Help Wanted 2010

There's been a fair amount of buzz in the Quaker blogosphere lately (and over the last five years) about Revitalizing the Message and New Wineskins. This is part of a more general debate about the fate and usefulness of old Quaker institutions. I think it is very important to have these discussions on an ongoing basis. But pontificating on the internet is not enough. What are we going to do about the state of the Religious Society of Friends?

On that note, have you noticed how many of the major Quaker institutions (and a few minor ones) have been or are now, or will be soon, looking for new executive leadership in the course of about two years?
American Friends Service Committee (2010)
Ben Lomond Quaker Center (2011)
Friends Committee on National Legislation (2010)
Friends General Conference (2011)
Friends Journal (2011)
Friends United Meeting (nominated 2010, starting 2012)
Friends World Committee for Consultation (2011)
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (2008)
Quaker House (in Fayetteville, NC) (2012)
Western Friend (2008)
There’s probably more. Which ones have I left out? (Is there a clearinghouse somewhere for announcements and job descriptions?)

***Here's two more:
QUNO Geneva [added thanks to Eden Grace, 10/9]
Earlham College [brought to my attention by Martin Kelley, 12/8]
***And even more, now with dates thanks to Kathy Hyzy, 1/27/11:
Woolman Semester (2008)
Friends Fiduciary Corporation (2011)
Quaker Earthcare Witness (2011)
Quaker United Nations Office/New York (2008)
Northwest Yearly Meeting (2012)
One Friend I know got interviewed for one of these jobs and the first question the committee asked was, “Out of all the Quaker jobs open right now, why do you want this one?”

Why do you think this is all happening at once? Is it just time in the generational cycle? Is it because the financial crisis of the last couple of years has been so hard on executive directors?

This looks like a wider nonprofit trend of long-time executive leaders leaving. About 10 years ago, there was a big fuss in the nonprofit world about a survey that showed that half of all executive directors planned to leave their jobs in the next five years. Then five years ago, another survey showed that the massive shift hadn’t happened but that most EDs still planned to leave in the next five years. I think that we are now seeing that shift starting to happen among the Baby Boomers who founded organizations in the 70s and 80s. It’s complicated by the economic recession, and by the fact that Boomers are living longer in better health and so working longer too. I highly recommend a book by Frances Kunreuther, Helen Kim and Robby Rodriguez, called Working Across Generations: Defining the Future of Nonprofit Leadership.

I don’t know enough about evangelical Friends organizations, but there aren’t any on this list. Why not? Did they already go through a shift or are they just about to enter this phase? Or am I just not in their loop?

I’m wondering how many of these jobs will go to another Baby Boomer. (It’s two out of three for the ones I know of that are already filled.) [Update: Seven out of ten as of February 2011.] What kinds of risks are the hiring committees/boards willing to take on less experienced Friends? Will they just hire another Boomer to stay another 2-5 years? Will we have another generation of 20-30 year tenures at the tops of these of organizations?

Will all these institutions survive this once in a lifetime mass shift in leadership? How many will move in new and vibrant directions? Are there too many openings at one time? Are there enough younger Friends who are ready, willing and able to take on new responsibilities? To take on the hard work and hard choices? To commit?

New wine needs new wineskins with every harvest. But not a whole new winecellar every year, just to continue the metaphor. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel just for the sake of saying “I did it my way,” or “We sure showed them.” Then again, when your winecellar starts to cave in, it may be time to move the whole house.

Organizations help to coordinate the matching of resources with missions. Structure can be helpful. Systems liberate. Creativity flourishes best without complete chaos surrounding it. One lone ranger, or a small, committed group of citizens, can do some things for a short time, but organizing materials, money and manpower takes infrastructure to run smoothly. What would a GenX Quaker institution look like? What about a Millenial Quaker organization?

Honestly, I don’t know or even have a fixed opinion on what should happen. These organizations vary widely in size, complexity and mission. Some are on firmer financial and spiritual footings than others. But all will depend on, contribute to, and have to face either the diminishment or the revitalization of the Religious Society of Friends.

