Monday, May 30, 2011

Enhancing administraive capacity

In our study of the Five Year Plan of the Baha'i community for 2011 to 2016 we have come to paragraph 17 of the letter of Universal House of Justice dated 28 December 2010. This paragraph begins a new section in this document. A section that deals with enhancing the administrative capacity of all Baha'i institutions to guide the community. This first paragraph of this new chapter then deals with enhancing the capacity of those institutions serving the cluster. There are three institutions serving a cluster, namely the training institute, the Area Teaching Committee, and the Auxiliary Board member who works on both fronts of training and teaching, both individually and collectively. These three institutions have already learned that while each one of them has distinct functions, the best way forward is for them to work very closely with each other. They are collectively referred to as the core team, or troika. The bonds of love and a sense of selfless service permeates their interactions.

As a cluster grows, both numerically and in quality of its relationships, many more people are attracted to the core activities. We move away from a few scattered activities to several pockets of intense focus. On many streets in a neighborhood there will be multiple activities including children, junior youth, youth and adults. And there will be many neighborhoods with their own sense of community building. It is no longer possible for one coordinator to cover the whole cluster. And yet we have to be careful that increased complexity does not isolate the friends from the spiritual side of the activities, does not create layers of workers and managers, does not add hierarchies of people of authority, or procedural red tape. These are concepts that are familiar in other secular organizations and are maladies associated with larger organizations. The Baha'i community is learning how to effectively move from organizational arrangements for smaller communities to that of larger and larger communities. In a few clusters we have several thousand people engaged in this program. As we learn how to guide and remain responsive, how to listen and coordinate, and how to administer the affairs of larger numbers we will learn in practical terms how to tend to the needs of entire populations.

There are lessons to be learned when an organization goes from small and nimble, to large and complex. We see this in all social organizations. Start up companies that succeed well can quickly become large and viscous. Social movements, with or without political agendas, that start with a few young people with aspirations, if they succeed, can soon become larger organizations that are less agile and less responsive. But the cardinal issue here is that the Baha'i community always insists on identifying and applying spiritual principles, and to do so by those people who are actually implementing the program. Doing so for large segments of the population is an unchartered territory, and the experience of the Baha'i community will inform a future World Order in this regard.

The following questione are suggested by the study of this paragraph:

1 - In those advanced clusters that are in the vanguard of learning what elements of the process of growth remain unchanged? And what elements might have to evolve and take on a higher degree of complexity?

2 - Can you names some of the central elements of the process of growth, that will have to remain unchanged?

3 - In some clusters sheer numbers require organizational schemes to take on a higher degree of complexity. What might be the magnitude or scale of these numbers?

4 - Can you describe the necessary organizational schemes if the numbers of those participating in core activities in a given cluster are 1, 10, 100, 1000, or 10,000 respectively?

5 - What is the process by which lessons learned become well proven methods and instruments for the systematic growth?

6 - In advanced clusters dealing with larger numbers the friends are encouraged to be methodical but not rigid, creative but not haphazard, decisive but not hasty, careful but not controlling. In each case can you describe situations, actions or attitudes that can illustrate these qualities?

7 - Unity of thought, consistent action, and dedication to learning will bring about progress, but technique alone will not. Can you explain, using examples as needed, what is the sense in which the concept of technique is used here?

Baha'u'llah wrote that the world is "... at the mercy of rulers so drunk with pride that they cannot discern clearly their own best advantage". He also declared that "…the strife that divides and afflicts the human race is daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appears to be lamentably defective." And He promised that "Soon will the present day order be rolled up and a new one spread out in its stead." [All quoted in the introduction to the Proclamation of Baha'u'llah]

In the increased capacity in these advanced clusters we see a glimpse of this new Order.

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