Facilitating Evolutionary Culture-design

Friends General Conference (FGC)

Dynamic Governance Exploration & Evolutionary Culture-building

What is Possible?

skyspaceFriends General Conference (FGC) is experimenting with dynamic governance.  This is a chronicle of FGC’s culture-building trajectory as the organization explores a new way of embedding equivalence in governance and decision- making that honors, anchors, and infuses Quaker values throughout the organization.

After years of fiscal crisis, FGC recognizes that draconian pruning of programming and staff will still not yield a financially sustainable organization. Transformation of the governance structure and process is essential to FGC’s viability and continued relevance in the universe of Quaker organizations and in the world.

The culture of the organizations that Quaker Friends generate at any point in history inherently reflects the quality of our own consciousness in the moment. If we want our organizations to be relevant vehicles for 21st century social change work we need to “unlearn” linear, disconnected, and static approaches to governance. Friends must commit to ongoing transformation that is in sync with incessant and accelerating societal shifts. We—AND the organizations that serve us—are poised to deliberately take the next evolutionary step in consciousness —if  a critical mass of Friends are ready. 

Dynamic governance (DG) offers organizations an agile and evolving framework for the ongoing capacity-building needed to generate meaningful 21st century social transformation. DG is a whole systems approach to governance that underscores egalitarianism, transparency, and accountability. It distributes policy-making authority throughout all levels of the organization and establishes equivalence among its members within their domain of responsibility.

Culture-building that accompanies an organization’s adoption of dynamic governance expects participants to enthusiastically do the introspective work that shifts their worldview toward serving the aims of the whole. By embracing dynamic governance, FGC constituencies would willingly step into increased autonomy, personal responsibility, and opportunities to grow. Friends would contribute to authentically collaborative workplaces and community relationships. Dynamic governance provides a pathway for those whose organizations and networks are ready to stand in the epicenter of social transformation and offers an evolutionary response to society’s multi-tiered, existential challenges.

The Dynamic Governance Working Group (DGWG), a subgroup of the Committee on Discernment Planning and Priorities (CDPP), is conducting a dynamic governance demonstration project through October 2018. The DGWG is charged with exploring how dynamic governance might:

  1. Build evolutionary culture that can restore and further FGC’s 21st century relevance,
  2. Support FGC’s financial viability and sustainability as a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization
  3. Meet FGC constituent needs by providing authentic and universal agency to all Friends.

Friends General Conference (FGC)

Simplicity 1


December 29, 2017 – September 7,  2018 


September 7, 2018: Dynamic Governance Working Group Report to the Committee on Discernment, Planning and Priorities (CDPP).

Observations and Conclusions to Date:

  1. Considerable formal, and word-of-mouth awareness has been raised around dynamic governance (DG) among FGC constituencies.
  2. FGC Friends’ exposure to dynamic governance to date has been met with:
    • Significant support and enthusiasm for its focus on egalitarian equivalence, transparency, accountability, and openness to experimentation in policy and decision-making,
    • Resistance from some quarters to distribution of authority,
    • Resistance to the prospect of change itself.
  3. Dynamic governance holds promise for FGC organizational sustainability and inclusivity goals while upholding Quaker values.
  4. FGC organizational culture is not conducive to the implementation of dynamic governance at this time or in the near future.
  5. FGC constituencies are in need of additional education about dynamic governance to ensure an informed decision about its implementation.
    • Central Committee members will not be sufficiently informed about dynamic governance at the time of the October 2018 meeting to decide, or take action on its adoption.

Actions Forward

  1. The Dynamic Governance Working Group (DGWG) proposes to conduct a dynamic governance workshop at the 2019 Gathering.
  2. The DGWG will encourage FGC constituencies to continue to explore dynamic governance through the Empowered Learning Circles (ELCs) for Sociocracy study group format.
  3. Members of the DGWG will introduce dynamic governance through Empowered Learning Circles (ELCs) for Sociocracy in Quaker spaces outside of the FGC national framework (e.g. monthly and yearly meetings, other national Quaker organizations) as well as in non-Quaker spaces where Friends work, in order to gain:
    • Experiential practice with DG processes among fully engaged self-selecting Quaker, and non-Quaker participants which can then be shared with FGC constituencies,
    • A basis of comparison along relevant, parallel indices.