In an era of reduced budgets and growing unrest, what does the future hold for the Religious Society of Friends?

Where do you see yourself?

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Blogger Martin Kelley said...

There's an interesting phenomenon that you don't mention: much of today's leadership got high-responsibility jobs right out of college. I can think of a handful of people who practically packed up their dorm rooms to take important jobs in Philadelphia in the early 70s--people still around, you'd know their names.

Something happened forty years ago that there was a complete leadership gap. There weren't enough 30- and 40- and 50-somethings to step into jobs or they weren't qualified or they didn't want them. There were major economic problems then too, organizations on the brink of bankruptcy. Maybe the only ones who would work for the wages offered were 23 year olds? Perhaps the 1950s generation of leaders acted as a forest canopy that kept new growth from spouting until they fell down into retirement in the early 1970s? I don't know, but something certainly happened then.

My pet theory is we're a few years away from a similar period of mass turnover. I wasn't given a lot of organizational responsibilities during my eight years on Quaker staff. I can think of some GenX staff with responsibilities but they're not boat-rockers who engage in public discussions of revitalization. It's not been a good career move to have strong opinions.

For what it's worth, I'm not planning to apply for anything. I don't even think it'd be worth the time to freshen my resume. Two of the jobs on your list have turned over in the last ten years and both bypassed strong GenX candidates who would have brought the organization to a much different place circa 2010. The people on one semi-official short lists of candidates I saw weren't boat rockers (can I say they were a completely BOOORING lot?). So much of the time and energy in these jobs is maintaining the infrastructure. I don't see the 2010/11 round of turnovers intersecting the revitalization talk.

A lot of the energy is passing back to the grassroots, probably for good (and probably for the good). There's a lot more going to be turning over in the next 15 years than name plates on the corner offices.

10/10/2010 2:30 AM  
Blogger forrest said...

The fact that it's "executive leadership" we're talking about strikes me as part of the difficulty.

Somebody in an organization has to have a clear sense of its mission and ways of carrying that out.

But what's emphatically not needed is somebody concerned with an organization following the corporate model of 'efficiency', 'setting goals & objectives', imposing 'criteria for measuring success', continual reporting to supervisors, that old top-down model that makes a joke of all the sincere, dedicated effort that went into hiring a competent, trustworthy staff in the first place. I think about AFSC with all the elaborate mechanism for discernment, local advisory committees-- and (in my day) chain of command de facto organization... We need to stop idolizing models from secular business & government; we're in (should be) a different endeavor entirely!

10/10/2010 12:19 PM  
Blogger Paul L said...

Funny; my observation is the opposite of Forrest's, I think. My observation is that many Quaker organizations are hobbled by governance models that are too diffuse and unfocused and which allow board and executives and staff to too easily avoid accountability. (I'm not sure whether your example of AFSC's elaborate structure was a good or bad thing from your point of view.)

While I would not want the pendulum to swing too far the other way, I do think the adoption of some modern management and leadership methods from business would help our religious organizations, too. Yes, we are a different kind of endeavor, but it is an endeavor nonetheless, and it has to be practically organized to accomplish its mission.

I admit I'm at the moment a bit in the thrall of Malcolm Gladwell's most recent article in The New Yorker where he argues, using the US Civil Rights Movement as an example, that a tightly organized hierarchal organization is more likely to foster the "strong ties" necessary to get a few people to do hard things that need to be done then a network model [he's talking about Twitter and Facebook] which create "weak ties" that are good at getting a lot of people to do easy things. (He's also talking about social change movements and not institutions per se, so maybe he isn't quite on point.)

I think a good deal more discipline and focused attention would help most Friends organizations with which I'm familiar. I also think this can be done without abandoning the Christian ethos or even many Quaker peculiarities.

10/10/2010 2:11 PM  
Blogger Bill Samuel said...

