To accompany its growth and deploy its new strategy, the CartONG team has built a new governance model based on the principles of collective intelligence... and is now looking for a Executive Director to lead the organization and its evolutions!
A review of our governance model encouraged by rapid growth and a consolidated associative project
Those who have been following our activities have noticed that CartONG has gone through a period of rapid change in the last 10 years: budget multiplied by 8, team growing from 4 fixed-term contracts to about 40 collaborators and 60 volunteers, 4 changes of premises to accommodate our team... In parallel, we have diversified the types of support and projects we carry out. In addition to our historical partnerships with MSF and UNHCR, we have built multiple collaborations in support of international and local solidarity NGOs, as well as developed cross-cutting projects implemented in support of the whole sector thanks to donors' funding (AFD, FCDO via the H2H Network, MEAE-CDCS, etc.). In the last few years, we have also expanded the range of pro bono activities implemented in support of small civil society organizations (CSOs) thanks to our growing community of experienced volunteers. Similarly, we have diversified the range of technical fields and topics in which we operate.
Over the last two years, these changes have been accompanied by a strengthening of CartONG's organizational structure, first with the formalization of two co-director positions and a structuring of our Board (definition and strengthening of roles, exchanges with salaried directors, etc.). We also worked on formalizing further our management bodies: a collegial management committee (CMT), a group of a dozen project managers, the creation of technical units with facilitators, as well as the formalization of separate support functions such as communications, HR, finance, logistics and IT.
These efforts, like the growth of CartONG, had however been largely organic in nature, driven, on the one hand, by the definition of an associative project and then of a strategy starting 2019, and, on the other hand, by the operational projects we were implementing as well as the requests of our partners. At the same time, our association tried to maintain a relatively horizontal functioning, encouraging autonomy, in accordance with our values.
As we were prepareing our strategy for the 2022-2024 period last year, it became clear that our governance and management model were no longer adequate to meet the challenges our organization is now facing. The restructuring of the governance model was seen as a necessity and was therefore included as an objective in its own right in this first strategy (area 4). To do so, we obtained the support of Coordination Sud's Institutional and Organizational Strengthening Fund (FRIO), which allowed us to fund an external consultancy in 2023 and to structure our approach - a consultancy carried out over nearly the course of a full year by Anne-Laure Prévost and Olivier Piazza of Les Maisons de l’Intelligence Collective cooperative.
A collective and unique approach
With the support ot these two consultants, the process of redefining our governance model began with an in-depth diagnosis of the functioning of our organization in the spring 2023.
This detailed diagnosis allowed us to highlight the existing challenges, contradictions and opportunities for CartONG. This unprecedented and in-depth work provided a true "health check" of our association, touching on issues of identity, internal communication, as well as the individual and collective human needs of the various stakeholders and the management of power internally related to roles and responsibilities and decision-making processes.
Based on this, the team of consultants proposed different scenarios ranging from maintaining the status quo while addressing a few very targeted aspects to a full democratic governance implying the election by the team of all positions of responsibility and the functioning according to the sociocratic philosophy. During a day-long team meeting, we discussed these different scenarios, but also experimented with some of the proposed methods - such as the "election without candidates" - to help project ourselves on a potential implementation at CartONG.
Based on the collective preferences that emerged during this exchange day, a working group refined a final scenario, which was approved during a two-step process: firstly, in early October by the board and the CMT, then, in early November by the entire CartONG team. At the same time, in order to move forward and not to lose momentum, we started addressing some of the issues that were identified during the original diagnosis in regards to regulating internal tensions and improving internal communication and transparency, and we started experimenting on new methods of democracy within the organization.
Tomorrow: a new governance for CartONG
When we looked at the terms of reference of CartONG, we felt a strong resonance between our project and the needs of the organization. The essence of our partnership could be summarized in three key words: demand, confidence and openness.
As the weeks went by, by proposing to progressively involve the whole staff in the shared diagnosis, then in the projection and choice of a new scenario for the governance of the association, we were able to note the maturity and the appetite of the different people on these subjects, and the involvement of everyone in the proposed processes. Structuring and sometimes challenging topics have been addressed. The authenticity of all the participants allowed us to draw up some ideas which the whole staff took up during the handover. Now, we have to build on this experience, especially with the continuation of the working groups, the ongoing recruitments and the challenge of becoming acculturated on essential cross-cutting subjects, which require tools and practice. Congratulations!
Anne-Laure Prévost et Olivier Piazza, Les Maisons de l’Intelligence Collective
The new chosen model aims to stay true to both the values of our organization and the desire for democracy and the use of collective intelligence expressed by the team, but it is also a commitment to being pragmatic to ensure we can provide efficient and qualitative work in support of our partners and the aid sector. It thus legitimizes existing strategic decision-making bodies, clarifies decision-making processes and reconfigures the internal flow of information.
Here are the main features of this model - a more detailed and permanent presentation will be posted on our website once it is fully in place:
"Collective intelligence": what does it mean?
Collective intelligence, a widely used and sometimes overused concept, implies that a collective makes better decisions than the sum of its isolated individuals. At CartONG, we have chosen to apply it through a clear governance system, but also through very practical methods of decision-making, such as:
These two tools, developed and tested by organizations that have adopted collective functioning such as sociocracy or holocracy, will allow us to move forward collectively while remaining operational.
This system will be implemented progressively during the first half of 2023. We are now launching the recruitment of our future Executive Director: as you will have understood, this is both an essential role for the future of CartONG, but also a unique and exciting challenge to accompany the next steps in the life of our NGO! Feel free to share this job offer extensively within your network.
At the same time, in the coming months, we will continue to define and document how new bodies, roles and decision-making processes are meant to work, and will elect our various representatives.
Although a major change for CartONG, this evolution should not impact our partners - their focal points remaining the same - nor the success of our projects, which should on the contrary benefit from the increased fluidity of our internal decision-making processes.
We have tried to remain faithful to the DNA of CartONG, an innovative and agile organization, which is committed to continuous progress while staying attentive to the people who constitutes it and its core value of "connectedness". We hope that this new governance model will arouse the interest of our partners and supporters, and why not inspire them to join us!