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Recent Developments at AFSC

John Gotts, Mke Clarke
On Freedom (January 2022)


I’ve just read an open letter in Western Friend online that describes a proposed restructuring of AFSC, which includes funding an additional management layer. [https://westernfriend.org/media/afsc-perilous-crossroads]

The restructuring is presumed to be in line with the goals in an AFSC 2020-2030 strategic plan, and will facilitate AFSC’s role in “the state of the world.” The strategic plan has lofty goals - “just and sustainable peace,” “sustainable economic systems,” “challenge forced displacement.” At the same time, it “aspire[s] to be agile,” “promote financial sustainability,” and “become a learning organization . . .”

I have a few questions for reflection. Has the good work done by the AFSC over the past hundred-plus years been grass-roots driven and focused to good effect? Has it been agile? Has it been cost-effective? Has it attempted to address the “state of the world” in ways that can make a local difference with the hope of ripple effect by example?

Will installing a layer of paid middle management (potentially disconnected from boots on the ground) accomplish better results? In my opinion, layers of management do not make an organization agile; they make an organization policy-driven, rather than reactive and supportive of its constituencies on the ground. I realize a balance is required. One question is whether the organizational structure works well in its current form. I’m reminded of the expression “let the punishment fit the crime.” Let the strategic plan fit the organization.

– John Gotts, Pullman-Moscow Friends Meeting, Idaho (NPYM)


I’ve been quite disappointed in recent years by AFSC programs that seem to be almost solely oriented towards “advocacy,” i.e., preaching only to liberal Quakers in an effort to radicalize them, rather than engaging more Quakers (of all varieties and political persuasions), wherever they are at, in service in ways that feel authentic to them, and that build unity across the spectrum (whether liberal, evangelical, conservative, convergent, orthodox, etc.). This is compounded by the fact that a vanishingly small percentage of AFSC staff are professed Quakers themselves. Although some may consider him a gadfly, Chuck Fager put it at around 0.5% in 2018 (that’s one-half of one percent, in case readers were wondering whether that decimal point was in the right place), and AFSC has not to my knowledge offered any correction to this number. While the Quaker way is indeed bottoms-up and self-organizing, in order for this to be successful, it presumes that the participants are themselves following the Quaker way in the first place.

– Mike Clarke, University Friends Meeting, Seattle (NPYM)


[These letters were abridged from originals found at: westernfriend.discussion.community/post/afsc-is-at-a-crossroads-12183841]


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