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Everything you Wanted to know about Chaordic & LLLI

Stephanie Weishaar
Germantown MD USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 37 No. 4, August-September 2001, pp. 94-96

Why are we, as an organization, doing this?

Our numbers have been dwindling for some time. Did you know that we once had 10,000 Leaders? Now there are just 6,000 Leaders worldwide.

Another concern is that LLLI developed and grew mainly in one country and may not be truly serving the entities outside of the US.

A third issue concerns the channels of communication within LLL that follow traditional, hierarchical models of power. in LLL we respect the mother-baby relationship and we trust that a mother will make the best decisions for herself and her baby. Do Leaders trust fellow Leaders in the same way? Some see a need for change and an opportunity to create an organization where Leaders treat each other with respect as we treat mothers and babies.

Using the chaordic design process, LLLI is being examined in six dimensions- purpose, principles, participants, organizational concept, constitution, and practices.

We have begun with the first step in examining our organization: developing a statement of purpose. This includes exploration via the 13 questions many of you have received and answered. Your answers will lead to a clear, commonly understood statement that identifies and binds us all together as LLLI.

After we all agree on our purpose, the second step will be to define a set of principles that will govern our work. The third step will be identifying all participants whose needs, interests, and perspectives should be considered as we reconceive our organization.

Fourth, we will create a suitable organizational concept. This is where we may consider changing from hierarchical layers of administration to something more like a web of support.

The fifth part of this process is writing a constitution and bylaws that reflect our new, clearly defined relationships. Finally, the sixth piece involves practices that reflect the cooperation and trust in our restructured organization.

Some Leaders are uncomfortable with the notion of these "chaordic folks" coming into LLLI and leading the organization into change. It might be helpful to view this process as a natural reorganization. Both nonprofit organizations and for-profit corporations frequently turn to outside management consultants for guidance as they restructure themselves. Because examining the six dimensions made sense to LLLI Board members and the possibility of moving from a traditional hierarchy to a more mother-trusting-mother form of organization is appealing, the 'Chaordic Commons" was chosen to guide us through our examination of LLLI. The three people from Chaordic Commons who are working with LLLI are not trying to sell us on the chaordic process; they are guiding us through our examination and restructuring of our own organization.

This is not the first connection with management consultants in LLLI history. In 1980, LLLI was given a grant by the Joyce Foundation to hire a management consulting firm for non-governmental organizations. The foundation recommended Bill Conrad and LLLI agreed to hire him. The grant specified that the Board must be reorganized but the details of that reorganization were up to LLLI, with the guidance of our consultant. As a result, Mary Ann Kerwin became Chairman of the Board, five standing committees were established, and the Bylaws were rewritten. Bill Conrad also went on to assist LLL of Great Britain with their management system.

While we have adopted the words "chaordic initiative" to distinguish this organizational process from other times of restructuring in LLLI history, it should be emphasized that LLLI is not "going chaordic." We are using chaordic principles to determine our common values and the principles with which we want to work together. This is an opportunity to take the best of LLL-how we work at the Leader-mother-baby level-and replicate those trusting relationships throughout the rest of the organizational structure.

The Review Network facilitates open and widespread participation in the chaordic design project and functions as steward of an inclusive process by:
  • Exploring and commenting on work produced by the Drafting Team;
  • Communicating the work in progress, in person, and in writing throughout the LLL community;
  • Facilitating discussions; pulling threads of thought from input received;
  • Writing reports on input received; and
  • Critical analysis of material from the Drafting Team and of input received from the community.

The Review Network extends connections of the Drafting Team to the LLLI community, providing personal feedback as well as feedback gathered from the interested and affected individuals and organizations. The Drafting Team depends on the Review Network for reflection of ideas from diverse perspectives. The Network will be expected to be self-organizing to fulfill a variety of needs, including staffing sub groups (i.e., printed publications, translations, electronic communications, meeting presentations).

Funding Questions

Leaders have asked for clarification in the relationship between LLLI and those funding this initiative. First, let's review the basics of philanthropy.

What is a grant? Who funds grant proposals?

A grant is money from an individual, a foundation, a corporation, or a government agency to fund a particular project. Nonprofit organizations such as LLLI write grant proposals to funders asking for money that will pay for a specific piece of their work. In the case of LLLI, this might be training for peer counselors, publication of a new book, or translation of materials into another language.

Why do some donors choose to be anonymous?

Anonymous donors are common in the funding community. Some donors choose anonymity to keep the attention on the project and not on their own generosity. Some donors want to avoid a stampede at their door asking for funds for similar projects.

Couldn't we use the money for something more important in the organization?

When a donor funds a grant proposal, the money is being offered for this unique project. This money could not be used elsewhere and would not have been made available for other activities. For example, a US donor who is interested in improving maternal and child health in urban areas might fund a proposal to train Peer Counselors in five US cities but would not be interested in funding translation of an LLLI pamphlet into Japanese. Even if there is a greater need within LLLI for the translation than the training, the money would not have come from that donor for the translation. Leaders would not want LLLI to turn down the training grant simply because it may not be perceived as the most needed project at this time.

How much control does a donor have on the grant recipient?

The donor agrees to fund a proposal based on what the organization proposes to do with the money. While the suggestion of an activity may be made by a donor, the design of the project comes from the recipient organization. An agreement is signed and the recipient organization is usually asked to write quarterly or semiannual reports updating the donor on the progress of the project. Donors do not control day-to-day use of funds and typically do not provide unsolicited input into the operation of a project.

Funding timeline for the chaordic process in LLLI:

  1. Over the years, the Board has had many discussions on reevaluating LLLI's structure and ways of working.
  2. The chaordic concept was discovered by LLL and it seemed like the best fit for reorganizing LLLI.
  3. A search for money to fund the reorganization process began.
  4. A grant was offered by an anonymous donor.
  5. The money was accepted and work began.
  6. LLLI is still engaged in fundraising for additional funds to complete the process.

I hope that this answers some of your questions and helps you engage in the process of examining what is the heart of LLL, and how you envision working together more in tune with our mission. Please share your thoughts and questions with any of the Review Network members as questions arise for you. There are 31 members on the Review Network from 15 different countries, and we can only represent your interests if we know your opinions.

We look forward to hearing from you! Responses may be sent to Beth Moscov, P.O. Box 1549, Boulder Creek, CA 95006 USA, bethmoscov at (email), or can be directed to the Chaordic Initiative Review at:

Stephanie Weishaar is a Leader in Germantown, Maryland, USA and a member of the Review Network for LLLI. When not volunteering for LLL or caring for her family (3-year-old Ben, 5-year-old Katie, and husband Bobby), Stephanie consults to various nonprofits as a proposal writer, program designer, and Russian language translator.

[This article has been edited for clarity and differs slightly from the original publication.]

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