June 7, 2018 – September 7, 2018 

Goal: Raise awareness among FGC constituencies of how organizational implementation of dynamic governance could potentially advance FGC’s mission, uphold Quaker values, enhance sustainability and underscore egalitarianism, transparency, and accountability.


  1. Conduct online Dynamic Governance training sessions leading up to, and following the 2018 Gathering,
  2. Convene Dynamic Governance (DG) Interest Groups at the 2018 Gathering.
  3. Follow Gathering DG Interest Groups with a DG online participatory Prototype Project to immerse members of FGC committees who expressed interest, in an experiential understanding of DG through October, 2018:
  • The council-like, prototype General Circle representing various FGC committees/circles was intended to use DG process to work together on issues of their choosing. In this way Friends would obtain firsthand knowledge of dynamic governance processes in action.
  • DG Prototype Project participants would be prepared in this way to conduct a fully participatory workshop for Central Committee members in October, 2018.
  1. Offer the “Empowered Learning Circles (ECL) for Sociocracy” pathway; a coached study group learning option, after the Gathering.

Dynamic Governance Working Group (DGWG) activity: June 7, 2018 – September 7, 2018

Objective 1: Convene Dynamic Governance (DG) Training sessions leading up to the Gathering


  • A DG Interest Group training design planning session took place, June 18-19 at Pendle Hill.
  • Online Dynamic Governance training sessions took place on June 7 and 26.
  • Friends who participated in June DG trainings assisted in the facilitation of the Gathering Interest Groups.

Objective 2: Convene Dynamic Governance (DG) Interest Groups at the 2018 Gathering


  • The DGWG convened two interest groups at the 2018 Gathering for:
    • Adult Young Friends – Interest and engagement were unilaterally strong and enthusiastic.
    • The general population of Friends – Interest and engagement were mixed.
  • Lists of Friends interested in participation in the Prototype Project and Empowered Learning Circles Study Groups were generated.

Objective 3: Convene an Online Dynamic Governance Prototype Project


  • Participants in a July 20 Dynamic Governance Working Group planning meeting, attended by consultants from Sociocracy for All and Governance Alive, devised plans for the animation of a DG General Circle Prototype Project and Empowered Learning Circles study groups.
  • Invitations were extended to Friends on lists generated at Gathering, and others, to serve as linked delegates between their committees and the Dynamic Governance General Circle Prototype Project.
  • Prospective Delegates initially stepped forward to participate in the Prototype Project from Nominating, CDPP, Committee on Nurturing Ministries, Publications and Distributions, Communications Policy and Infrastructure, FGC Staff, Institutional Assessment Task Force, and Adult Young Friends.
  • Subsequent Developments:
    • Prospective Delegates from CDPP, Committee on Nurturing Ministries, and Communications Policy and Infrastructure who took part in the initial discussion became unresponsive to communication and/or did not participate.
    • A quorum of invitees from other committees which were key to the establishment of an authentically representative Prototype General Circle, e.g. Finance, Development, Long Range Planning where unresponsive, and/or did not participate.
    • A viable dynamic governance prototype General Circle did not form. The plan was laid down.

Objective 4: Convene Empowered Learning Circle (ELC) Study Groups


  • Arrangements were made during the July 20 Dynamic Governance Working Group planning meeting for Sociocracy for All consultants to introduce the Institutional Assessment on Racism Task Force members to dynamic governance at the Task Force’s August meeting. The goal was to offer a DG overview, use the sociocratic practices, and create space for the generation of an Empowered Learning Circle among Task Force members.
    • Sociocracy for All consultants made a presentation during the Task Force meeting which was well received.
    • While using dynamic governance processes with the consultants’ guidance, various Task Force members were: a) enthusiastic and supportive, b) found it time consuming, c) saw strong potential for dynamic governance to facilitate FGC’s institutional implementation of Task Force recommendations, and/or, d) were interested in further exploration of DG processes.
    • The Institutional Assessment on Racism Task Force will continue to use DG processes in its work to the extent possible.
  • A study group composed of an FGC staff person and a DGWG Friend was formed to digest dynamic governance literature and potentially investigate the DG process relative to FGC budgetary and financial concerns. The work of this subgroup did not come to fruition.
  • Invitations were extended to Friends who expressed interest in the study group format on lists generated at Gathering, and others:
    • Internal FGC Empowered Learning Circles (ELCs) have not materialized as yet.
    • Members of the DGWG discussed introducing dynamic governance through Empowered Learning Circles for Sociocracy in other Quaker spaces outside of the FGC framework.
    • A DGWG member-initiated an Empowered Learning Circle coached by Sociocracy for All Consultants is currently underway within Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW).
    • A subset of Adult Young Friends who participated in DG activities at the 2018 Gathering will explore introduction of dynamic governance in a yearly meeting where interest has already been generated, as well as in other non-Quaker situations such as cooperatives.

