The Strategic Planning portion of the GBC’s 2011 Annual General Meeting has just ended. The four-day meeting was well attended by the full GBC, many GBC deputies, and about forty devotees from around the world. During my own attendance as a member of the Strategic Planning Team facilitating the meeting, I moved between the various committees, initiatives, and breakout sessions and was left with an overwhelming impression of synergy. The dictionary defines synergy as “a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct elements or participants.” As I walked from the newly formed Creative Arts initiative to the group discussing ISKCON culture to the breakout session on global finance to the groups discussing outreach, temple development, devotee care, conflicts of interest, education, rural development, team-building, succession, Srila Prabhupada’s position, and more, I couldn’t fail to notice how each group held a piece of an interlocking puzzle – something that for me underlines the fact that despite our differences in mood and detail and emphasis, we in ISKCON share a common vision and destiny to serve Srila Prabhupada by nourishing and sustaining his Society.
Strategic planning by its nature integrates people and systems with enough structure to set goals and realize them. Srila Prabhupada wanted his movement to develop into a healthy society with compassion for the nondevotees and strong support for its own members –“more devotees, happier devotees,” as Gopal Bhatta Dasa, chairman of the Strategic Planning Team, calls it. So it’s natural there’s a synergy between the Outreach Committee, which is discussing how to give Krsna consciousness to others – and the Devotee Care Committee – which is attempting to address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of ISKCON’s members. But without effective, spiritually committed leaders now and into the future, and flourishing temples, neither of these can succeed long-term. And so the synergy continues to flow through each and every piece of the strategic plan.
In this and subsequent articles I will give an update on the work of each of the Strategic Planning committees and initiatives – but in no particular order. