Bump into Cleopatra or I at a training, convening, or party and we'll regale you with tales from previous jobs at Pier 1, selling bootleg CDs (shhhh, don't tell the feds), being a paralegal, or getting fired after one day because I was the worst after-school program outreach person ever, and how those skills got us here. 

Fortunately, this post is focused on how decisions are made at ALP and the models for democratic voting that we're trying to build.

Earlier this year, Cleopatra and I were promoted to co-Deputy Director roles, from Director of Development and Grassroots Fundraising and Director of Programs, and given a few additional tasks. This switch allowed us to collaborate more and solidified Cleopatra’s management of programs and coalition work and my management of all things fundraising, finance, and admin. It also introduced the Cocoa Co-Cos. When our Executive Director exited shortly later, we began functioning as interim Co-Directors by default. 

Among staff and membership, there was a growing feeling that our structure could use a shake up that better aligned with ALP’s values of transparency, collaboration, and centering more marginalized voices. So, going into our strategic planning process, updating the organizational structure became one of the high priority goals.

We needed outside support - preferably people who were familiar with more radical models that exist in, but undermine, the non-profit model - so we turned to our networks. Eugenio Smith, a very experienced organizational consultant and the current coach of our Brick by Brick campaign, agreed to come in and share their brilliance with us.

We spent a couple months meeting with Eugenio, discussing our needs, and they presented options for us in June for a staff structure, board structure, and voting process. Staff and board members decided on two to propose to our member-leadership and chose to let the incoming board research and propose their new structure after being fully onboarded. 

Our options for final voting were now:

Staff Structure


Traditional Hierarchy


Flatter Structure

Modified Consensus


Weighted Voting

Previously, the different decision-making bodies at ALP had all used different voting rules (some majority, some consensus) so one was chosen to encourage democracy at every level. Staff and board selected weighted voting. 

Cleopatra and I then worked on a proposal for staff structure and presented to staff to get input and alignment. It was next taken to the Organizing Coordinating Committee, our member-leadership body that directs programmatic work. We introduced weighted voting as well and used this decision as a test of how it could work for ALP and any flags we might find in the system. 

Click to enlarge image

With about 25 folks present, we had a generative discussion about ALP and our communities’ needs as well as real talk about capacity, consistency, and previous pitfalls. Few people were tied to traditional hierarchy and a more radical structure like the flatarchy sounded good in theory but could negatively impact our programs and campaigns if not executed properly.

The flatter structure won by a strong majority. Under this, we would shift to two levels of staff decision-making, Coordinators and Co-Directors, with less layers of staff between and more direct communication and support. 

We are always learning though and interested in how to shift power in the rigid non-profit system. Cleopatra and I officially become Co-Directors today, but we do not need to hold that power forever. At the end of our Restoration Period, members, Board, and staff will evaluate how effective this structure has been. Along with adding Director-specific values and competencies to our 360 evaluations and our staff handbook, we hope to encourage a culture of mutual accountability and subverting power.

Have more questions about how this will work? Get in contact with us. Learn more about us here. Catch us at the office or, if you see us at any end-of-year gatherings, come say hi.