How would organizational effectiveness be different from a social justice movement frame?

Reflections from the 2010 GEO conference from Bo Thao-Urabe, BRIDGE Director about organizational effectiveness using NGEC’s framework.

Social Justice Movement Building diagram

How would organizational effectiveness be different from a social justice movement frame? – By Bo Thao-Urabe, Director, BRIDGE (Building Responsive Infrastructure to Develop Global Equity)

Recently I participated in the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations’ (GEO) national conference.  The participants were mostly people from foundations, but there were some representatives from consulting firms, affinity groups and community nonprofits.  Being a newbie, I chatted with a few participants about why they came.  For most, “organizational effectiveness” of nonprofit groups being funded seemed top of mind.

On a very basic level, organizational effectiveness is a seemingly apolitical term used in the nonprofit sector to demonstrate how successful an organization is in achieving its stated goals.  This has translated into tools and methods that help groups develop measurement units of their work — like demographically naming the population being served, counting the number of people served, and showing the level of satisfaction of those served. But these are very contained, focused, logical, short-term, and absent a worldview.

For me, just using the “organizational effective” paradigm alone misses a more dynamic beginning and evolution of organizations that helps us understand and answer the question of, “So What?”  or “Organizational effectiveness for what?”

Starting from a social justice movement frame…

In a workshop, I shared AAPIP’s National Gender & Equity Campaign work, where we are creating and testing frameworks, approaches, tools, and resources developed from a social justice movement frame.  Our movement framework embodies the perspective that social justice movements are crucial to achieving a more just and equitable society, and that we must not only build organizations, but we must support and build more effective social justice movement organizations.

This Venn diagram depicts our belief that social justice movements happen at the intersection of these elements:

  • Political Moments: Galvanizing moments created by people/community or political environments where there is opportunity to change attitudes, policies, and structures.
  • Community Readiness: The capacity and ability of communities to speak for themselves (sharing their stories of struggle and best thinking about the solutions) and to find common ground for relationships to form across issues and identities.
  • Infrastructure: The systems and processes that are institutionalized (including networks and organizations etc.) to sustain, drive, and support the practices and creation of strategies to shift values, beliefs, practices of justice and equity over time.

So how would philanthropy and community organizations build organizational effectiveness differently if this is the starting worldview? This is one aspect of what we are testing through the NGEC’s Organizational Fellowship Program, so stay tuned – we will share more in the coming months.

If you’re an organization contemplating this question, please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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