by Shelly Satran
Several Beyond Borders and Limye Lavi staff and board members meet around the round table at the Limye Lavi office in Haiti.
In our office here in Haiti, there is a large table made up of eight sections, each shaped like a piece of pie. During regular workdays, these sections are scattered throughout the office and used as desks in different rooms. On meeting days, the slices of pie are pieced together to make a single circular table.
This table represents how our organization seeks to balance power and leadership. In a circle no one sits at the head, no one sits above or below another, and all eyes are not on one person.
If you visit Beyond Borders or our sister organization in Haiti, Limyè Lavi, you’ll have a hard time finding “the person in charge.” Each staff member shares the title co-director and is “in charge” of his or her areas of responsibility. Organizational decisions are made through consensus. Each person is a leader.
Of course, like any other organization, Beyond Borders has its flaws and frustrations. Reaching decisions by consensus can take much more time than one person giving an order. Also, when each person has leadership, conflicting ideas and opinions can be harder to work through because the solution isn’t just decided by whoever wields the most power. Yet we choose this path because we believe the way we do our work is crucial to what we do. Striving for an equitable balance of leadership and power seems especially important when working across cultures. We believe this enables us to work together more effectively toward change in Haiti.
Today, during a staff meeting as I sit at the table and look around at the Haitian and American faces that make up the pieces of this circle, I am amazed at the capacity and initiative and creativity of each person. What this table represents is what we seek to be about in Haiti—encouraging leadership, initiative, responsibility, and collaboration as we work together in Christ’s name to promote education that liberates and transforms.