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ID: 920

Type of submission: Oral

Conference track: Practice

Topics: Peer-Driven Treatment, Care and Harm Reduction; Sex Work and Harm Reduction

Presenting author: Sandra Wesley

Presenting author biography:

Sandra Wesley is the Executive Director of Stella, l'amie de Maimie, an organisation by and for sex workers based in Montreal since 1995.

HR management in a "by and for" organisation: making room for experiential knowledge and creating winning conditions for "peers"

Sandra Wesley

The desire to include peers (in terms of drug use, sex work experience, mental health variations, etc.) as employees of harm reduction programs, either in a "by and for" organisation or as a project of a non-peer led organisation often leads to difficulties in creating a work environment that allows peers to thrive. Issues of employee retention, of integration in a more formal work environment, of interactions with a hierarchal structure, of tensions between employees hired on the basis of lived experience and those hired on the basis of academic achievement, as well as many other issues around the use of HR policies are frequently observed. These may lead to peers feeling exploited or otherwise devalued. We believe the onus is on the management team to adapt the workplace and create winning conditions.

In Stella's document "Trajectoires des pairEs", a study of the various Montreal-based STI prevention programs with a peer component, we explore the diversity in these programs, in the level of involvement in decision making and in the working conditions offered.

This presentation will explore what HR policies work (and don't work!) at Stella and how we choose to make room and adapt our management style to the needs of the people we wish to hire, their diverse lifestyles, experiences, and expectations from their employer. We will discuss decision making, training, supervision, evaluations, schedules, salary, conflict resolution, advancement and work organisation as well as overarching organisational values and philosophies we can pull from when grappling with these issues.