Friday, April 22, 2011


As a public service I offer a definition of "consensus decision-making" for us all: "...a group decision-making process that seeks not only the agreement of most participants but also the elimination or mitigation of minority participants..." Easy to define, right? But under certain circumstances difficult to achieve. Our federation "system" is totally dependent upon "consensus decision making" -- without that, my friends, the system fails. I bring all of this to your attention because in the context of the so-called JFNA Global Planning Table (a/k/a the Global Dictation Table) it suddenly struck me that not only don't lay or professional leaders know how to build consensus, they don't even know what "building consensus" means. After all, certainly on the lay side, our "leaders" believe they can merely wave a magic wand, declare "we have consensus" and march forward, ignoring all reality. (In fact, that is how the GPT "concept" was formed -- at the very end of a poorly attended JFNA inter Board Retreat [less than 1/3rd of the federations were present], the GPT "concept" was discussed -- very briefly and in bare outline form. The current Board Chair, then the Chair of the Executive, declared a "consensus" and marched the concept forward as if it had been approved [there was no vote] and as if it were now Torah.) The JFNA Executive Committee met on April 13. The feedback in response to the GPT "straw man" presentation were, as I have learned, so uniformly negative, the paid consultant complained that the Executive Committee was excessively "conservative" and the opinions of "San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas and Houston" weren't being heard. To my knowledge, the consultant formed no focus groups and, based on the presentation in Chicago, cited anecdotes as data and continued to ignore feedback that conflicted with the preformed judgments that are at the basis of the JFNA plan for the GPT. In fact, if the reaction of federation lay and professional leaders serving on the JFNA Executive was as I have heard, there was a very strong consensus against the GPT as presented. Those who have led federations or national organizations should have learned from the examples of others and through their own efforts the craft of "consensus building" -- it is Federation Leadership 101. Sometimes as leaders we aren't able to build a consensus no matter the effort put in. But, in the instance of the GPT, there appeared and appears to be no such effort. The Chair apparently believed that as the paradigm was based in part on New York UJA-Federation's successful "Commission Model," that extending that "model" continent-wide would be readily supported. What she and her claque didn't appreciate was that New York used its model, among other things, to increase the unrestricted core allocations to our partners, JAFI and JDC; whereas, the JFNA GPT was clearly designed, as disclosed to the JFNA Executive, to be the "...central decision-making body for all allocations." A micro-management body if you will. That's not what New York had created. The questions now are -- were JFNA's lay and professional leaders paying attention at the Executive Committee or have they so convinced themselves of the holiness of their own preformed conclusions that they will bring the Global Planning Table process as outlined forward as if there had been no objection to it? It would not surprise me if some surface attempt were made to respond to those Federations who have expressed opposition as a matter of principle, then a shrug of the shoulders, a "well, we tried but they are impossible" and then a vote as early as the May Board meeting. And that would bring our system down, pure and simple. As I have written before, these leaders, if they so proceed, will have to look themselves in the mirror and answer whether their actions in deconstructing our national system can ever be excused. Rwexler


Anonymous said...

NY did not use their commissions to increase core allocations to JDC and JAFI. Check your facts again.

Anonymous said...

New York is quite proud of its increased allocations to JAFI/JDC core.

Anonymous said...

For the 99 percent of us who are clueless someone should explain the NY commission model and what aspect of it JFNA finds so attractive. My federation sources tell me they do great stuff but sharing of best practices seems to be too mundane for our national "leaders".