July 20, 2018: Dynamic Governance Working Group Planning Meeting

July 2018: FGC Gathering Interest Groups – facilitated by Simon James

  • Adult Young Friends Session
  • General Friends Session

June 26, 2018: Dynamic Governance Training #3 with John Buck

June 7, 2018:  Dynamic Governance Training #2 with John Buck

Simon James, Clerk, FGC Adult Young Friends steps forward to serve as point person for two Gathering dynamic governance interest groups  —one specifically for Adult Young Friends, and a second for general public Friends.

May 30, 2018: Dynamic Governance Training #1 with John Buck

FGC Committees currently represented in dynamic governance training:

  • Adult Young Friends
  • Committee for Discernment Planning and Priorities (CDPP) – 2 Friends
  • Communications Policy and Infrastructure
  • Finance
  • Institutional Assessment
  • LRCP
  • Nominating
  • Publications & Distribution
  • Staff

May 4 – 25, 2018: Invitations were extended to Friends to serve as  linked delegates between their committees and  the Dynamic Governance Demonstration Project prototype General Circle.

May 22, 2018: FGC Presiding Clerk and General Secretary convene a meeting of Yearly Meeting Clerks at which the topic of FGC’s exploring dynamic governance generated interest. There was concern that dynamic governance was too secular a system. The primary issues of governance and decision-making equivalence were not discussed.

Benchmark Check-in, May 4, 2018: Dynamic Governance Working Group (DGWG) Tasks: Completed to Date 

  • Organized dynamic governance (DG) baseline overview material.
  • Provided DG 101 links to committee members and the FGC Presiding Clerk for Executive Committee’s information, and used in outreach:
  • Conducted case study interviews with organizations using dynamic governance to explore whether DG creates an organizational infrastructure that is conducive to sustaining a fiscally sound organization.
  • Convened conversations with FGC affinity constituent groups and various committees to:
    • Harvest baseline material on the impact of the historical and current FGC structure and culture on constituents.
    • Introduce Dynamic Governance to those affinity groups which are potentially the most deeply affected by constricted agency.
    • Collaboratively prepare Benchmark Report I incorporating various committee and affinity group perspectives.
    • Began to engage FGC constituencies and other committees in the exploration of dynamic governance through a pilot demonstration project.
  • FGC Constituencies: Expectant enthusiasm about universal agency.
    • The Dynamic Governance Working Group (DGWG) engaged the FGC constituencies that would be most deeply impacted by the implementation of a governance structure that embeds equivalence and universal agency: Yearly Meetings, Adult Young Friends, and Friends of color involved in an FGC Institutional Assessment. Conversations were convened and these constituencies contributed to the first, April 6, 2018 DGWG Benchmark Report.
    • These FGC constituencies stand ready to participate in a DG demonstration project in which Friends will learn about, and have the opportunity to experience dynamic governance in action.
    • Yearly Meeting Clerks have begun to self-organize and set their own priorities.
    • The DGWG has extended invitations to FGC committee persons to actively engage in the demonstration project.
  • FGC Leadership: Veiled resistance to the proposed decentering of power:
    • Privately FGC leadership has declared relative to the organization’s implementation of dynamic governance that:
      • The exploration will go forward but that,“It will fail.”
      • Since they consult constituencies when they make decisions, FGC does not have a top-down governance structure.
    • Immediately after being apprised that Yearly Meeting Clerks were self-organizing, the Clerk of Committee on Nurturing Ministry (CNM) addressed a four year lapse in convening YM Clerks by inviting 20 among them to attend an expense-paid [excepting travel] retreat in fall 2018.(See below.)
      • When lackluster YM response to the CNM invitation ensued, the CNM Clerk asked the convener of the nascent, self-organized YM Clerk’s Network to generate enthusiasm for the retreat among her peers.
    • The FGC Presiding Clerk reached out to members of FGC Executive Committee via e-mail and spoke in coded language: “ardent proponent” [of dynamic governance]” in reference to the DGWG. He  proposed a visual jumble of questions about DG, and excluded any meaningful reference to other governance models under consideration. (See below.)
    • The FGC Secretary General reached out via e-mail to Yearly Meeting clerks to apologize for a lapse, and to reinstate the practice of group conference calls between himself, YMs and the Presiding Clerk. (See below.)

