Over the past two years our conversations with community groups and organizations have confirmed what many of you know: this has been an extremely challenging time across the sector. The pandemic and social movements exposed the very inequities and systemic flaws in our structures we have been working to break down. Community organizations were faced with amplified risks of burnout and staff turnover as we adapted our actions to public health measures and emerging needs.
At COCo, along with these impacts, the past couple years brought to the fore conversations about what it means to deepen practices of care, well-being, and anti-oppression in our workplaces. Following significant organizational growth since 2017, during which COCo’s team doubled in size, the context brought us to reflect on our collective model. We shifted our focus internally and began to engage in deep conversations about the scaffolding required to support more sustainable actions.
We feel appreciative and awed by the incredible COCo team members, past and present, who have contributed their leadership, thoughtfulness, systems thinking, and anti-oppressive values to making the organization what it is today. As we often share with our partners, while we’re excited about the progress we have made over the years, structural change takes lots of time, effort and resources. Like so many organizations, we still have a ways to go.
In the fall of 2021, with the pandemic continuing to unfold, COCo’s Board sought to alleviate the impacts of the context on COCo’s daily operations while creating more space for the team to engage in a meaningful collective restructuring process. With this in mind, the board approved the creation of an interim governance structure with two staff members stepping in as Interim Co-Executive Coordinators for a period of 12 months.
We are therefore thrilled to announce the appointment of Mich Spieler and Naïma Phillips as Co-Executive Coordinators. They were selected for these interim positions because of the critical roles they have played in collective governance at COCo.
Mich Spieler has been at COCo since September 2018. In addition to their work as Community Technology Coordinator, Mich has managed COCo’s governance portfolio since October 2019, overseeing governance structures and acting as liaison between COCo’s staff and board. Building on their experience as an Executive Director of a Quebec community group prior to joining COCo, as Governance Coordinator Mich has brought a deep understanding of organizational administration and finances; an ability to communicate and problem-solve around complex organizational challenges with great clarity, transparency, and creativity; and a clear commitment to engaging in critical reflection, learning, and action to address oppression, both at the personal and organizational level.
Naïma Phillips joined COCo in April 2021 as the Funding and Partnerships Coordinator. Naïma brought to her role over 15 years of experience in the cultural and nonprofit sector — as a Director of Partnerships, artistic director, writer, collaborator, and board president. Naïma joined COCo during a period of significant challenges, and within only a few months was playing an essential role in collective governance and long-term planning. Naïma is a strategic thinker and a master communicator, able to facilitate meaningful conversations and decision-making around complex issues. As Funding and Partnerships Coordinator, Naïma has maintained and deepened COCo’s existing partnerships, and brought in significant new funding. She has done so with an unwavering commitment to grounding COCo’s fundraising strategy in the principles of anti-oppression, and to centering staff safety and wellbeing.
Since the summer of 2021, Mich and Naïma have played key roles as members of the collective, helping to hold down operational and strategic decision-making. As an organization dedicated to collectivity, we know that leadership comes in many forms — and value the skills and contributions of every one of COCo’s team members. Working towards a healthier, more inclusive sector truly takes a village. And we’re blessed with an extended community of driven, caring, and thought-provoking change-makers. We also know that Mich and Naïma are well positioned to step into their roles as Executive Coordinators.
We are at the very beginning of this journey. Over the next year, with support from our board, COCo’s team will dive deep into collective visioning and planning about the future of the organization’s governance structure. It will be challenging, it will be iterative, it will be fascinating – and ultimately, we are confident that it will lead to a stronger and healthier COCo.
The team can’t wait to update you along the way, but we hope our community will be patient, as we give ourselves the space to dream up the COCo we aspire to be.
-COCo’s Board of Directors