There may be a difference between the Friends yearly meetings and associations, and the ancillary groups. While certainly some of the former have had tough times, some of the latter have been hit even harder.

At least as of a few years ago, the majority of AFSC funding was from dead people - bequests. FCNL has had to cut back drastically in recent years (maybe partly because they lost their focus for a while and became practically an arm of the White House).

As for Evangelical Friends, I'm not too sure. EFCI is a much looser organization than FGC or FUM, and I don't think has ever had full-time staff. Evangelical Friends Mission does, and its Director is of retirement age, but I don't know how much longer he plans to stay in that position. I think the largest Evangelical YMs in the USA have leaders who might be next decade retirement candidates. I suspect they will be a little later in this.

10/10/2010 5:00 PM  
Anonymous Christine Greenland said...

One of the things I observed coming to Philadelphia nearly 30 years ago was that I was an unknown here, and looked younger than I was at the time. Despite having been mentored by some weighty Friends while in Colorado and Canada, I was considered too inexperienced in the complexity of Friends in SE Pennsylvania to usefully contribute to the life of the whole.

I was still considered a young adult Friend well into my 50s. I'm one of those boat-rockers that folks who prefer the status quo would rather not have over for dinner, and certainly not at a "serious" committee meeting. I tend to ask awkward questions.

I'm hearing similar things from Methodists and Presbyterians, by the way. What would "church" look like, they ask, if we didn't have buildings and institutions to maintain? History to live up to (or live down)?

What we can say, no matter what age we happen to be?

Can we get well beyond the ageism that infects institutions (not just religious ones?

Working together, perhaps we can come up with something of value. It won't happen unless we actually sit -- together -- at the feet of the Teacher with an eye -- and a heart -- to meet real needs that surround us.

We may be well into a significant paradigm shift in the way we "do" our religious life... and it may just be about time.

10/10/2010 5:52 PM  
Blogger Tony Breda said...

The core issue is not what to maintain or dispose of in an organization, nor who has more education and/or experience to lead. What is needed is actual belief that the Spirit will Lead us into all Truth. Tired old organizations get that way because they let go of the radical pursuit of God's will for us, in faovr of a more democratic or autocratic model, maintaining the garden or the cupula or preserving some tradition.

And so we make idols of our institutions. And because they have become idols, we struggle to do God's work because we are so busy rearranging the draperies. When there is real work to be done, meaningful work, the leaders will be SENT.

A weighty Friend once said in a business meeting I was attending, "We are asked what shall we do with the old Meeting House? Why does no one ever ask, 'what shall we do to please our God?'. I say, if the Meeting house is a burden, burn the Meeting house to the ground, and let us worship in the grass". The matter of the old Meeting House was quickly resolved and we went on to the real business of the Meeting, helping folks find God within them.

Our institutions are tools. If they serve us well, and serve God's will, then they are good tools. But if they do not they should be laid aside like a rotten hoe and a new tool sought. When institutions have at their core real missions that light a fire in those within them, finding leaders will be of little concern. God will send them as God always has.

God calls people to serve God. It sounds impractical because it is. God is very impractical, and yet accomplishes great things all the same.

10/11/2010 10:45 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

What rich and useful comments!

Christine and Tony, thank you so much for commenting here, I hope you'll come back.

Forrest and Paul, I think it is a general divide among the baby boomer generation whether to have less or more central authority and business-like practices. Both have benefits and drawbacks and it's not a once and for all decision.

Bill and Martin, thanks for the perspectives and for filling in some blanks.

I continue to reflect on these questions and where I might feel called to serve. I think that some of us need to step up to the plate.

10/12/2010 12:47 AM  
Blogger Mainframeguy said...

I'm not at all sure how it relates to Quakerism internationally or in the States, but here in the UK there have been some recent moves to revitalise outreach. There is an introductory course and guidebook "Becoming Friends" to guide attenders at local meetings in finding out more about Quaker faith and practice.

More topically we have a national Quaker week here, which was last week... I wonder if you have a nominated week in the USA also? Or if it is something which could be a global event?

