Monday, 23 May 2011

IFOAM as a Laterally structured Organization

As a member of the international Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) I was recently asked to comment on proposed changes to the organizational structure. I was given a sheet with the old complicated hierarchical chart structure and the new proposed chart. The differences were clearly well thought out and significant but I was still not convinced. It seems to me that the organizational structures charts are used more for reporting and serve little role in the every-day running of an organization.

I proposed that IFOAM consider a team based lateral organizational structure. It puts everyone on the same employment level into teams that perform specific job functions, requires lower overhead, and little to no management. All the delays in decision-making and implementation due to chain of command would be eliminated. Responsibility would be shared, and decisions made among team members by a quorum. it seems everything would be better run, and more effectively implemented than through a hierarchy.

In my opinion the hierarchy model does not fit with IFOAM's mission or goals. The organization is supposed to be democratic and fair. Why not follow through with that right down tot he nitty gritty everyday practices. it seems only right.

Here is a part of a poem written by Walt Whitman in 1886 that captures my sentiment on this issue. it comes from the poem "Song of Myself" which is a perfect read to welcome the early summer with.

"I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

I think I could turn and live with animals, they're so placid and self-contained,
I stand and look at them and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition.
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins.
They do not make me sick discussiong their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the earth.

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world."
— Walt Whitman (Song of Myself)

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