It’s no secret that this past year has been tough on the board. In May, as I started reaching out to current board members about whether or not they planned to continue on the board, I had a minor panic attack as I realized that, as of the AGM, it was just going to be me.
Literally. Everyone else was either resigning, had already resigned, or had their terms expiring.
What happened?! As most social dynamics go, it’s both complicated and not. From my perspective, and the perspective of remaining board members when we did a retrospective, it boiled down to 3 things:
- Lack of team cohesion
- Volunteer burnout (both on & off the board)
This led to fewer people taking on more responsibility in an uncertain global context that was constantly in flux. Honestly, I nearly quit as well.
But here’s what I’m thinking for next year. My vision for next year’s board/operations boils down to these 3 principles:
- Projects EVEN OVER roles
- Teamwork EVEN OVER efficiency
- Community EVEN OVER events
Projects over roles is about reducing siloing of work at the board level. People on the board tend to take on these personal portfolios of projects that don’t tend to be shared with other board members, except when a decision needs to be made or a status report is requested. Next year, I would like the board to do away with titles as much as possible and legal, and focus TOGETHER instead on the projects that are really going to move the business forward. No more pet projects, just team projects.
Teamwork over efficiency is about spreading institutional knowledge and creating documentation so that new people can onboard into our community more easily. The learning curve to join us today is exceptionally steep, and we lose a lot of great potential volunteers because we don’t have a good way to introduce people to the theatre gradually. Before doing anything, I want us to slow down, write a document, and try to get someone new to do a task instead of relying on the same people to do things every time. (With some exceptions – things like the financials should be handled by the experts.)
Community over events is about building our community OUTSIDE OF our productions and events (which obviously will still happen!). I’m looking into creating a Slack or Discord instance in order to facilitate communication among our members outside of specific events, so that hopefully people who join in between events can get a nice warm KWLT hug without the expectation of immediately doing work in order to make friends. I’d also like us to start doing in-person social events again.
The way I plan to make this happen is 3-fold:
- Board orientation, onboarding, team building, and co-creation of goals
- New tool to facilitate community-building & collaboration
- Find ways to delegate more board responsibilities
By spending time building a team of people who know how to work together and are ready to lead a focused portfolio of projects intended to increase our capacity as an organization, I believe that we can weather the storm of COVID and learn how to operate as a theatre company again. It will be hard, and it will be different than what we’re used to doing, but I hope it will get us through and back to a place where we are brimming with volunteer energy. Next year, I hope to report successful shows and a larger volunteer pool to our AGM, and I hope to not have to report resignations.
I’m delighted and surprised by the response of our community to our desperate plea for board members. Let’s make some change!