May 4, 2018: FGC General Secretary e-mails FGC affiliated yearly meeting clerks to:

  • Apologize for himself and the FGC Presiding Clerk having allowed planned conference calls with YM clerks to lapse,
  • Reinstate the General Secretary and Presiding Clerk calls with YM clerks,
  • notify them that dynamic governance and other FGC restructuring models are in process,
  • Pledge of advocacy for Quaker Books.

From: Barry Crossno <BarryC@fgcquaker.org
Sent: Friday, May 4, 2018 3:31 PM
Subject: Apology and Check In: FGC & Your Yearly Meeting

Hello Everyone:

Recently, it was brought to my attention that a member of FGC’s governance checked in with a number of you around FGC governance issues.  The report that came from those conversations shared a number of things with one of those being that some of you are disappointed that the YM leadership calls that I promised would happen a couple of times a year involving all of you, myself and FGC’s Presiding Clerk, Frank Barch only happened a couple of times and then lapsed.  I apologize to all of you for that.  FGC has steadily been reducing staff with some of those duties accruing to me.  In the midst of that, I let these calls fall from the agenda.  I’m very sorry. 

Your Yearly Meetings are FGC.  While you send representatives to Central Committee and Executive Committee to reflect the needs of your Yearly Meeting, my discussions with many of you have demonstrated that hearing directly from you as Presiding Clerks is incredibly important.  I’m sorry my actions didn’t reflect what I know to be true and I’m attempting to rectify this.  With this in mind, next week you will receive two Doodle Polls inviting you to participate in two calls for the upcoming year.  One very soon and the other ahead of Central Committee in the fall.  I recognize we may need a couple of calls for each time period based on your availability.  If any of you believe we should have more calls during this time period, please let me know.

Also, I hope all of you will feel empowered simply to call me if you have concerns.  While it is Central Committee that decides our programming, I do often act as a resource that can help inform the conversations.  As an example of this, I have heard directly from a couple of you that QuakerBooks of FGC is considered by your Yearly Meetings to perhaps be the most important program of FGC to your Yearly Meeting.  I have conveyed this information in a number of governance meetings as have representatives of your YMs.  I believe Executive Committee and Central Committee carrying this knowledge is part of why we continue to work so hard to keep QuakerBooks running despite the financial challenges.

Further, I want you all to know that FGC has started looking at Dynamic Governance (Sociocracy) techniques as part of our governance reform efforts and there are other things being explored as well.  The next several months will be very important as we learn from the Institutional Assessment on Race, examine possibilities for improving our structures, and try to learn new ways of working that will empower more input and participation. If you have ideas, please share them.  Allied to all this, I’m very grateful that a number of you are now holding conference call meetings ahead of Central Committee in order to have your Yearly Meeting Representatives carry a shared understanding of your Yearly Meetings. 

I’m also grateful that a number of you are attending FGC meetings.  I’m deeply aware that to get where we need to go, it will take all of us.  I believe FGC can be a stronger servant, that I can be a better servant, and I ask humbly for your help in finding a way forward together.  If you want to know more about the present state of the governance reform efforts, we can discuss these on the upcoming conference calls (along with anything else you believe is important).  We can also discuss these efforts and any other concerns you may carry individually.  Please feel empowered to write or call me.