10/12/2010 6:05 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The challenge in finding qualified executive leadership has affected organizations across the spectrum - nonprofit, private, public. Quakers are not unique. Sorry folks!

The baby boomers are aging and coming of retirement age. (And should be retiring - another topic.) The biggest difference between Baby Boomer Generation and Gen Xrs - numbers. There are half as many Gen Xrs as there are Baby Boomers...therefore the numbers aren't there. In some of my reading on the subject, baby boomers in general culturally are not good at delegating and bringing people along. Plus Gen Xrs and the Millenials do not have the same perspective on work as earlier generations - they don't give themselves up for a job - which is how people moved up. For how long have we Baby Boomers be denigrating the younger generations because they don't work hard...etc... We weren't willing to step outside the box and look at it from another perspective. At any rate, a convergence of factors have led to a lack of folks in the pipeline to take over the leadership of organizations. At least how it has been defined.

I am sure the writers here have good insights on the problem especially pertinent to Quaker culture.

I am one Baby Boomer who believes that it is time to turn over the reins to the younger generation - we've done enough damage!

10/15/2010 2:11 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

PS Thanks to all for their thoughtful comments and to Robin for raising the questions. We need to think more intentionally about this - as one or more commenters pointed out, we'll most likely be back at this point again sooner than we know.

I sit on the Friends Committee on Legislation of California, and just realized that our Futures Committee - which has been doing good work - didn't have one of our "younger" members on it! How can we work on the future of any of our organizations if we're not even including the next generation(s) in the planning and preparation?

10/15/2010 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vinaigrette Girl, de-lurking.

You might consider asking Kelly Kleiman, who runs the Nonprofiteer blog and website (http://nonprofiteer.net/). Her views and advice are remarkably astute, humane, sound, and experienced. It doesn't hurt that she is a mature legal mind as well as committed to understanding and facilitating best practice in nonprofit organisations. She's a good person with whom to dialogue. I might point her at this discussion, if I may?

10/15/2010 3:06 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Hi everybody,
It is definitely true, in my professional experience, that this trend is wider than just Quakers. I definitely think that the Religious Society of Friends and our related organizations can learn from the general experience of other nonprofit organizations. But this post is intended to be more specifically about the spiritual fate of Quaker institutions, including the intersections with the wider trends in the world.

I am on the older side of GenX. As Martin and others have pointed out in other blogposts, there aren't so many of us left in the RSoF, for a whole variety of reasons. I am wondering how many of these organizations will take a risk and hire a millenial/20-something Friend to lead their staff. Some of them are large and complex organizations, and I doubt a 25 year old would have sufficient experience to do it well. Others have enough structure and narrow enough missions that they really ought to think out of the box.

Both Western Friend and Quaker Life magazines have hired 30-ish (25-35?) Friends to be the editors. They both seem to be doing well, in my observations.

Will others follow more in their footsteps?

10/15/2010 4:27 PM  
Anonymous Steven Davison said...

Wow. Great thread.

I agree with Tony that all these problems ultimately need a spiritual solution: real renewal only comes from God. Yet what that means in practice is that real renewal comes from individuals called by God, inspired by the Holy Spirit with creative intelligence and energy. That does not mean that they will not pick up a tool—and tools require practice and even training to be effective. But spirit-led leadership requires two things we may be a bit short on: a vital culture of eldership in our meetings that can reliably produce sufficient numbers of Friends who know their Quakerism and know their God (and by ‘God’, I mean the Mystery Reality behind our spiritual/religious experience, whatever that experience is); and boards that can function as spirit-led bodies of discernment, nurture and oversight.

For, in a way, I think we focus on the wrong thing when we talk about executive directors. Especially for nonprofits and Friends in particular, it’s boards that choose these leaders and otherwise give direction—or not—to Quaker institutions. I suspect that Quaker boards are even older, more conservative and less expert than the directors they hire. And I think they may be even more tempted to function like nonprofits and like committees, rather than worshipping, spirit-led bodies of discernment. This is a structural problem, exacerbated by the relative infrequency of board meetings and the way board members are selected by constituent organizations.

