North American MenEngage Network’s Journey of Organizational Change
Shane Joseph MSW, RSW & Dr. Steven Botkin, NAMEN Board Co-Chairs
Over the past several years, the North American MenEngage Network (NAMEN) has been deliberately (albeit slowly) engaging in a process of “decolonization.” While we did not use this term at the beginning, we were committed to transforming ourselves from a network of predominantly older white male gender activists to an organization where marginalized voices are centered and new generations of leadership are developed. We understood that this process would require deep changes individually, interpersonally, institutionally and culturally.
Our partnership, as a younger black Caribbean man and an older white Jewish man, has been a critical part of this process. Supporting and challenging each other, we are building trust and learning skills in shared leadership.
One of our first steps was to facilitate changes in the composition of NAMEN’s leadership team. For several years, all nominees for new Steering Committee members were required to be people who were women and people of color. As an increasingly diverse Steering Committee, we are engaging in difficult conversations challenging patterns of white male dominance, and deepening our understandings of intersectionality, privilege and accountability.
We have committed to ensuring that intersectional lenses are applied in all our engagements to tackle the systems of oppressions, dominance and discrimination. We believe that the multi ideas, opinions and suggestions matter if we are to truly value and appreciate the whole. This has been a welcoming phenomenon by many but a very challenging one for others. However, it is non-negotiable if we are to mean what we say and say what we mean.
Out of these conversations, we are developing formal and informal internal practices to put into action a lot of what we have been dreaming, thinking and saying. All of our Board meetings now include reflection time from quiet voices, and also time for dominant voices to reflect on the dynamics of privilege. We have even pushed the bar a bit further where the white bodies who have acknowledged their power and privileges are now meeting and discussing while holding each other accountable. Persons of color are also welcomed to participate as witnesses to the conversation and to promote continued accountability and safety. This we see as a defining approach or practice towards decolonizing what and how we do things.
NAMEN is also creating public spaces for addressing the intersections of racism and sexism, in our membership meet-ups, community of practice webinars, policy advocacy committee.
As members of the Global MenEngage Alliance, we are joining with regions around the world all engaging in this process of dismantling patriarchy and white supremacy. We challenge others to recognize that this is, ‘a must do’ if we are to find a way through the crises that face us. We are heartened to witness the rising tide in a global societal transformation.
Oba yansafo yenkanasem yebunbe “a word to the wise is enough.”