MCC Restructure: When does the hard part begin?

Hello. I attended the MCC New Wineskins Summit in Winnipeg, Ca last week. Read more about me below if you want to know why I attended. Read on for my brief opinions and McCain maverick-like move at the end.

I am not an alarmist and believe in moderation but I am afraid of the future of MCC. That’s strong, but I’m serious. I don’t think in 40 years MCC will be as we recognize it today. That is a good thing. I am not afraid of that. Its programs and missions need tweaking because of globalization, but they are generally executed with the right attitude and necessary risk-taking (and all in the name of Christ, of course).

I am afraid of the decision-making process it will take to get us there. It could be ugly but turn out OK, much like the Democratic primary season. Already those established in power are being shown up by uppity, young community organizers who don’t look like the faces on a U.S. 20 dollar bill. I was hoping for a little less politics in the MCC change and decision-making system, but we all know that’s not going to happen!

After listening to the diverse concerns of the MCC constituency, which MCC leadership is doing well via summits and listening teams throughout the world, the MCC Inquiry Task Force, Steering Committee, then executive leadership will have tough choices to make. As a result of those choices, some people will lose power; others will gain it. Some programs will lose funding; others will make their own money and be self-sustaining. If the choices the leadership makes are daring enough, MCC culture might actually change, which is the only way MCC will integrate globally.

Why is this scary to me? Because when a volunteer/staff-driven organization starts making tough choices people get hurt. That’s why we don’t like to make tough choices, we want to please everyone all of the time. An Appreciative Inquiry style change process, which MCC is going through, is all very nice.

At the summit, I found points I made about MCC at its best mingling with my table partners’ – the moderator of the Evangelical Mennonite Church of Canada, a Catholic Priest, an MCC Binational board member, a SWAP volunteer, a church leader from Tanzania – on flip chart page after flip chart page. That was fun! We were all agreeing to disagree and putting our differences aside for the good of the group and respect for the process. We kept it light and fluffy and did not clarify when we said things like “MCC should remain connected to the church” (what church? how? for how long? financially? structurally?) or “MCC should recruit more young adults” (what ages? how? give incentives like tuition reimbursement? pay more?). Then all of those points were added to the other 30 tables’ points in one big strategic priority map that took twice as long to compile as any other strategic priority map our Appreciative Inquiry facilitator ever did in his decades of consulting experience.

Quite frankly all 30 table groups seemed to agree that MCC’s mission was strong and still relevant and effective. Increase partnership at the local country level, establish a flexible, global governance structure, and respond to people in need especially in high-conflict, high-risk areas in the name of Christ. Programs, mission, need to globalize but still strong, check! Decision-making….. not so check.

Leadership is about choosing based on limited information. OK, so, the MCC executive leadership is going through a process to gather more information to make an informed, collaborative decision of MCC’s priorities, new mission, vision, and structure. Great. So how will they choose what to do, and what will be the repercussions? Is the MCC constituency ready for the fall-outs of a new structure? Can we manage them appropriately? Is MCC leadership going to do this in an authentic manner that models the change Mennonites wish to bring to the world?

I’m now staging a McCain maverick-style ruse: I am suspending my opinions until MCC leadership has made a decision. And I’ll be happy to give my opinion on that decision :)

Why I think I attended:

I did SALT in Ethiopia and worked for MCC East Coast during grad school but now I work in DC at an association of international NGOs called InsideNGO. MCC is a member, along with over a hundred other international NGOs like Save the Children, CARE, etc. I believe I was invited to participate in the summit because 1) of my prior experience working for MCC and 2) I am a young, “racial/ethnic” Mennonite female.

Comments (2)

  1. TimN

    Roxy, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the process. I think you’ve got a healthy skepticism about the eventual outcome of the process. I suspect your experience working as a staff member of MCC may have helped you on that front. Those of us coming in from the outside perhaps were a bit more caught up in the inherent optimism of the process. You are right that the difficult work will all be in the distillation (or fermentation) process and then in implimentation.

    I wrote up my own thoughts on the process along with some photos here.

  2. ST

    Thanks for writing Roxy. Tim and I were wondering if we’d have a chance to get something up on this blog about what we’ve experienced.

    Luckily, there were only 20 tables, btw…and one place of continuity of the discussion at least would be that one of the main people in your hot-team/rapid prototyping group is someone on the ITF and she was in the same discussion in the Philippines. Since y’all were talking about Human Resources, etc. I think that it was great to see some continuity of that discussion, as it directly relates to appropriately hiring and firing, changing funding levels, tuition reimbursements etc.

    I led a hot-team/rapid prototyping discussing the church…as in “who are we talking about when we say “the church”. we recommended that MCC discontinue the use of word “owner/ownership” in its bylaws and also to not conflate “church” and “institutions” i.e. MC Canada because the church is changing

    I don’t know how we’ll be able to handle all of the concerns, but it is comforting that the ITF and Steering Committee are not making a final decision (once-and-for-all) but maybe only for the next 20 years.

    Most of the hard part begins in October when the ITF meets.

    And you can suspend your opinions, but please do send us your prayers…

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