Only a few get to do what they truly love in life.
It is a special privilege to be able to work in the animal rights sector and to work on promoting veganism in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It is an even bigger privilege and honor to be a part of a big conference whose goal is the empowerment of vegan activists.
Perhaps just now, Ajdin Arnautović might be able to fathom this amazing opportunity and how much it has changed him.
We wanted to share with you a little fraction of his experience while attending the conference.
Continue reading to see everything he has learned during the “LEAD for Farmed Animals” conference, which took place in Newport Beach.
I found out about the LEAD conference through LinkedIn and, according to the description, I had a great desire to participate in such an event.
The conference was of a free character with mandatory registration and filling out a form that had certain questions, such as: are you a vegan, do you professionally engage in animal rights activism, do you work in an animal rights organization, etc.
However, in order to cover your travel and accommodation expenses, it was definitely necessary that you meet certain criteria, such as that the organization you come from has demonstrated certain successes, and that your income and the organization’s budget itself do not exceed a certain amount.
I filled out the form and after a few days I received an affirmative answer about my participation in it.
Unfortunately, here in the Balkans, we do not have conferences of this type, i.e. conferences that gather and empower activists for animal rights, and especially for the rights of farm animals.
Although the LEAD conference was primarily attended by activists from the United States, there were also activists from around the world, from Asia and Europe.
The most fascinating thing for me is that I had the opportunity to meet activists live this time and organizations that I previously learned about or spent time with them over the screen while we attended some online educations together.
Networking meant the most to me, because otherwise it is not easy to connect with activists from the USA, especially if you take into account that you come from the first registered organization in BiH that deals with this topic, and taking into account the fact that in the areas of former Yugoslavia, veganism as a movement is significantly less developed than in Western Europe, and especially in the USA. It was great to meet people who have been doing this for much longer. Their advice to continue my work is invaluable.
It’s really hard to single out one lecture from a lot of great educations. It is important to mention that the entire concept of the LEAD conference is conceived on two types of sub-training, one for activists who work directly on campaigns for animal rights, and the other for activists who lead organizations and work with people/activists for animal rights.
The first concept is based on empowering activists to work on campaigns, improving their skills for executing projects, media and activist empowerment, as well as education in the field of projects such as effective advocacy, project evaluation, etc., while the second concept is based on working with leaders, managers and directors of organizations who work with other activists within their organization, and many topics were related to mental health of activists, organizational strategy, leadership empowerment, etc.
I especially liked how much attention is paid to the mental health of activists.
Many people do not know the fact that animal rights activists belong to the categories of marginalized groups, because the work we do can be very mentally exhausting, especially if we are talking about activists who work directly with animals, such as vigils, rescues, filming inside slaughterhouses, etc.
It is even more important if you consider that our organization is the pioneer of this movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It often happens that in an organization, no matter how small or big it is, you have people who are very ambitious for the goal, but in such work the prevention of burnout and the mental health of activists is crucial for the realization of that goal.
Since these lectures, I try to pay more attention to my mental health, and that of other VivaBiH employees.
“As knowledge increases, wonder deepens” – Charles Morgan
All our knowledge and experience show their value over time. Ajdin had an extraordinary opportunity to attend a major conference, the likes of which will probably not be held in Europe for a long time, and especially not in in the Balkans. He had the opportunity to learn from people who are top in their field and we look forward to his progress.
One of the main lessons that led the whole conference is “kind leader”. In every successful movement and revolution, the common thing is not perfect leaders, but many imperfect kind/good leaders.
I would also like to mention the so-called Iceberg model. What somehow makes a successful activist, organization or movement is only a small part of our success and the result that the public has the opportunity to see, and behind the success and those results, there is a lot hidden that is not visible at first and often these are things that are the opposite of comfort, because it is precisely in these stressful, unpleasant and thorny situations that we make the most progress.
There are many things I learned at the conference, but I believe that the acquaintances I made at the conference will make the biggest difference in the future for our work.
In this way, VivaBiH became quite recognizable in the activist circles of the USA, but certainly acquired knowledge about preserving mental health because we spend most of our time working, being in the office and developing effective campaigns and strategies, and if such an environment does not fulfill us, it is clear that we cannot be productive and successful people outside of work.
I would also highlight some strategic techniques such as self-assessment and theory of change that I had the opportunity to learn. All of this will be used by VivaBiH as an organization to acquire a more precise and effective strategy and methods for achieving the mission of VivaBiH, and there is also the already mentioned knowledge about preserving mental health.