2018 IPMN Nominating Committee Report
In a new era of advocacy, education and partnership, in order to remain an influential and effective organization, the 2018 IPMN Nominating Committee recommends a new model for the future of the network.
Why is this recommendation for change in organization style and leadership on the steering committee being made?
Moving forward, what adaptations need to happen now in IPMN?
What is a starfish organization and why is this good for IPMN?
Recommendation: Hybrid starfish model for IPMN
1. Why is this recommendation for change in organization style and leadership on the steering committee being made?
The Israel Palestine Mission Network is now fourteen years into implementing the mandate given to it in 2004 by the General Assembly of the PCUSA. Under our by-laws, the leadership structure of the network reflected the committee organization used across the PCUSA of moderator, vice-moderator, and internal committees and roles. Our organizational model evolved into the Steering Committee of IPMN that is currently in place. This familiar model mostly functioned well as the mission network began its mandated work of advocacy, education, and partnerships. Our network model also produced and promoted policy initiatives, notably the encouragement of overtures from presbyteries so as to impact PC(USA) policy and advocacy around Palestinian human rights and peace with justice in the Holy Land. (The network dubbed the policy initiatives “Just Peace”).
As our membership grew, our denominational education and advocacy grew within the PCUSA, but at the same time our outreach went beyond IPMN and PC(USA) to other faith-based and secular advocacy organizations. By Contrast, rather than grow the committees, the Steering Committee became the primary action group of IPMN, with members recruited scantly for some committees. Often, a committee chair became a committee of one within the Steering Committee, accountable to the Steering Committee as a whole, at times functioning even more independently, reporting decisions to the SC rather than collaborating with the SC. Hence, rather than reach out to the network at large, the Steering Committee, for various reasons, became more and more self-contained. And our singular effort to get divestment passed in the denomination consumed our energies and focus.
The membership had expressed its concerns about:
a) the lack of inclusivity of members in committees and a kind of insular functioning within the Steering Committee;
b) an affirmation of the recruitment of younger members into leadership as well as an awareness that generational shifts and disagreements on tactics are happening across the movement in the US that needed to be addressed;
c) along with that inclusion of rising younger leadership, the reality of the aging-out of the original leaders of IPMN;
d) and perhaps most importantly, the need for IPMN to assess and implement the best way for local and regional groups to get involved or remain involved in our GA mandate set forth by the GA in 2004. This has already begun to take place in several regions of the country.
At its retreat in January 2018, the Steering Committee recognized, even before this year’s GA, that the organizational model for IPMN needed to ADAPT to the changing contexts of both the secular and faith-based Palestinian rights movement here in the US and globally.
With the wide range of policy and prophetic advocacy actions of the General Assembly over IPMN’s fourteen years, most, if not all of the original goals of IPMN were met as it responded to calls from the Palestinian community and within the growing advocacy movement internationally. The overwhelming approvals of overtures at the 2018 General Assembly is an indication of how far the PC(USA) has come in its awareness and advocacy for the charge given to the church and IPMN specifically. We could even say “IPMN won” this round, i.e., moving PC(USA) policy towards justice for Palestine.
2. Moving forward, what adaptations need to happen now in IPMN?
Following our GA mandate issued in Richmond, VA in 2004, IPMN began its witness and mission when there were few if any denominationally-based Palestinian advocacy organizations and even fewer ecumenical or secular community-based ones.The Kairos Palestine document had not yet been written as a call from Palestinian Christians (2009), and the civil society call for BDS (2005) was had not yet been issued. The multi-faith partnerships were just beginning to form, especially with Jewish Voice for Peace (founded 1996) who partnered with IPMN beginning in 2006. Later as the movement grew, we partnered with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), and The US Campaign to End the Occupation which is now known as The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR). Our own denominational policy had just begun exploring the theological, investment, mission priorities, partnerships and “facts on the ground” advocacy in Palestine and Israel. That has changed radically in these fourteen years.
At the same time, the situation for Palestinians in Palestine, Israel and the diaspora has continued to deteriorate. The urgency of the situation on the ground in Palestine is desperate, as reflected in the 2017 NCCOP Open Letter to the World Council Churches (see IPMN homepage for this document). The legislative and security apparatus actions taken by the State of Israel over the last five years, combined with continuing incursions of settlements and land grabs in Palestine, have brought the direness of the situation to global consciousness in broader and deeper ways. The NCCOP Open Letter has sparked an international movement of advocacy coordination across wide-ranging faith-based groups.
As that awareness has grown and become more active internationally and within the US, cross-movement solidarity and activism has flourished through intersectionality. The intersectional activism, prompted especially by the Movement for Black Lives has made us also confront once again the realities of racism, and other forms of discrimination within our own culture and social contexts, providing people a new lens to see Palestine through. For a number of IPMN members, intersectionality has been a natural way to address action and solidarity for Palestinian human rights. i.e., many of us cannot speak of human rights in our daily context without addressing them for Palestine, and vice versa. This perspective is reflected in the new IPMN publication, Why Palestine Matters, which opens with this assertion in the introduction: “the project of human emancipation is not limited to Palestine, but it also cannot proceed without Palestine”.
