From Iimay Ho, Executive Director:
Since April 2020 the National Member Phoenix has been hard at work hearing from members and working with staff and board to develop a proposed new member leadership structure. You can learn more about their journey in this blog post. After much discussion, reflection, and gathering feedback, they’re excited to announce the new structure and process for joining the National Member Council (NMC) 2.0!
But first, some background! Since February of 2020 the RG staff team have been implementing Collab. Developed by Round Sky Solutions, Collab is a cooperative meeting, decision-making, and collaborative project management process that cultivates shared power and decentralized leadership. Collab is being implemented as a whole by various organizations in the cooperative and solidarity economy movement, but many of the parts that make up Collab have been around for quite some time and are used widely, such as Sociocracy/Holacracy, consensus decision-making, and the Business Model Canvas
We decided as a full staff to implement Collab after many years of grappling with questions about structure and decision-making aligning with purpose and values. As a cross-class, multi-racial staff, we are dedicated to aligning our internal staff practices with our anti-oppression and social justice values, and found it increasingly difficult to do so within a more traditional nonprofit hierarchy. After many experiments in more decentralized leadership, like collaborative budgeting, rotating facilitation for staff and team retreats, forming short-term cross-team committees (including committees that members from the NMC 1.0 joined), and more, we decided that we needed more transformative change.
As staff have been moving towards more collaborative leadership, so have our chapters, several of which have implemented Sociocracy. We see a clear desire from staff and members to balance role clarity with shared decision-making.
And so we have embarked on our Collab journey as a staff and board. Some things haven’t changed very much – our love for very long and quirky check-ins, emphasis on accountability and self-reflection, and our culture of teamwork and celebration are very much intact. Some things have changed a lot, namely our staff structure. Teams/scopes and roles are one of the key mechanisms in Collab that allow us to distribute power. Clearly defining a team or a role’s responsibility gives people a clear boundary within which they can make decisions on their own, as long as they are carrying out the purpose for which they were created.
So now we have large teams/scopes like Exec, Operations, Organizing, and Communications, Database, & Digital Engagement. Subscopes of those teams include Basebuilding and Leadership Development, Resource Mobilization, and College Organizing. Members of these scopes and subscopes set their own goals and move forward their work with autonomy, while sending representatives to larger scopes to share information and weigh in on decisions that may impact their scope.
I know not everyone is as nerdy about organizational development as I am, so thank you for reading through this important background information. We’re excited to include member leaders in our new structure! The NMC Implementation Team will share more on the specifics below.
From the NMC Implementation Team:
We did it! By working collaboratively with representatives from the staff and board–and by conducting a massive survey last spring to ensure we were being accountable to what you, our fellow members, want and need to do your best organizing–the National Member Phoenix has gotten approval from the staff and board to create a new National Member Council, which will be integrated into the staff and board’s organizational structure.
This is a big deal! For the first time in RG’s history, members will be sharing power with the staff and board by sending representatives from chapters to work within the national org structure. We chose this path forward because we felt it would best address the areas of growth that were highlighted in the Listening Project Survey (see previous post). Among the opportunities were: (1) Better connecting member-leaders across chapters so we can learn, support, and build together; (2) Continuing the work to take our organizing beyond moving money; (3) Building deeper relationships between members, staff, and board to grow our power as an organization and foster better communication, transparency, accountability, and trust; and (4) To further develop the leadership of our members to take our work to the next level as a whole org, moving together. Importantly, the NMC will also participate in strategic decision-making, starting with the multi-year strategic planning process beginning this summer.
In order to truly have power-with relationships with the staff and board, the NMC will be a full “subscope” or sub-team of the Organizing Team (TOTs) and have reciprocal representation on TOTs (the organizing team made of staff responsible for our regional organizing, campaign work, resource mobilization, and national retreats) the Chapter Organizing / Base Building, Leadership Development team (aka BBLD; collaboration of staff organizers to focus on basebuilding and leadership development throughout all chapters); and the Board–i.e. there will be an NMC rep on each of those bodies and a rep from each on the NMC. This means that member reps will participate in decision-making impacting members on key teams up and down the organization and that the NMC will be working together with reps from the staff and board on member-led areas of our work.
The NMC itself will be made up of representatives from its own “subscopes” or sub-teams. These subscopes offer an important connection between members and the NMC. We’ve grown enough as an organization that the NMC can’t possibly represent all chapters or member experiences without becoming unwieldy. We hope subscopes can function as a link for chapters/members who don’t have direct representation on the NMC to stay connected with NMC work and with each other!
After much consideration, we landed on subscopes organized by chapter size or type rather than by region because we believe connecting this way will foster the most learning, support, and organizing together and prevent large chapters from dominating the NMC. The five subscopes will be: Large, Medium, and Small/Emerging Chapters, College chapters, and At-Large Members. There will be general guidelines about joining subscopes, but chapters will ultimately get to choose the subscope they feel will be most useful for them. Sending a representative is not required, but it is strongly encouraged as we believe chapters of every size and type will benefit from participating in the NMC.
This new National Member Council will be made up of the following seats:
1 Large Chapters seat
1 Medium Chapters seat
1 Small & Emerging Chapters seat
1 College Chapters seat
1 At-large seat
Staff & Board
1 TOTs seat
1 BBLD seat
1 Board seat
So how do you get your chapter involved? A great first step is to send your chapter leaders to the webinar that the NMC Implementation Team will be running to go over details covered in this blog post, answer any questions, explain how to choose a rep, and share the overall roll-out timeline. The webinar is scheduled for Sunday, February 28th from 4-6pm EST/1-3pm PST. Follow the link here to register. We look forward to seeing you there!