virtue of belonging to the same Petra community. In its programming, Petra does all it can to promote these symbiotic, life-giving relationships among colleagues that extend far beyond the current Petra training or retreat at hand.
As with our approach to finances, at Petra we believe that our physical environment is a gift and the resources in it are to be stewarded responsibly. In aid and development we aim to "do no harm"; we'd like to see more of that in our approach to the environment, and Petra is prepared to lead upward in this area.
Our goal is to have our own leadership resilience training center for hosting trainings and retreats of all kinds in our very own locale. In keeping with our commitment to environmental stewardship, Petra Peacebuilders' future training center will have eco-consciousness at its core, with renewable power generation, organic gardens for onsite farm-to-table, water recycling system, and more. To keep our carbon footprint to the bare minimum (and also because we know people will love them!), Petra's future training center will invest in simple yet stylish environmentally-friendly alternative lodging -- like yurts and domes -- alongside modern conference facilities and other 'traditional' accommodation as needed.
The experience of Petra's founder Bianca Neff of living in a yurt since 2012 is a big impetus behind this simplified approach to the environment. We believe simple living that forces you to pay more attention to your natural environment is good for your soul, good for your body, and good for your work in the world. In addition to just being super fun, an environmentally-friendly approach to life inspires health, perspective and transformation. Petra is a leader in that we have tried living outside of the box, and it works. It is our joy and privilege to lead the Petra community with this simple, eco-conscious approach, living it out together as we steward the wellness of our physical environment even as we steward our own.