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Plain Talk about the Chaordic Initiative

Nikki Julien
Olympia WA USA
Diane Beckman
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 38 No. 3, June-July 2002 p. 56.

What is the Chaordic Initiative all about? It’s not "anything goes." The focus of the reorganization is imagining new possibilities and putting them into practice. It’s about Leaders feeling more powerful and taking more responsibility for their own work.

Remember that day when you told your family you’d decided to begin cooking with whole wheat flour instead of white flour? Probably after meeting No. 4? Sure, you’d been discussing it for a long time. You knew the health benefits. You knew it’d take a while to get used to. You knew it was the right decision for your family. Yet, what was the family’s reaction?

Some members of the family wanted all the nutritional information before agreeing to the change. Some family members said they’d be happy with a gradual change. Other family members didn’t want to talk at all, they just wanted to eat.

The Chaordic Initiative is a lot like that change to whole wheat flour. Some of us want the background information first. Some of us are happy with gradual changes. Some of us are hungry for change. There is room for everyone at this table.

There are many Leaders already sitting at this brainstorming table. Pull up a chair. Have a cup of tea. Sit a while and chat.

Concern: "I don’t understand this whole chaordic thing. I read all the articles in Leaven but I’m still lost."

Response: The articles in Leaven reflect the interests and work of the Review Network and Drafting Team members. They have been working hard on the ideas behind the Chaordic process, so the articles have been about the history and activities of the Chaordic Initiative. Concerns voiced by Leaders will be addressed in this article.

We understand that not everyone wants to know the history of wheat before biting into a slice of bread! What’s important is that Leaders do know La Leche League. You know what makes your work as a Leader shine with meaning. You know which aspects of LLL’s structure help you to pursue the mission and which parts can be obstacles. These are different for each of us, but we can build on what works. As one Leader put it, "We can create an organizational structure that supports Leaders and Groups in the same way Leaders and Groups support mothers."

A year of work on the Review Network has taught its members that the best way to exchange ideas and work collectively is by talking mother-to-mother in small groups. That’s something Leaders are really good at! Sue Christensen of South Bend, Indiana, USA said, "When we open up the dialogue to talk about our beliefs, explore differences, and find common ground, something good happens. Our individual and collective strengths bubble up." Work with what you know and what excites you. Our plan for reorganization has to come from us—our insights, our needs, our strengths.

What is the Chaordic Initiative all about? It’s not "anything goes." The focus of the reorganization is imagining new possibilities and putting them into practice. It’s about Leaders feeling more powerful and taking more responsibility for their own work.

Concern: "It won’t affect Group Leaders much anyway."

Response: Yes, it can. Leaders find tremendous satisfaction in their work helping mothers. That has been the wellspring of our energy for the past 45 years. Throughout LLL, Leaders have ideas about reaching more mothers and reaching different mothers. Leaders have ideas about supporting and promoting breastfeeding in new ways. We all have so much untapped energy and creativity; our challenge is to put it to use. Hearing others’ ideas is contagious and energizing! Instead of accepting, "It can’t be done…. No one’s ever done that before…. It never works." Leaders are encouraging each other to try new things.

In small discussion groups, Leaders are sharing dreams and success stories. When Diane Beckman of Cary, North Carolina, USA started leading meetings online five years ago, her work expanded from meeting mothers locally to meeting mothers and Leaders over the Internet. Since becoming involved with the Chaordic Initiative, she also found a new way to connect with mothers locally as a Lactation Support Volunteer at a local hospital. She discovered two ways of literally meeting mothers where they are!

Norma Escobar of Wilmington, North Carolina, USA, had a dream of having Leaven articles available to Spanish-speaking Leaders within a week of their publication in English. Using volunteers and the LLLI Web site—it happened! When financial and political crisis in Argentina made it unlikely that Leaders there would be able to afford the newly translated Spanish edition of the Breastfeeding Answer Book, she networked with Leaders in more affluent countries to make it possible for Leaders to buy and send the translated Breastfeeding Answer Book to Argentine Leaders.

