July 15, 2022
Embracing ChangeBy Katherine Skinner
Educopia Institute was founded in 2006 to empower and equip collaborative communities to create, share, and preserve knowledge. As its founding Executive Director, I’ve had the honor, privilege, and joy of serving this organization, its Board and staff, and the many communities with whom we’ve worked for more than 15 years.
It is time now for me to enact a leadership change within the organization I love. I will be departing Educopia on September 30 of this year. Today, I want to share with you all why I’m moving on and what will come next.
It’s important to me to note first that I’m not leaving for another job or role; I’m leaving because I believe it’s the right thing for both Educopia and for me at this time.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule, there is evidence that when an organization’s founders stick around for too long, their presence can begin to hinder the organization’s success. Founder-led organizations often begin with visionary leaders who can marshal resources and create a safe, secure atmosphere that appeals to funders and community members. If founders stay too long, though, their organizations tend to become too reliant upon and too influenced by the founders’ personalities, which can lead to stagnation and an unhealthy reciprocal dependence between the founder and the organization.
We prioritized transition and succession planning for Educopia several years ago. The time we’ve spent preparing for this moment has enabled us to actively probe at what we want “leadership” to be at Educopia and to explore and enact ways of sharing power more equitably throughout the organization. We want Educopia’s own structure to reflect our commitments to center equity and social justice, and the Board and staff will be continuing to work toward this via this transition. It’s time now for Educopia to flourish under new leadership–and maybe even a new model of leadership.
Our team is also documenting and studying this executive leadership change, including how to structure the change process so that it becomes a hallmark of health for an organization. We promise to share our story and our lessons learned as soon as we have them in hand.
What’s underway now?
- The Board has approved our wonderful Deputy Director, Jessica Meyerson, to serve as Educopia’s Acting Executive Director.
- Our transition leadership team includes Jessica Meyerson, Racquel Asante, and Katherine Kim (our Acting ED, Business Manager, and Project Manager, respectively), and this group is already actively working with our staff and Board on organizational processes and operations.
- Our Board President, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, in partnership with Board member Adele Vrana and Jessica Meyerson, have partnered with Tracy Kunckler and Dee Washington from Circle Forward on a Board development series, which is now just past its midpoint. This series has engaged the Board to undertake two related tasks: 1) consideration of their roles and commitments in an organization that centers equity and social justice with a Community Cultivation framework and 2) a thoughtful evaluation of Educopia’s current leadership practices and model and consideration of additional models emerging in equity-centered, nonprofit environments. This is crucial grounding for the decisions ahead regarding how to structure and staff “leadership” within the organization.
- Educopia’s Board and staff together are leading the organization through this transition process. Our transition team will now begin working with Educopia’s Affiliated Communities, our project teams, and our clients to bring their voices and perspectives into this process.
- As mentioned above, a thoughtful leadership review is underway, and the Board will be working closely with our staff and community leadership to finalize a pathway that aligns well with our mission and vision; Educopia aims to have new leadership in place by December 2022.
- After my departure on September 30, I plan to take a break before deciding what’s next for me. During this transition, I need to be here and fully present with Educopia, not thinking about my own future pathway(s). I do know myself well enough to know that I don’t rest for long, though, and I see lots of areas where great work is happening and also where great efforts are needed. I look forward to the process of figuring out where I can best be of use next.
- Educopia will continue to evolve as an organization that designs and deploys collaborative scaffolding, tools, and guidance to bring about system-level change. Its mission, vision, and values will continue to drive every aspect of its work.
Educopia today is a truly remarkable organization – our Board, our staff, and all of our community members and project partners consciously seek to model care, inclusivity, and generosity across every aspect of Educopia’s work. We live what we believe: that healthy collaboration is good for the world. People trust us and our work as facilitators, researchers, and community hosts accordingly.
I am grateful for the years I’ve spent here advancing field-level transformation from the inside-out. And I will be watching and cheering as this phenomenal team and our broad community networks continue to increase and expand their influence and impact in the years ahead.
Watch this space for more information in the very near future! We’ll be sharing updates and our own excitement about this transition openly.