In order to create these structures, roles and organizational models and identity, CPC worked with two consultants in 2015 and 2016; Marquez Rhyne formerly of Highlander Center and Kate Shapiro of Southerners on New Ground (SONG).
Our work with Marquez was focused on creating a practice of co-learning with other movement building organizations across the South, which resulted in carrying out interviews with Nikki Brown from Spirit House and Kate Shapiro from SONG, and weaving what we learned from those interviews into our process. During a two day staff retreat Marquez focused on evaluating staff and decision making structures of CPC in order to be intentional about not replicating oppressive systems and dynamics.
Through our work with Marquez we recognized that we were operating under the false assumption that CPC staff shared vision and analysis on leadership, power (both implicit and explicit), language justice, and racial equity. We learned that without addressing the gaps in our analyses we would continue to replicate and reinforce the systems of oppression that we seek to transform.
Marquez recommended that we first needed to engage in a process to establish shared language and analysis. It required exploration of our multiple identities, our access to privilege and power and the ways in which we experience oppression and superiority (ie, immigration status, language, gender, race, class, ability, etc), and to deepen our analyses individually and collectively while strengthening our relationships through honest and open dialogue.
Following this analysis and trust building process, as per Marquez’s second recommendation, we revised our mission, vision, values and organizational strategies to reflect more accurately who we had become as an organization.
In preparation for working with our second consultant, Kate Shapiro, Full Circle conducted an evaluation of staff structures. We knew that in order to widen our structure to allow for non-staff community members to make decisions within CPC, our staff structures needed to be clear and healthy first. Below are necessary elements in order for our circular structure to function as an effective model for movement building that emerged from this evaluation:
- Meeting regularly to plan, strategize and evaluate, providing connection as an antidote to isolation
- Collaboration built on a foundation of love, respect and communication
- Prioritizing healing practices
- Creativity and imagination matched with discipline, accountability and commitment
- Intentionality and flexibility
- Trust in decision makers coupled with clarity on who makes what decisions, why, and processes for accountability
- A culture of leadership as stewardship, with transparency and dialogue around decision making
- Specialized and focused roles, with flexibility to transform and grow in service of the work
- Clear processes and practices to manage conflict between staff
- Sustainability to be created by all staff, not held on shoulders of few
- Honest communication about staff’s commitment towards the organization, in order to push for major shifts within the organization, staff must commit to seeing it through
With this evaluation in mind, Kate Shapiro facilitated a day long CPC staff retreat that focused on our decision making processes, the power and responsibilities associated with different CPC staff roles, and analyzing what the moment in WNC was calling for in terms of building leadership in our communities and movement. The goal of our work with Kate was to have more clarity on organizational structure as it relates to community leadership, to identify key gaps and needs for roles in the organization, and to have clarity on agreements concerning staff decision making.
At this retreat we also decided to create a membership structure, and determined that the board’s role in 2017 would be to create that structure.
The impact of this learning process, including the opportunity to co-learn through interviewing movement partners, has been completely transformational for CPC. We hope that our learnings are meaningful to other organizers, builders, strategists, and change makers as well.