So it’s 8 days and counting to POCA Tech’s Candidacy site visit. If I told you how much paperwork we’ve generated for the site visitors to look at, you probably wouldn’t believe me; a year ago, I wouldn’t have believed it myself.
I think about bureaucracy a lot these days because I’ve got a complicated relationship with it. I never used to think about it because our relationship was simple: I hated it and looked for ways to get around it. Starting in 2011, it became clear that wasn’t going to work anymore. POCA itself needed a certain amount of bureaucracy just to be a co-op, and POCA Tech as a school needed even more.
Bureaucracy can be like a maze: bewildering, frustrating, possibly dangerous. One of my patients, a community organizer, told me during her intake that she had PTSD from dealing with bureaucracy, and I didn’t understand until she explained to me: she had been a homeless single mother trying to navigate various government systems and she lived in constant fear that her child would be taken away if she made a mistake when she filled out a form.
Bureaucracy can be like a fortress: a way to intimidate people and keep them out. If you have the resources you can scale the walls; if you don’t, you can’t.
But bureaucracy can also be like a foundation and like a blueprint: a base to build on, a plan, a solid support that provides structure and makes it possible for people to work together. I’ve come to appreciate bureaucracy as a way to scale up. Most people don’t find bureaucracy inspiring — but it’s the cost of making a certain kind of dream real. Bureaucracy represents investment: in systems, processes, planning. Creating it implies that you have faith in the future — otherwise, why on earth would you do it?
As we navigate external bureaucracies and also create our own internal version, we’re trying to keep all these realities about bureaucracy in mind at once. It’s probably the most challenging part of running POCA Tech. The question at first was, are we even capable of doing all this bureaucracy? It was daunting. And now it’s more like, can we do it without losing track of our priorities? That’s a challenge in a different way.
And of course, dealing with bureaucracy, whether you’re creating it or navigating it, is also expensive. It demands resources: time, energy, and money.
It helps tremendously to have the support of another community.
For the second year in a row, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have given POCA Tech a substantial grant: $8000. This grant is intended to support the process of POCA Tech’s ACAOM accreditation.
As I wrote when this happened last year, the backstory is that Sister Eileen McKenzie is a POCA punk and runs a POCA clinic, FSPA Community Acupuncture, within a collective of holistic practitioners dedicated to Franciscan values. You can read more here about Sr. Eileen’s commitment to acupuncture, community acupuncture, and POCA. The FSPA community has been dedicated to education, healthcare, and social justice for over a hundred years, and when Sr. Eileen asked them to show support to POCA Tech, they responded with radical generosity.
Here’s a breakdown of POCA Tech’s accreditation costs so far:
ACAOM fees and associated travel expenses – $19,119
Financial audit (required for accreditation) – $9825
For a total of: $28944
FSPA has donated $18,000 of that. In other words, almost 2/3 of POCA Tech’s accreditation costs have been funded by Franciscan nuns.
If anything could make me feel better about the process of creating and maintaining all this bureaucracy, that’s it.
POCA Tech deeply appreciates the vote of confidence this grant represents: in our ability to get accredited and in our ability to remain committed to serving marginalized people as we do so. Obviously the funds are extremely important to POCA Tech, but the feeling that FSPA believes in us, particularly our ability to be true to our mission, is even more important. Thank you, FSPA: it means the world to know you’re on our side.