Barry Crossno, General Secretary, Friends General Conference

Monday April 30, 2018 FGC Presiding Clerk apprised Executive Committee members in advance of their May 3-6 meeting that dynamic governance is on the agenda:

  • to the exclusion of mentioning other governance models under consideration,
  • using culturally coded language, “led by the ardent proponent,”
  • including so many questions as to be visually overwhelming.

From: Susan Lee Barton 
Subject: Dynamic Governance – Sociocracy Links 

TO: Members of the FGC Executive Committee

FROM: Frank Barch, FGC Presiding Clerk

Dear Friends,

One of the items on the agenda for Executive Committee is a consideration of Governance changes. The Committee for Discernment, Planning & Priorities had three working groups seasoning options. One, led by the ardent proponent Pamela Boyce Simms, focused upon “Dynamic Governance”, also called “Sociocracy”, or, as we nicknamed it, Quaker Process Plus.

In contrast to the reports of the other two CDPP working groups, Dynamic Governance is a new paradigm for many of us. I have asked Pamela to recommend some background materials for us; she has identified two videos and a brief monograph; the links are below, and they will also be posted on the FGC Executive Committee web page.

As you review this material in advance of Executive Committee, I invite you to consider what questions come to you. What benefits can you imagine? What challenges can you envision? Try to picture how this would be actualized in the setting of Central Committee, Executive Committee, and our various Administrative & Program committees. For example, how would this process have supported the Executive Committee’s consideration of the future of Stewardship Services, or Central Committee’s laboring with whether to embark upon the Institutional Assessment?  Our Feasibility Study identified donor concerns about our ability to make hard decisions at the time that they need to be made, and for FGC to be able to live within a sustainable budget. Do you see this governance model potentially improving our decision making process and the nimbleness of that process? How might this new governance concept impact our financial situation? Would this process of governance assist us in coming to clarity about what is the central aim of FGC, as Development Committee desires as support for their work? Do you foresee that this would invigorate volunteer participation in the work of FGC, and its governance? What would be the possible impact of moving from approval by “Sense of the Meeting”, to Dynamic Governance’s “Consent”? If the governing board under Dynamic Governance was much smaller than the current Central Committee, how might the attractive portions of the experience of this large body be replaced? If FGC were to not adopt the entire concept portrayed in these videos, are there aspects of Dynamic Governance that would be useful under our current practice? If FGC were to adopt Dynamic Governance, what might its implementation look like?

I look forward to this coming weekend, when we can prayerfully consider together these and other weighty issues before us.

Yours in Friendship, Frank Barch, FGC Presiding Clerk

April 26: Dynamic Governance Working Group Benchmark Report I. submitted four days earlier than the original April 30, 2018 deadline; rushed due to the CDPP Clerk’s personal schedule.  The CDPP Clerk’s cover letter summary  to Executive Committee members erroneously states that, “the [DGWG] report supports FGC returning to its practices prior to the 1990s which were more in line with DG principles.”

From: Pamela Boyce Simms<pbs9@georgetown.edu>
Date: Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 8:22 AM
Subject: Re: CDPP Report to Executive Committee
To: John <airplanehunter@hotmail.com>


Nowhere in our report is there a suggestion that FGC should revert to pre-1990s governance practices as we move forward.


From: John<airplanehunter@hotmail.com>Date: Mon, Apr 30, 2018 at 12:42 AMSubject: Re: CDPP Report to Executive CommitteeTo: Pamela Boyce Simms <pbs9@georgetown.edu>


Thanks for pointing this out.  That sentence came out wrong and I didn’t catch it.  (I was trying to capture a little about the report’s note that FGC practices before the 1990s was more in line with DG than presently.)

Since the reports have not been sent out yeat, I’ll email Susan Lee and ask her to delete that sentence.


April 30, 2018: Yearly Meeting Clerks, Rising Clerks and Interim Clerks who have self-organized convened a video-conference discussion. Clerks identified concerns and decided to meet quarterly.

