Thursday, July 27, 2006


How Are We Doing?

As organizers, as activists for social justice, as people, we are all busy. Our schedules are full of meetings, talks, information gathering, grant writing, blogging, press releases, conducting trainings, locating outreach targets, and just doing the administrative tasks that keep an organization afloat. So sometimes we forget to examine how we do things within the organization or how we are functioning. We're so busy trying to get everything done that we focus almost exclusively on the external. How many new members do we need to recruit? What legislative districts do we need to target? What message do we need to put out to the media?

So today, it was nice to take a step away from the external. Randy Tatel (our E.D.), Amy Staples (TCASK Board Chair), and I attended an all day workshop, "Making Your Board Effective." Now we got a lot of interesting perspective, new tools, and peer feedback, but for me, the most important part of the day was simply the opportunity to set aside time to think, not about how TCASK was affecting the Tennessee community, but about how TCASK internal mechanisms are functioning. Truly focusing only on the boards functioning and the relationship between board and staff offered a chance to assess what we need to improve upon internally.

Every organization recognizes the need for a functional organizational culture. But I think that it is often pushed to the back burner, to the bottom of our priority list. We have executions scheduled or an execution coming up. We have talks to give and new partners to cultivate. So we always think we can do the internal development later. But really, we need to respect how essential developing an effective board, or active chapters, or a productive and healthy staff environment is, because it's those things that make the external work that we do so effective.

For my part, I think we need to do more of this. One great way is annual retreats for the staff and for the board. Now currently our staff is only two, so this may not be necessary, but as we add additional staff we should think about an annual staff retreat focused on the internal functioning of the organization. And a board retreat is something that we've talked about, but has never made it very high up the priority list. Well, I'm not on the board, but my advice is, move it up, and use that time, not to make decisions about TCASK's future, but to talk about how well the board is working, and how it can function even more efficiently to lead us to our goal.

Taking the time to look inwards will improve our work outwards.
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