Restructuring Our Organization to Accomplish Our Mission

What could a structure make possible for accomplishing an organization’s social change mission?

In 2015, Creating the Future’s community began exploring that question, investigating what it might look like if Creating the Future’s organizational structure was an active participant in accomplishing our mission.

The discussion arose from months of realizing the influence of structure on the following systems:

  • Decision-making and leadership
  • Coordination of activities and relationships
  • People-infrastructure – support for bringing out the best in people
  • Stuff-infrastructure – everything from administrative support to website support, from resources (including but not limited to money) to regulatory compliance
  • Connecting, engaging, inviting, welcoming, network weaving

Using Catalytic Thinking, these discussions began with the question of what we wanted a structure to accomplish, and then backed out the pre-conditions for success.

What could a structure make possible for accomplishing Creating the Future’s mission?

Our board and community members talked about the need for

  • A structure that will create and hold the space for the viral spread of ideas and approaches that bring out the best in people
  • A structure that will create and hold the space for activities to accomplish that mission, and the people talking action.
  • A structure that will actively model our values in action, as defined by the Pollyanna Principles and put into action through the practices of Catalytic Thinking.

Our research into this subject has included a review of the current thinking in organizational structure - the Holacracy model, the Beta Codex model, the Reinventing Organizations work of Frederic Laloux, and the immense depth of resources at the P2P Foundation. Conversations with people who were actively restructuring their own work were shared with our community as well, including many conversations with board members and staff at Enspiral, a global leader in implementing a new way of imagining organizational structures.

We shared our evolving thinking with the audience at Stanford Social Innovation Review, in an article titled Building Movements, Not Organizations.

What has emerged is an organizational design that represents more of an ecosystem than a traditional organization. Decision-making will be local, made by the people affected by the decision. Importantly, the purpose of the organization will be the support one finds as part of an ecosystem. An ecosystem provides support to its inhabitants, and a space where the interdependence of those beings can flourish. That will be the role of this organization - a place where folks whose work accomplishes our own mission can find support, and can find others to connect with. The key to all of this working is that it is rooted in Catalytic Thinking, which ensures that our values are being upheld.

Given that decisions will be made by the people affected, and that the board will therefore NOT be making decisions, the next design element to consider was the role of the board within this structure, given that a corporation is legally required to have a board. (You can follow the discussions with this category link for Organizational Structure at our blog.)  In 2019, the role of the board became clear as an "Integrity Board," the group that will be an ongoing monitor to ensure our actions are walking the talk of our values.

Because this is all part of an ongoing experiment in systems change, these conversations will continue to produce new thinking about organizational structures that can serve as a vehicle to propel social change. We invite you to participate in these conversations and to learn alongside us on that journey. All meetings are announced in our newsletter.