April 25, 2018: Clerk of Committee on Nurture and Ministries (CNM) apprised the convener of the nascent Yearly Meeting Clerks Network (YMCN) that the response to the CNM invitation extended to Yearly Meeting Clerks to attend the September convocation at the Stoney Point Retreat Center hasn’t been robust. The CNM Clerk then asked the convener of the clerks’ network to write to YM Clerks and encourage them to attend.

April 11, 2018: Clerk of Committee on Nurturing Ministries (CNM) invited up to twenty (20) FGC Yearly Meeting Clerks to a fellowship convocation which had lapsed.

Subject: Yearly Meeting Clerks’ Consultation

TO: Yearly Meeting Presiding Clerks

Sent: ‎4/‎11/‎2018 3:14 PM

FROM: Janice Domanik and Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch, FGC Committee for Nurturing Ministries

Dear Friends,
At the request of Yearly Meeting Clerks, FGC has periodically created a space for Yearly Meeting Clerks to gather to share your experiences, joys, concerns and to have a time for fellowship. A few of you have shared that you’ve missed having this event regularly and have wanted to know when FGC might host one again.  Good news!  We have planned such an event for this September (9/21-23) at Stony Point Retreat Center in Stony Point New York, just outside New York City.

Ernie Buscemi, as former clerk of a larger yearly meeting, and Tom Paxon, as former clerk of a smaller yearly meeting, have agreed to facilitate. This event will be coordinated by FGC volunteers and there will be no FGC staff involvement at any stage of the event except securing the contract with the conference center.  Stony Point and other retreat centers often have limited availability, so in order to secure a date for this fall we felt we had to go ahead and arrange for a date without being able to offer a range of choices for you.  We hope the majority of you will be able to come.  We are so grateful that Ernie and Tom were able to commit for these dates.  They are tremendous facilitators!

In order to continue moving forward, we need a response from you by 4/15/18 so we know if enough of you feel it is worthwhile to hold this event.  This will give us a preliminary count to confirm with Ernie and Tom (to whom we are so grateful) and the conference center that we can continue to go forward. Please respond to this email with a “Yes”, a “Maybe” (or if you must, a “no”) so we can finalize plans for this event.

We note in closing that for many years this event was offered every other year; we have missed a cycle because of the challenges of planning a consultation without staff involvement. (As all of you know, FGC has had to reduce staff and this has required us to reimagine how we might continue this event.)  Therefore, it has been 4 years since the last event for yearly meeting clerks. The intention is to continue going forward on an every-other year cycle using volunteer coordinators IF this continues to be of use to you; we’re working hard to be of service with the resources available to us. The costs to those of you who attend will be your own transportation; on the assumption that about 20 Friends will attend, as has been the case in the past, FGC plans to assume all other costs.
        We look forward to your response by 4/15 in order that we may finalize plans. Assuming that the event will go forward, we will share more details as they develop.
        We look forward to seeing you at Stony Point,
Janice Domanik, Clerk Yearly Meeting Clerks’ Consultation Working Group

Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch, Clerk FGC Committee for Nurturing Ministries

April 7, 2018:

  • FGC Presiding Clerk informed CDPP members present at  a committee meeting regarding dynamic governance, that its exploration would go forward but, ....It will fail.” 
  • Clerk of South Central Yearly Meeting (SCYM) assisted by DGWG Clerk at the initial suggestion of a former FGC Financial Manager, extended an invitation to Yearly Meeting Clerks to have a conversation. The clerks’ response was enthusiastic and robust.

April 6, 2018:

  • DGWG Clerk apprised CDPP members (FGC Gen. Sec., Presiding Clerk, Clerk of Committee on Nurture and Ministry and 5 Friends) during a CDPP meeting that Yearly Meeting Clerks planned to convene a conference call conversation among themselves.
  • Clerk of CNM expressed cynicism about the potential Yearly Meeting (YM) response to the initiative given her past experience with lackluster YM interest.

December 2017: Committee on Discernment Planning and Priorities (CDPP) established a Dynamic Governance Working Group to explore how Dynamic Governance might advance Friends General Conference’s (FGC) mission and uphold Quaker values and aims ─the shared purpose that members have associated to collectively pursue. Dynamic Governance offers FGC a whole systems approach to governance that underscores egalitarianism, transparency, and accountability. 

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