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Update on the Renewal Initiative
A Look at the Drafting Team's Purpose Statement

Cindy Harmon-Jones
Madison WI USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 38 No. 6, December 2002 - January 2003, pp. 130-31.

One of the tasks the Drafting Team has been working on is defining a purpose statement that will speak to all of us. Expressing our deeply held purpose is a key step in La Leche League's renewal initiative. The purpose statement must be broad enough to include and encompass our many individual purposes for working as LLL Leaders. When the LLL Leaders in Madison, Wisconsin, USA learned of the draft purpose statement, we discussed it in depth, seeking understanding. In writing this article, I have drawn from the many insightful and thoughtful comments of the Leaders in the Madison Chapter.

What is a Purpose Statement?

Many Leaders are wondering what, exactly, is a purpose statement? A purpose statement is different from a mission statement. While a mission statement describes what we do, the purpose statement is intended to express why we do it. It is an expression of the deepest reasons that all of us share for participating in the organization of La Leche League. Although we are all individuals, and very different from each other, our purpose statement is something we all have in common and expresses in words the commitment that binds us together.

Our Individual Purposes

In order to come up with a purpose statement, we can each look to our deepest reasons for choosing to become Leaders as well as our reasons for our continuing commitment to helping women to breastfeed and mother their children. If you can, take a few moments to think about why you are a Leader. We often focus on our obligations as Leaders, but we seldom share our reasons for being a part of LLL, even with our close friends. When Leaders are asked why they volunteer their time to help other women breastfeed, they often describe what they received as mothers attending LLL meetings and their desire to pass this on to other mothers. One Leader, Radhika Bradley, said, "It was so much easier to be the kind of mother I wanted to be with the support that I found in LLL. I want to be sure that other mothers have that same support, as well as information that is backed by science." Similarly, Annie Faber-Root said, "I want to give other mothers what I received when I began attending LLL meetings—the confidence to trust my instincts and follow my heart." Other Leaders spoke of their involvement with LLL as a way to make a positive difference in the world. Laurel Franczek said, "Breastfeeding is so important—to babies, to mothers, to society, to the world! I can't think of many things more important to do than to help women breastfeed their babies." Another Leader, Jen Lynch, said, "When I help mothers to breastfeed, I know I'm changing the world for the better."

Good Enough for Now

In their work on a purpose statement, the Drafting Team has come up with a statement that they consider "good enough for now." When they say that the statement is "good enough," this means that it is close enough to being right at this time and the next phase of the renewal initiative can begin. This does not necessarily mean that the statement is in its complete and final form; it is in fact still a draft purpose statement.

The Draft Purpose Statement

After many months of gathering input from Leaders and intense discussion, the purpose statement the Drafting Team has agreed upon is "To realize, deepen, and share the love and wisdom inherent in breastfeeding."

The Love and Wisdom Inherent in Breastfeeding

Do you believe that love and wisdom are inherent in breastfeeding? Surely, we believe that when a mother decides to breastfeed, she is making a wise choice. Breastfeeding is wise on many levels, for the physical health of mother and baby, because it is economical, for convenience, and for other reasons too numerous to name. We also believe that breastfeeding is a loving act. Each time a mother nurses her baby, she gives of her love as well as her milk. In addition, through the experience of breastfeeding, a mother can connect more easily with her baby. The love and wisdom that she possesses as a mother can increase because of the nursing relationship between her and her baby. From the beginning, La Leche League has recognized that the benefits of breastfeeding go beyond the obvious.

Realize, Deepen, and Share

As Leaders, we help to realize this love and wisdom every time we give a mother who is struggling to nurse her baby the information and support she needs. We deepen love and wisdom when we lead our Groups, allowing mothers to support each other and to learn from each other. We share love and wisdom when we listen to mothers and when we support other Leaders. In these ways, and in so many others, Leaders' work falls within this purpose.

Examining the Statement for Personal Meaning

Does your individual purpose fit within this one? Does this statement speak to you? Would you choose to join together with other Leaders under it? Some Leaders, when they learn the new draft purpose statement, feel an immediate sense of resonance and rightness. Other Leaders have initially greeted the statement with some hesitance and discomfort.

Will the Statement Affect How Those Outside of LLL View the Organization?

As the Leaders in Madison examined the statement, they brought up several heartfelt and penetrating concerns. The Drafting Team was quickly responsive in addressing them. As Laurel Franczek said, "It seems like it could easily be misunderstood, and make us look like we are not a serious group, with scientific knowledge, that provides real, practical breastfeeding help." This would be a very serious concern indeed, if the intent of the draft purpose statement was to communicate to persons outside of LLL about what our organization does. However, the draft purpose statement is for use within the organization, while the mission statement serves as the notice on the door describing to the world what we do. Leaders are a diverse group of mothers, speaking different languages, holding different religious beliefs, living in different countries. The draft purpose statement is intended to embrace what all of us, with all our differences, hold most deeply in common.

Does LLL Still Intend to be the World's Authority on Breastfeeding?

Jen Lynch, after reading the draft purpose statement, asked, "Are we still going to help women breastfeed by providing accurate information and support? I don't see anything about that in the statement." To this question, the Drafting Team responds with a resounding, "Yes!" Helping women to breastfeed definitely falls within the draft purpose.

The Choice of Specific Words

Radhika Bradley's response to the statement was, "It seems to be kind of vague, and ‘love and wisdom' even sounds a little flaky." In coming up with a draft purpose statement, the Drafting Team took on what may seem a nearly impossible task. Their goal was to distill the reasons of many diverse Leaders for being involved with LLL into one concise statement. Many of us would choose to express our reasons for being involved with La Leche League in very different words than those chosen by the Drafting Team. The task of selecting words that speak to all of us is very difficult. And yet, when we look through the words, allowing them to become transparent so that their underlying meaning shines through, we may find that our reason for being a Leader is encompassed within the draft purpose statement. The Drafting Team has tried to find a way to put into words our common draft purpose, but the meaning of the words is what is truly important, not the words themselves.

What Comes Next?

When the Madison Chapter of LLL discussed the draft purpose statement, many of us who initially felt unsure about the statement came to appreciate its depth and richness. All of us found that taking some time to explore our own reasons for being part of LLL was a worthwhile endeavor. After examining the draft purpose statement, Leaders can ask whether we can work together, using this purpose, to create the La Leche League that we have always wanted. Does the draft purpose statement speak to you in its words or in their underlying meaning? Would you like to join together with other Leaders to explore new possibilities for LLL's future? Your questions and comments are welcome and can be directed to the Review Network, email to reviewnetwork at (email).

Cindy Harmon-Jones is the president of her local LLL chapter in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. She has two children, Sylvia (6) and Leon (2). She is also a free-lance writer on topics related to pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. She has been interested in the Renewal Initiative since learning about it at a district workshop in October of 2001. Correction: "Defining the Renewal Initiative Purpose Statement," featured in the October-November issue, was credited to the wrong author. This article was written by unnamed members of the Drafting Team. We apologize for the oversight and thank them for their hard work.

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