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It was April 17, 2020, the night before the vote, and Kelsey Wirth, co-founder and board chair of Mothers Out Front, a non-profit climate justice organization, wondered if its Massachusetts chapter had garnered sufficient support from its members to ratify their proposed new charter. It is essential to have our members bought into this, thought Wirth. The members have to feel like they own this next step in our evolution of Massachusetts.
The charter development team, dubbed Path to Power (P2P), had tried to address all the outstanding issues and concerns that had led to the initiative, but questions about decision-making authority, accountability, and representation remained unresolved. When each chapter’s delegates gathered for the State Assembly, two-thirds must vote yes if the charter were to be adopted. It wasn’t perfect, but if the charter did not pass, Wirth worried about how they would overcome the challenges facing the Mothers Out Front in Massachusetts.
The case goes on to detail the challenges which led the organization to undergo a months-long effort to develop a charter—namely, the need for a clear decision-making and leadership structure. Mothers Out Front had grown organically from a Massachusetts-based grassroots effort into a national organization, but its structure had not evolved to keep pace and as a result, tension began to build within the organization. Members began to question decisions made by the leadership team; the leadership team felt disempowered and lacking the authority to make strategic decisions. Without a clear structure and process, the organization lacked coordinated, strategic thinking driving decisions. The lack of clarity around decision-making and structure made it difficult for its volunteers to carry out the work of the organization.
Mothers Out Front leaders hired a team of consultants to guide them through the process of re-designing its structure in a way that engaged staff and volunteers throughout the organization. The case details every step in the process from assessing the current state of the organization and organizing internal teams, planning milestones, and surveying the membership to drafting and vetting a new structure and formally gaining buy-in from Mothers Out Front members.
Students will learn how to exercise leadership in:
Structuring the integration of local, state, and national strategy in constituency-based democratic organizations.
Legitimating authoritative leadership, decision making, and accountability through democratic processes.
Mobilizing the will to risk organizational transformation in a constituency-based volunteer organization.