As with the crises we face in ecology, economics and politics, I am increasingly apocalyptic about our prospects, as a society and as concerns our institutions. I think we can expect more decline and some localized collapse. Still, we’ve been here before. I think of the 1860s and the appeal for renewal that produced John Stephenson Rowntree’s landmark essay Quakerism Past and Present in 1860, calling for radical change in our practices, especially of disownment. The very next year, London Yearly Meeting published a new discipline changing more than fifty rules. Likewise, the great conferences of the 1890s ushered in a new era on both sides of the Atlantic. It has been a century since we saw such a season of renewal. But . . .

We believe—and have repeatedly experienced—that God is trying right now to get through to us, to make of us a useful tool. At the heart of Quaker spiritual practice lies the testimony of simplicity, the commitment to strip away all that might distract us from hearing the call and anything that might obstruct us from answering. Right now, someone could be trying to answer that call. Like Fox and Howgill and their cohort in the 1650s, they are likely to be in their early to mid-twenties, not their 50s and 60s. So we boomers need to focus on eldership, keeping our eyes open for younger Friends who might need a word of encouragement, help with resources (a stint at Pendle Hill or Earlham School of Religion), a suggestion for reading, more responsibility in the meeting. We won’t die out tomorrow. Our institutions will lumber along for a while. We have time, however dire our circumstances feel, sometimes. But our culture of eldership really is in dire circumstances, at least in the circles I move in. That is where I plan to invest my energy.

11/05/2010 8:57 AM  
Blogger Chuck Fager said...

I'm a little late to your discussion of this, but have been monitoring what I call "The Great Quaker Turnover" (or GQT) at www.afriendlyletter.com .
In addition, I'm one of those involved in it, as I'm two years a way from finishing at Quaker House, and out succession process is already cranking up, so I've given a lot of thought to some of the implications.

Some of those reflections have been posted in "A Letter to the Next Director of Quaker House," on the QH blog, here: http://quakerhouse.blogspot.com/2010/05/letter-to-next-director-of-quaker-house.html

A few thoughts on your discussion: first off,
I'm afraid it feels too general for me. "Quaker institutions", including those undergoing the GQT, are a quite varied lot: big, small; venerable, and not so venerable, and perhaps more important, some in better shape than others. For my money, this makes general comments hard to make with much usefulness.

For instance, FCNL has taken some financial hits, but my impression is that they're basically okay. After all, they have a clear, focused mission: lobbying in Washington; and that mission isn't going away, or becoming any less useful a part of the bigger Quaker picture. They go for executives who will stay awhile, and that makes lots of sense to me. But along with this continuity, they have a well-established and functional internship program, through which many younger Friends have gained very valuable experience.

I say all this as one who is not involved with FCNL, and who basically finds DC and lobbying very boring. But it's necessary, whatever my personal feelings.
I don't know the new person they've hired ( http://www.afriendlyletter.com/index.php/hard-core-quaker/flash-fcnl-taps-diane-randall-as-new-executive-secretary/ ) and I was rooting for a considerably younger staffer to get the nod ( http://www.afriendlyletter.com/index.php/hard-core-quaker/the-great-quaker-turnover-is-underway/ ) but so be it, and I wish the new person well.

By contrast, AFSC looks to me to be in considerable difficulty, not only crippled by the financial crash, but loosed from its moorings and scrambling to find its footing and direction again. Will Shan Cretin be able to pull this mess together? ( http://www.afriendlyletter.com/index.php/hard-core-quaker/afsc-confirms-our-report-re-shan-cretin-as-new-general-secretary/ )
I don't know, and I wouldn't break the Discipline and bet the ranch on it; but I wish her well too.

