Resist as a Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit Part Two: The Work of Connection

By Kendra Hicks

In our last piece, we talked about the structure that made all of our work possible. But being a Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit has its own challenges and for a lot of folks, it’s difficult to imagine how a flat structure could work in their organization, in any organization. The truth is that the success of this structure relies heavily on building collective trust. At Resist, we’ve developed this trust through a practice of mutual support and accountability. Here are small-scale resilience practices (featured in part two of the radical philanthropy series) that continue to move us towards being better, more connected, whole people.

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By using these practices we became more connected, less reactive, and more open to the work of transformation. We practice a culture of collective care consistently and with integrity. It makes our work smarter and our organization stronger. In addition to these practices, we also have mutual support and accountability structures that move our work forward. You can learn more about them below.

Mutual Support

Mutual support is based on the idea that no one can truly function well on their own. We need each other. We evolved to need connection and attunement from one another. Though this may sound nothing like your workplace, it’s still true. Without connection and attunement, work is less transformative and unlikely to reach its full potential. Attunement of a team to one another can look like many things from an affirmation of someone’s work, to checking in if a colleague seems distressed, to calling in a blissed-out colleague for missing a deadline. The team is attuned to one another and to the mutually agreed upon structures for collective work. Below are some of the building blocks of our mutual support and accountability systems. We use these spaces to check in with each other on life, work, and with the future that’s emerging.

Weekly Staff Lunches and Peer Coaching

Every Monday, for an hour before our staff collective meetings we break bread together. These lunches are not work related and serve as a time for us to talk about our personal lives, external projects, the current political moment, etc. Our lunch hours are also open to the community at large so we’re sometimes joined by colleagues from other foundations, friends and sometimes family. This gives us a space to build and check in with each other beyond the traditional check-in questions before meetings. It’s one of the ways we continue to deepen our relationships.

The first Monday of each month this lunch becomes a peer coaching session. Staff collective members pair up with another staff collective member to share projects going on outside of work in addition to their work within the organization. Peer coaching lunches give space for individual development and growth in a horizontal structure.

Resist staff collective members Seth Kirshenbaum and Kendra Hicks during a peer coaching lunch.

Staff Collective Retreats

In a worker self-directed nonprofit workers give vision and direction to the organization in the same way an executive director would. In order to take a deep dive into our organizational development work as a team, we hold full-day monthly retreats. These retreats help us tackle bigger organizational development work while engaging with readings like Emergent Strategy and Decolonizing Wealth which increase our understanding of what’s possible and inform our regular work.

Communication and Project Management

Part of maintaining our culture of care is being realistic about work-life balance. Resist staff collective members work both at home and from our home office. During work from home days we use Slack to keep in touch with day to day tasks and check-in about the work we are doing. Since each staff collective manages a circle, we use Asana as our project management tool and have agreed upon practices that allow us to collectively keep it up to date. We also use zoom to host virtual meetings during the week.

Accountability

Our work is anchored in the principles of restorative and transformative justice. Being accountable to each other then serves as an act of love, transparency, and radical responsibility. Resist’s formal accountability process aims to address collective and interpersonal actions that are not reflective of Resist principles. The accountability process sets a shared standard for what and how we hold members of the Resist community accountable for while keeping in mind that one size does not fit all.

Too often, people are held accountable in ways that are destructive. By reimagining accountability we practice the world we want to be, rooted in the core belief that people are not disposable.

Collective Feedback

The Staff Collective uses the Resist Covenant as a compass for the ways we want to be and work together. Collective Feedback is used monthly to evaluate how well the Staff Collective is living into the values outlined in the Resist Covenant. Collective Feedback happens quarterly during staff collective retreats.

Individual Feedback

Individual Feedback outlines areas of strength and growth for each individual member of the Staff Collective. Individual Feedback happens monthly during staff collective meetings.

Yearly 360 Evaluations

Each Staff Collective member at Resist undergoes a yearly 360 evaluation. This evaluation is sent to all members of the staff collective and chosen members of the Staff Collective member’s community. A good evaluation process helps provide staff members with direction, support, training, and guidelines to improve their work and reflect on how the job fits into the big picture. Consequently, it is a tool benefiting both staff members and Resist.

Four Step Accountability Process

This accountability process applies to all members of the RESIST community

Circle of Elders

Resist’s Circle of Elders is responsible for resolving conflicts or disagreements that have reached stage 4 of our Support & Accountability process. This body uses a restorative justice framework to make decisions, including staff or board termination, should that be necessary. Upon exiting Resist, all staff and board members who (1) left their position in good standing, (2) have some level of trust and relationship with the existing board or staff members, and (3) are willing to serve on this body and participate in Step 4 circles as needed are nominated for Resist Circle of elders.

All of these practices come together to create a robust mutual support and accountability practice that serves as the glue for our organization. Throughout our series, you’ve become familiar with how our organization transformed. This transformation wouldn’t be possible without a commitment to keeping our work human, developing institutionalized practices that make space for relationship building, and structure that supports collective work and responsibility.

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Kendra is a first generation Afro-Latina and is committed to building resilience in communities and capacity in organizations to better center the leadership of those most impacted by structural inequities. A deep spiritual practice, Capoeira Angola, and snarky humor keep her grounded in the work. She’s your local radical negra.

Resist is a foundation that supports people’s movements for justice and liberation. We redistribute resources back to frontline communities. www.resist.org