The Jordan Institute for Families team is growing. In the process, we wanted to explore ways to create roles and positions that model what we hope to create – mutual support, shared decision-making, collaboration, and respect. Interested in exploring new approaches to community engagement and leadership, we searched for alternative structures that would align with the Institute’s commitment to social justice. A core component of an authentic pursuit of social justice is acknowledgment of the roles systems, such as systems of higher education, can play in perpetuating inequality and traditional power structures within our society.
Many conventional leadership roles are suggestive of a hierarchical and patriarchal system, conferring power and authority to a select few, with limited emphasis on community and the value of co-creation and collaboration.
Tema Okun’s work on dismantling white supremacy culture within organizations offers many key “antidotes” to promote equity within organizational cultural. With these ideas in mind, we surveyed peer academic institutions and non-profit organizations to explore alternative leadership models that promote equity and access. Below are two examples of a collective community approach to leadership that promote equity in leadership and organizational culture.
One organization is CommunityWise Resource Centre, a non-profit support and advocacy hub in Alberta, Canada. CommunityWise offers a resource guide for organizations beginning to do the work of adopting an anti-racist framework. A key component of the framework is a need for organizational readiness for real, substantive change, which can include adopting a non-hierarchical and consensus-based decision-making framework.” Also known as a collective decision-making. At CommunityWise, staff are organized a collective with a division of labor according to experience and ability. This collective model supports the growth and professional development of all members from staff to board members to interns and volunteers.
Another example of collective, collaborative work that is specific to academic scholarship is The SRG [Sexuality/Relationships/Gender] Research Collective housed at the University of Michigan. The SRG Research Collective is a collaborative group of research scholars and students engaged in interdisciplinary, intersectional research in a community-driven and inclusive context.
- Build Trust,
- Co-Construct Shared Purpose and Plans,
- Act Together, and
- Sustain the Work
These steps highlight the person-centered nature of collective leadership and the key role that community plays in developing a sustainable, collaborative leadership model.
Considering a similar approach within an organization like The Jordan Institute, we could imagine collective leadership as a supportive, engaged group of interdisciplinary scholars working collaboratively toward the synthesis of human knowledge and co-creation of equitable policies and practices that support families and communities. This type of communal, leadership, incorporating shared responsibility and decision-making offers one potential path towards creating an organization that is supportive, dynamic and inclusive both in mission and in practice.