Likewise, FUM from all I can learn is in dire straits, such that I'm not the only one who finds it hard to imagine who would want the job of running it. ( http://www.afriendlyletter.com/index.php/hard-core-quaker/fum-the-great-quaker-turnover-continues/ )

At Quaker House, we worry about who will fill the slot when I'm done, but more because of the demands of the position and the setting. In our forty years, the problem of "leadership" has definitely not been one of a closed circle clutching all the power and excluding new blood; quite the opposite --there have been long periods when the house stood vacant (despite lots of work to do) because no one was ready to step up and take on the job. Will that happen again? We'll soon find out.
A bit more to say, in a following comment . . . .

11/13/2010 10:14 PM  
Blogger Chuck Fager said...

Institutionally, Quaker House has been holding our own through the Crash (So FAR, one must always hasten to add in these uncertain times). Our mission (peace witness) remains clear and there's still plenty of work to do. "The fields are ripe for the harvest; the laborers are few."

FGC, to mention one more group on the GQT list, seems financially strong but in my view spiritually quite weak, despite all the "spiritual" jabber jabber emitted from there. Yet I'm sure they'll find another functionary to fill their functionary's position, and continue to function.

Or take AGLI - the Africa Great Lakes Initiative: I haven't been there, but all the signals suggest that they're in darn good shape, especially for an international project; but Dave Zarembka will be hard to replace.

And Friends Journal? My gut tells me it's in deep trouble, tho the staff is keeping a stiff upper lip.

These are one person's opinions and your mileage may differ. But I will stand by the observation that this is a pretty varied lot of groups, covering a wide spectrum of conditions and prospects, which don't fit well into sweeping generalizations.

One place where I strongly agree with you and some other commenters, is that it's hard to see where younger Friends are being trained within our precincts to take on these jobs -- especially the culturally challenging ones, outside what I call the CCZ, or Cultural Comfort Zones. (Quaker House is one of those.) I'll avoid going down the list of the various "institutions" which don't seem to be getting this training done; mine is certainly on it, alas.

One factor which is hard to quantify but which will be key to our "institutional" future is the incidence of Quaker social entrepreneurial urges among the rising generation. After all, FCNL is the lengthened shadow of one imaginative and dogged Friend, the late E. Raymond Wilson; and one could name other institutions that similar came from the dedication and inventiveness of "inspired" individuals, who are not afraid to fail and then get up and try again.

Such entrepreneurial impulses can be applied either to creating new projects, or renewing old ones. I think the times call for a mix of both. There are a few new projects appearing, but nothing that has yet knocked my sox off. And there's a certain urgency.

And one final point: yes, things are changing in the RSOF; but any idea that our "institutions" are somehow going to be withering away in droves is in my view just so much eyewash. A few will vanish or shrivel into insignificance, sure. And I hope some new ones will appear.

But when I look, for instance at Baltimore yearly Meeting, where I'm a member, which just had its 338th annual sessions last August, such silly prophecies make me chuckle. BYM has been through two wars being fought in its territory, survived schism, depressions, reunifications, and lord knows how many feckless, babbling bubbleheaded Friends. We just can't kill it, and the cavils of some folks today won't do so either. I won't see this "institution's" 400th annual session in 2072, but I'm confident it will happen, barring only a nuclear war -- or God's decision.

And there are lots more like it.

11/13/2010 10:30 PM  
Blogger Bill Samuel said...

I just learned that the person being recommended for FUM is Colin Saxton, Superintendent of Northwest YM. He is a generation younger than the leadership of most of those Quaker groups getting new leaders. He is one of those public Friends who has gained respect from a much broader part of the Friends spectrum than his own.

It's a very difficult position, and one does wonder why someone would want to do it. But if he genuinely feels a call to it, then going into a very difficult situation knowing the difficulty can serve to be a powerful reminder to be humble and let Christ work through one, since one knows they can't do it in their own power.

And its possible this could get Northwest YM to start thinking about rejoining FUM, which would be a good thing. My sense is that Northwest YM is probably the North American YM which is at least among the very explicitly Christian YMs the one with the most dynamism and renewal energy that is clearly tied to the Quaker stream of Christianity. That's a good place to come from to FUM.