For IPMN to continue to be effective and structured to engage in these changing contexts, our forms of organization for mission, education and partnership need to adapt to the new realities in the PCUSA, in the national movement and global context, as well as in Palestine and Israel. In order to remain vital in our witness and partnerships and remain appropriately engaged and active, we need to change with the times and needs. This calls for ADAPTATION, rather than only technical fixes.
In order to become more effective for a new context, the nominating committee is recommending a starfish model organization. Though because we are a mission network of a bigger organization [PC(USA)] and our finances are tied to the PC(USA), our version needs to be adjusted into a hybrid starfish model.
3. What is a starfish organization and why is this good for IPMN?
In the seminal book, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, the Stanford MBA authors “applied their business know-how to promoting peace and economic development through decentralized networking”
The publisher promotes the book and leadership philosophy thus:
If you cut off a spider's leg, it's crippled; if you cut off its head, it dies. But if you cut off a starfish's leg, it grows a new one, and the old leg can grow into an entirely new starfish...
After five years of ground-breaking research, Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom share some unexpected answers, gripping stories, and a tapestry of unlikely connections. The Starfish and the Spider argues that organizations fall into two categories: traditional "spiders", which have a rigid hierarchy and top-down leadership, and revolutionary "starfish", which rely on the power of peer relationships.
The Starfish and the Spider explores what happens when starfish take on spiders (such as the music industry vs. Napster). It reveals how established companies and institutions, from IBM to Intuit to the U.S. government, are also learning how to incorporate starfish principles to achieve success.
[Here is a summary of the book: http://bit.ly/2x099iM]
Excerpt from the book’s summary:
One of best known starfish models is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), founded by Bill Wilson. At AA, no one is in charge and yet everyone is in charge. You automatically become part of the leadership – an arm of the starfish – the moment you join. The one constant is the
Recovery Principle: the 12 steps. Because no one is in charge, everyone is responsible
for keeping themselves and everyone else on track. The sponsor doesn’t lead by coercion
but by example. Wilson trusted each chapter to do what was right; if moved to,
anyone could start a new chapter. Members have always been able to directly help each
other without asking permission or getting approval from Bill W. or anyone else.
AA is flexible, equal, and constantly mutating. As soon as an outside force presents itself, the decentralized organization quickly mutates to meet the new challenge or need. Bill Wilson served to catalyze a new idea and then got out of the way. He left his organization without a central brain and, in doing so, gave it the power to mutate and continually alter its form.
4. Hybrid starfish model for IPMN
Spider– Centralized. Central body with legs. Cut off the head and it dies.
Starfish– Decentralized network. No head. Major organs are replicated throughout
each arm. Cut it in half and you get two starfish.
At its inception, IPMN operated with little hierarchy and much more like a starfish than a spider. We had catalysts who started projects or set ideas in motion and then got out of the way and let the project happen in membership circles. Over time, the operating structure became more hierarchical, leading to a more and more vertical structure rather than a flat connectional network. i.e., we moved from a starfish model to a spider model.
The Nominating Committee recommends IPMN membership moves to:
Adopt a decentralized hybrid starfish model with “major organs” in each “arm,” but also with a few “catalysts” in the center of the starfish to build the starfish, promote ideas and activities, ‘keep the trains running,” but not “get in the way” of the starfish arms doing their work.
Suspend the relevant structural by-laws while we built a new model for the network for a period of one year (until the annual meeting in 2019, at which time revised bylaws will be recommended by the SC). (see separate accompanying document for list of which by-laws).
Use the 2018 annual meeting as a catalyst to launch the new network model,[ and have the membership determine the time allowed and the way forward to build it.]
Elect co-moderators who will continue to convene meetings and allow the “starfish organs/arms” to report in and help build the new model (and to reflect the trend in the PC(USA) leadership).
Elect a slate of 7 people (total) for the central hub of a hybrid starfish model, who will decide how best to divide up accountability and community-building and empower the membership in the starfish arms.
Reevaluate the following roles: Treasurer/Finance, Funds Development, Grants, Advocacy, Education, Partnerships, Membership, Database Mgmt., Communication, Travel.
Some of these roles may evolve into new areas rather than “committees.”
Use the 2018 annual meeting to discuss how best to handle finances, budget, and funds development in the starfish model.
Consider having a national IPMN meeting at/around GA wherever that is, and regional meetings on off GA years.
In order to get back to an effective flat organization that has as its goal an ideology of equal rights and justice for Palestinians, we need to be empowering the center of the Starfish (the new “steering committee”) as a launching pad for new circles and ideas but expecting the membership (the arms) to be the nuts and bolts of the work of the network.
Our first official network meeting (post planning event of February 2005) took place just before Ecumenical Advocacy Days in March 2006 in Washington, D.C. Then, following the May 2006 Peacemaking Office’s “Steps Toward Peace” trip of 100 Presbyterians to Israel/Palestine (predecessor to Mosaic of Peace), our next gathering of IPMN took place at The Cenacle in Chicago in October that same year, at which point those gathered pledged their membership and pledged to fund IPMN’s annual budget.
The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom, Penguin Group, 2006. Quoted from Publisher’s Weekly.