Collective leadership works!

In recent weeks, we have made some changes to the General Circle. Since January, I've held the positions of Executive Director, and GC Operational Leader (since last fall) as well as POCA Board member (since last summer), and I decided several weeks ago that it is time to step back a bit. So the GC agreed to dissolve the Executive Director position, which we established to assist with POCA's start-up and coordination, thus taking the next step into collective self-governance. The Board will be taking on new members in January and Laura, one of our community Board members, is stepping up for a while to assume the role of GC OL. I'll be remaining on the GC as the new leader of our revived Outreach circle.

So currently, the GC includes: Melissa and Elizabeth from Clinic Success; Steve and MaryMargaret from Finance; Wade and Nick from Website; Cris and John from Membership; Justine and Kevin from Events; Sonja from Regional Nodes, and myself in Outreach. We take massive POCA to-do lists and break them down into projects. All of us have volunteered to take on running their circle and its projects for the 2012-13 year.

The basics of how this works: Cris and I (soon to be Laura, until our next elections) organize the GC meetings; we set up one each month, and take turns setting the agendas and facilitating the meeting. All the GC members call in to a free conference call line and also join a video chat on Google+. Being able to see each other makes it much more fun to talk as a group! Also Google hangouts have fun things like mustaches and hats that you can project over your face while talking.

Every meeting starts with a general go-around with everyone checking in about how they're doing personally: just a couple of minutes in total but it's really nice to know how your collaborators are feeling. Then the circles take turns giving everyone a brief update on how their projects are going. This keeps us all in the loop and aware. As we grow, more and more collaboration happens between the circles, so these check-ins are key.

Then we run through our agenda items. We talk about budget ideas, or projects that require general oversight or approval, or making changes or solving logistical problems. Sometimes we discover that ideas need some revision or more planning before we're ready to move forward on them, so they get set aside for the next meeting. Often people agree to take actions of various issues before the next meeting. Everything gets written up as we go in meeting minutes, and then posted on the minutes forum, so everyone knows what's going to happen next and what there is to do.

Sometimes the circles have great ideas but not enough people to get them done. Or other times, the projects are vast and breaking them down into actionable steep is a challenge. This is only our second year working like this, so we're still figuring out ways to make it all happen. Often, there are projects we would all love to see happen, but they don't fit into anyone's circle, or we just don't have the skills to get them done. So we're working on finding ways to make it easier for members to see where volunteers are needed, and step in.

Mostly, everything is a work in progress. Everyone in the GC works is a working punk, and volunteer work can only happen when the time and energy are available. We're all pretty excited about how much happens despite this. Really, the key is that we're all collaborating. Even though we're separated by distance and time, we get to hang out together a lot.

It's a big commitment to do all this: people sign on to a year of juggling projects, being timely in responding to emails, and keeping the Get-Shit-Done qi running high. And often, projects develop without fanfare and happen quietly behind the scenes of the forums. So volunteers don't often get lots of public praise or credit. But the virtual pirate hats on Google hangouts go a long way. Our friendships grow deep. And we are deeply motivated to see the community acupuncture movement continue to grow, sustainably and successfully.

So that's your POCA leadership: collective, collaborative, and always growing. I'm really proud to work with all of these people, and proud of how much we accomplish. It's pretty amazing just how much happens in an hour here and there. Our bank of social capital is extremely well-funded.

Author: Demetra

I live in San Francisco but I'm from New York, and apparently it shows. I come from a family with some members who have had very troubling illnesses, and I found my way to acupuncture in trying to figure out how to help. My father's illness cost him his small business, his savings, his house, and ultimately his life. I viscerally believe that healthcare should never, ever be limited to those few with money to spare. I see every day how the practice of affordable, community acupuncture can honestly heal the world. I feel a moral and ethical responsibility to do everything I can to make this gentle, powerful community medicine available to everyone.

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  1. I was Addicted to CAN for two years before it became POCA and when the POCA site first launched I found it confusing and I felt so disconnected without my forum fix. I am now back to my full-on forum addiction because you guys have done such a good job moving things forward in all ways. I am glad you posted this, I am sure there are so many people like me on here who aren’t that visible but love what you all are doing. I just didn’t know who to tell that they are full of awesome! Now I can: YOU GUYS ARE ALL SO FULL OF AWESOME! Thanks for your work.