11/18/2010 9:59 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Wow, Bill, that is big news. Can you tell us how you heard? Do you know when the decision will be final? I have met Colin Saxton, and heard him speak, but I don't really know him. He does sound like an exciting choice for FUM.

Chuck, thank you for your thoughtful comments, here and on your own blog. I think I've read all your posts on the GQT, as you call it.

I think it's important to recognize that the next generation of Quaker leaders is not being trained in the Philadelphia institutions. They are being trained in nonprofit organizations all over the country. The new FCNL person being a good example. She's been running a statewide housing advocacy group in Connecticut, I heard, and active in her monthly meeting, but not a lot of Quaker jobs on her professional resume. Too many of our Quaker groups are too small to have enough staff to really have a succession pipeline. FCNL and QUNO and Ben Lomond Quaker Center (and others) have been running internship programs to develop some Quaker leadership for nonprofit management. But there's a long ways in between being an FCNL intern and the Executive Secretary position. That time is likely being spent in some other local social service agency. I really think the RSoF is lacking young Friends spending enough time in for-profit businesses with a concrete contribution to our general well-being.

My personal concern about half of these positions is that they would require moving to Philadelphia. Would the institutions flourish or founder if they were moved out of the city? Is the concentration of Quaker institutions a support or a burden to them? I don't know, not having spent much time in Philly, but I have heard both opinions from people closer to the facts.

11/19/2010 3:11 PM  
Blogger Bill Samuel said...

Robin, I heard through Johan Maurer's blog, Can you believe!. It indicates Northwest YM has already agreed to release Colin Saxton from his current position.

11/19/2010 3:20 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Steven, I agree, this is a great thread. As with the best of the Quaker blogosphere, my post itself is okay, but the comments are what make it rich.

You are also so right about the boards that will choose the new executive directors and then be either a burden or a blessing, and probably both, to the EDs they hire. The ones I know best are trying hard. They're trying to both follow legal hiring procedures and be spirit-led at the same time. But very few of them have much depth of experience at either one.

[Side Note to young Friends everywhere: being the HR director for a for-profit company is also an opportunity to be of God's service in the world. It will involve compromises, but so does being a social worker or an environmental activist.]

Back to the topic of reviving a healthy culture of eldering. This is a long-term process that fortunately does not require moving to Philadelphia or Richmond, Indiana. We can start to do that now, right where we live. I will second what Steven said, "keeping our eyes open for younger Friends who might need a word of encouragement, help with resources (a stint at Pendle Hill or Earlham School of Religion), a suggestion for reading, more responsibility in the meeting."

The question of the survival of our existing institutions is still open. I expect that some will not survive the next 10 years, but I wouldn't take bets on which. I hope that some of the new initiatives that are cropping up will take hold. I hope that some of the jobs in the GQT, as Chuck Fager called it, will go to Friends in their late 20s and early 30s with grand visions for what could be different. And I really hope that the RSoF and our multiple institutions will all come out of this period with a clearer understanding of why they exist and what work they are called to do.

11/19/2010 3:42 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Bill, thanks for the link. It pays to read Johan's blog regularly, doesn't it? Alas, this has been an enormously complicated week/month/year in my day job, and I am way behind in my blog reading. But I have today off, so I'm catching up. And I expect I 'll have more time to read and write in the coming year. And listen to Johan's blues clips!

11/19/2010 3:59 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

I just added a few more positions to the list, and updated the tally of baby boomers taking the positions. Seven out of eight so far! I have hopes for a couple in 2011 to go to younger people, but only time will tell.

1/27/2011 11:55 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Further updates as of 2/11/11: Barry Crossno at Friends General Conference and and Gabe Ehri at Friends Journal.

Gabe is definitely in the Gen X category, and I'd guess that Barry is right on the cusp.

I think these are exciting developments for the GQT as Chuck called it.

2/11/2011 7:02 PM  

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