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Report from the Board: Thoughts on Leader Accreditation

From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 2, April-May 2005, pp. 46-47.

The Leader accreditation process is a collaboration between the sponsoring Leader(s), the Leader Applicant, and the Leader Accreditation Department (LAD) representative. They all work together to verify that the Applicant's experience, understanding, and attitudes are compatible with LLLI philosophy. The criteria for leadership and the accreditation process ensure that LLLI will continue to be represented by women who have or are willing to develop the knowledge, experience, and skills needed to help mothers breastfeed.

The LLLI Board of Directors removed one sentence from paragraph 11 of the Guidelines for Leaders section of Appendix 18 in the Policies and Standing Rules in August 2004 because the sentence focused too much on separation. It gave the impression that separation is the most important factor when deciding whether a mother meets our criteria for leadership. The Board intends that Leaders focus on the concepts as a set and on the Prerequisites to Applying for Leadership as a set -- not allowing any individual concept, section, or guideline to rule out further dialogue.

Introduction

La Leche League relies on you, our trained volunteers, to do the primary work of fulfilling LLLI Purpose; helping mothers learn to breastfeed their babies, encouraging good mothering through breastfeeding, and promoting a better understanding of breastfeeding. Mother-to-mother support is the hallmark of our work. We need volunteers like you who have experienced mothering through breastfeeding, who understand LLLI philosophy, and who can model and articulate it to others -- volunteers willing to give of their time to help other mothers breastfeed their babies.

Part of the LLLI Board's role in planning for the future is to be certain that LLLI policies are helping LLL volunteers achieve our Purpose. Following are some of our thoughts on Leader Accreditation and how it supports the future growth of LLL.

The Importance of LLLI Philosophy and Mother-to-Mother Support

Because mother-to-mother support is so central to the Mission of LLLI, the LLLI Board wants to ensure that LLL Leaders, the organization's volunteers, represent the diversity of mothers and families throughout the world. This enables LLL to meet the needs of as many families as possible because mothers relate best to their peers. As representatives of LLL/I, Leaders maintain the credibility and expertise of this organization. They share a common purpose and philosophy and are experienced breastfeeding mothers. These characteristics distinguish us from the many other breastfeeding support organizations.

LLLI philosophy makes us -- LLL -- who we are. LLLI philosophy, as contained in THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING and summarized as ten concept statements in our Policies and Standing Rules (Appendix 1), is strong and true. It is logical, practical, and whole. It stands on its own merits. It is at the core of our Mission of helping mothers learn to breastfeed their babies.

The Role of LLLI Policies in Leader Accreditation

La Leche League criteria for leadership ensure the integrity of our organization. Appendix 18 in the Policies and Standing Rules was written to provide guidance to Leaders and interested mothers in determining whether or not LLL leadership and the potential Applicant are a good "fit" for each other. Leaders consider the prerequisites and review LLLI philosophy (summarized by the concepts) with potential Applicants as part of the accreditation process. The Board intends that Leaders focus on the concepts as a set -- not allowing one section to rule out further dialogue. We also intend that Leaders focus on the Prerequisites to Applying for Leadership as a set -- not allowing one section or one guideline to rule out further dialogue. It is the LLLI Board's perception that the sentence we removed from paragraph 11 of the Guidelines for Leaders section of Appendix 18 in the Policies and Standing Rules in August 2004 (see LEAVEN Dec-Jan 2005, p. 140) was contributing to an unhealthy focus on separation as a determining factor in whether a mother meets our criteria for leadership. The Board did not intend this action to change what is stated in our concepts or in the Prerequisites to Applying for Leadership.

The Importance of Diversity among LLL Volunteers

The LLLI Mission and Purpose are inclusive of all mothers and babies. LLL Leaders currently encompass a variety of mothering and breastfeeding experiences and model ways to return breastfeeding to a natural part of their everyday family life. We come from many different backgrounds, including economic, racial, religious, and educational. This diversity contributes to our ability to offer our information and services to so many mothers and families.

The LLLI Board is working to find ways that we can support LLLI volunteers in reaching more families with breastfeeding information and support. One way of doing this is to recruit and train Leaders with even more diverse backgrounds and experiences than our leadership has now. In this way we demonstrate how our philosophy of mothering through breastfeeding is viable in ever expanding contexts. As Kay Sprinkle Grace, noted author and nonprofit specialist, said at the 2004 BoardSource Leadership Forum in Washington, DC, USA: "As long as we look in mirrors instead of windows, we are in danger of serving our organization instead of our community. Who outside the window can we serve?"

The Collaborative Process of Leader Accreditation

Leader accreditation is a process of collaboration, a partnership between the sponsoring Leader, the Applicant, and the Leader Accreditation Department (LAD) representative. Ideally, they all work together to verify that the Applicant's experience, understanding, and attitudes are compatible with Leaders' collective understanding of LLLI philosophy. This collaboration begins even before a Leader meets a prospective Applicant. Leaders who are familiar with the Prerequisites to Applying for Leadership and with the many resources that the LAD offers (materials, workshops, etc.) are well equipped to explore the prerequisites with potential Applicants.

The sponsoring Leader gets to know the prospective Applicant, talking with her about LLLI philosophy in general and in her own life. She submits her Leader Recommendation based on her knowledge of the mother and on her confidence that the application process will result in the accreditation of a trustworthy new colleague and LLLI representative. The Leader seeks whatever guidance she needs from the LAD. The prospective Applicant has the opportunity to explore whether being an LLLI Leader is a good "fit" for her and, if she has questions, she may consult with a LAD representative too.

This collaboration of Applicant, sponsoring Leader, and LAD continues throughout the actual application. Together they use the criteria for leadership and the accreditation process to ensure that LLLI will continue to train women who have or are willing to develop the knowledge, experience, and skills needed to help mothers breastfeed and gain a better understanding of mothering through breastfeeding.

Conclusion

We need Leaders who have a balanced understanding of LLLI philosophy that includes, but is not limited to, their own personal breastfeeding experience. These are the women we want to become Leaders and share our work. Helping a wide variety of women find out about and prepare for leadership is an important role of an active Leader, a role befitting the experience, skill, and commitment of LLL Leaders. As Misty Dunn, Leader of 34 years, said, "I believe Leaders are passionate about responsibly fulfilling the LLLI Mission and wouldn't knowingly do anything to harm it." The LLLI Board agrees.

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