Sunday, April 24, 2011

More on Institution Building

In an earlier post i wrote on the importance of institution building; that is, African people building institutions that aim to address the challenges faced by African people.  And i also mentioned a few: Per Ankh Publishing Collective, University of Kmt/African International, and Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. To that i would add Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living. And as important it is to build institutions from the ground up (we have few, if any, lasting ones), it is important to be aware of the many challenges groups face and considerations that must be made to do this right. Below are a few things important to institution building that each of these organizations have worked/are working on.
  1. Principles of shared decision-making:  One of the most challenging aspects of building institutions is creating and preserving a process whereby decisions are made collectively.  Having a collective process takes longer and requires a greater degree of patience, however in the long run it helps the institution to exist beyond the tenure of an individual. The principles and procedures need to be clearly stated and followed, however. Once developed it is the responsibility of the group to stick to the principles and not deviate unless the group collectively revises the process.
  2. Guiding principles - in general:  In general, it is important for institutions to develop and stick to a set of guiding principles.  Such principles ought to reflect the values of the institution.  These principles then inform institutional policies, procedures and practices. All initiatives, actions, positions taken, etc. should be developed in such a way that reflects these principles.  And over time, the group may revisit and revise the principles to reflect changing conditions/realities.
  3. Resource building:  Resources are important in the long run, but really difficult to come by for African people focusing on positive/meaningful change for African people.  The reality and bottom line is that we have to fund our efforts rather than rely on others to do it for us - and most of us are broke, struggling or near struggling. However it is important to realize that if we fund it, we can control the aim/purpose/activities of the institution. As soon as we begin taking money from others, the aim/purpose/activities of the institution begin to reflect the funders' aims and interests.  So in building institutions, consider how to generate income while also cultivating a core of people who will contribute in other ways (donations, volunteers, etc.). 
These are only 3 of many considerations to make in the process of institution building.  The presentation is a very general and light; it lacks a critical analysis of the issues surrounding African institution building, what it means at this period in history, and why it is ever more important to not take money from foundations...among other things. Consider this as only a mere tip of the iceberg.  We've done some work on this at the University of Kmt site, but i don't have the reference to put here at this time. (will do so once i get my hands on it.)

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