KFTC members imagine and prepare for organizational change | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

KFTC members imagine and prepare for organizational change

Participants in Imagining and Envisioning the Future of KFTC heard a word from our chairperson, Cassia Herron, and Executive Director, Burt Lauderdale to provide some context as we prepare for change. Read the transcript below, or watch the video at www.vimeo.com/522584493.

Burt and Cassia

CH = Hello, I’m Cassia Herron, she/her and I am your KFTC Chairperson. I’m a proud Kentuckian, home of Yuchi, Miami, Osage, Shawnee, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Quapaw, and Oceti Sakowin people. Born and raised in Richmond/Madison County and I’ve lived here in Jefferson County since 97.

BL = And I’m Burt Lauderdale, he/him. I grew up in Auburn, Alabama, but I’ve lived here in Kentucky since 1983, here in Laurel County since 1988. I’m your KFTC Executive Director.

CH = Burt and I are here to describe the KFTC Organizational Change Initiative, and our collective responsibility in Imagining and Envisioning KFTC’s future. There’s at least four reasons why KFTC is investing in Organizational Change.

The first is we want to honor and celebrate the achievements of KFTC. It’s a happy coincidence that this envisioning process coincides with our 40th anniversary.  KFTC has an awesome history and achieved some great things. We’ve organized tens of thousands of Kentuckians and tons of grassroots leaders. We’ve won and lost policy fights at the local, state, and national level and helped develop and elect progressive champions. We’ve worked on land rights, voting rights, and equal rights. And we have built and sustained a statewide, grassroots, democratic, member-run organization for forty years.

Today, KFTC is an essential partner in the social justice community in Kentucky and across the nation. As we embark on this Organizational Change Initiative, we stand on the shoulders of the thousands of KFTC leaders that came before us, and now we want to build on that legacy.

BL = The second reason is we’ve simply outgrown the old KFTC. The last time we did this type of comprehensive planning process was in 2001. Back then, KFTC had 2,000 members, now we have 13,000. The Steering Committee was smaller and closer geographically. We had eleven staff then; this Spring we’ll have thirty and a staff union to complement it. We need to redesign structures and strategies to catch up with where KFTC is today, and where we want to be tomorrow.

CH = The third reason we are changing is because the world has changed. The political landscape is volatile and yet there’s so much opportunity. New ways of communicating mean new ways of organizing. A new generation of grassroots leaders is ready, including staff leaders who bring their own experiences and talents to our work and who want to be part of our formal decision-making processes. And the largest social movement in our history, the Movement For Black Lives, is demanding more of the nation, and more of KFTC.

BL = And the fourth reason is we want KFTC to be and do better. KFTC has many strengths. But we also have weaknesses. 

We’re stretched thin across a sprawling program of work. We ask a lot of our grassroots leadership. Our decision-making is democratic, but also slow, more reactive than pro-active. And, as you may have noticed, we’re really white. Our demographics are white – not surprising for a statewide organization in a predominantly white state.

More importantly, our culture is white (and middle class). KFTC has been captive to and a beneficiary of a white dominant culture that we sometimes resist, but have not broken free from, in spite of sincere efforts by sincere people.

Two years ago we brought in Frontline Solutions to do a racial justice assessment of our organization. They gathered surveys and conducted interviews and delivered what I describe as our “lab report.” They helped us understand how white supremacy culture shows up in KFTC – things like defensiveness, fear of open conflict, transactional relationships, or equity washing – and named the harm caused across the years. The Steering Committee adopted Frontlines three recommendations for healing and reconciliation; equity training across the whole organization; and reimagining our structure to invite a more diverse and equitable base, leadership, and staff. We’ve already begun the healing work and training. And both inform the rest of the work.

Structural Reimagining is more complicated. This Imagining and Envisioning process is intended to give us a shared vision of who we want to be. From there we can revise, refine, reimagine the strategies and the structures that can get us there.

CH = Celebrating our history and staying true to our roots, building new systems for a new KFTC, organizing in this political landscape and environment, creating a more focused and equitable, inclusive culture. That’s a lot. Luckily, we have a lot of members, staff, and consultants already working on different “tracks” or parts of Organizational Change including Interest Based Bargaining, which is our process to negotiate a staff union contract, Executive Leadership Transition as Burt exits his role, and centering equity and racial justice inside KFTC and in our organizing. This work is already happening. But this conversation– Imagining and Envisioning the KFTC of the next decade – this track is the heartbeat of the whole OCI.

BL = In this upcoming “Jam Session,” and the companion Jam Session in April, members and staff will be describing what we want KFTC to be and do over the next ten years.  We’ll affirm our vision for a more just Kentucky and check our alignment around the purpose of KFTC – why we exist – and the core values that drive our program. By the end of the weekend, we hope to describe together what Pamela and Tony call a “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal” for the next ten years, and a Vivid Description of what KFTC looks like in 2031, our fiftieth anniversary. 

CH = So how do we get there? After the April Jam Session, a team of folks will synthesize the results of the two sessions. We’ll test some of the emerging ideas with all of us and with the Steering Committee. In June, we’ll all come back together for a “Summer Concert,” – keep practicing your instruments – where we’ll identify the “Breakthrough Strategies” that will create the KFTC we’ve envisioned. 

BL = I’m really proud of the work that KFTC has done over forty years and the amazing things we’ve accomplished together. And I’m just as proud of KFTC’s persistent desire to be better. We’ve been able to maintain a core set of values and principles that describe our approach to change – why we do, what we do, the way we do it. And at the same time, about every five years we also do some sort of organizational makeover, trying new approaches, taking on new challenges, building new structures. Perhaps the most important factor in our sustained success has been that we constantly strive to be vision-oriented. People typically come to KFTC because they want to work on a particular issue or campaign. But I believe that they stay because they come together with others around the vision. We have to imagine and envision what’s possible to have any chance of achieving it. That is why the work that we are doing together through Organizational Change is so important, and your participation is such a gift.

CH = My hope for KFTC in this process is that we reaffirm our vision and commitment to each other, ground ourselves in our collective work and individual responsibility, identify and use the right tools to help us do our work, and model for our allies how we expect us all to show up

We do this, and do it right, we will organize the heck out of Kentucky and the voices of ordinary people will be heard and respected in our democracy. Thanks for showing up – let’s do this work.