How will this change affect a Group Leader’s everyday life? Perhaps not much. Leaders everywhere will continue to fulfill the LLLI mission by helping mothers breastfeed. At the same time, concern for the health and well-being of the organization is an important part of being a Leader. Keeping up-to-date includes being knowledgeable and aware of changes that may affect how we work together.

Concern: "I don’t feel included in the process."

Response: Some want to make the bread themselves. They find satisfaction and challenge in kneading the dough with their hands. Some love their bread machines, a few minutes invested makes homemade bread a reality. Some just want to pick up a loaf from the market.

Your level of involvement in this process is up to you and your changing needs. Chaordic information and opportunities are available in written form from Area Leaders’ Letters, Leaven, at the LLLI Web site, and in discussion format with online chats and email lists such as Talkchaordic. Review Network members are available by email, phone, and letter (See sidebar).

Reach out to the Leaders in your Group and in your Area—set up your own discussion groups and brainstorming tables. Send the ideas and concerns to the Review Network. The writers of this article are part of a movement to expand the reach of the Review Network. Around the globe, volunteerism, enthusiasm, email contact, and friendship are bringing participants together. You have all the experience you need to be a part of it!

Members of the Review Network have plenty of questions to share. Leaders do a great job coming up with their own. Many Leaders have been waiting for something tangible to put to a test. We invite you to experiment with how you might apply the current draft version of the Drafting Team Principles (See "Report from the Board," Leaven April-May 2002) in your work as a Leader. The idea is to have organization-wide principles that empower each Leader to take responsibility for her own actions. Working with the principles will develop decisions that balance the needs of the individual, those we work with, and the organization as a whole. The change we face is recognizing accountability and learning to make decisions based on principles rather than procedures.

Concern: "We’ve got a while to think about it."

Response: One dream is to arrive at the LLLI International Conference in 2003 feeling as though we are part of a revitalized organization. That’s not far off, and there’s much ahead for us to do.
As participants of LLL, as women committed to its success, we are all mutually accountable for its future. We all have a voice; we all have many voices. As we search for the right balance between flexibility and structure that works best for our organization, we encourage you to join us.

Maybe the switch to whole wheat flour doesn’t speak to you. Analogies have their limits, after all. Maybe, for you, the Chaordic Initiative is more like a new baby, a move to a new town or a new job, or maybe just reorganizing the garage. The task of changing may seem overwhelming, exciting, hopeful, and frustrating all at once. You might have been searching for the "right answer" to what the initiative means to you. There isn’t one right answer. There are many right answers. To find your "right answer" you might ask yourself: What is my dream for LLL? What will our success stories be? Together we can share our concerns, respect thoughts, and find positive actions. With the Chaordic Initiative, we can work together to make these dreams happen. LLL of the future is only as strong as the individuals who are involved make it—are you ready to dare to dream and make your voice heard?

Contact Information:
For information about the working set of principles contact a member of the Review Network at ReviewNetwork at llli.org (email) or www.lalecheleague.org/chaordic/questions.html/

Local contact information for Review Network members is available from any Review Network member or from your Area Coordinator of Leaders.

Information about the Chaordic Initiative is available on the the LLLI Web site at www.lalecheleague.org/chaordic/index.html
To join the talkchaordic email discussion list, send a blank message to talkchaordicsubscribe@yahoogroups.com

Nikki Julien is a Leader from Olympia, Washington, USA. Empowered and inspired by the Chaordic Initiative, she is following her dream of writing for Leaven. Diane Beckman is a Leader and member of the Review Network from Cary, North Carolina USA. Contact her at 319 S. Dixon Ave, Cary, North Carolina 27511-3259 USA, DiBeckman at aol.com (email). Special thanks also to Leaders Norma Escobar, Natalie Kraut, Juanita Jauer Steichen, and Michele Zollars for their contributions.

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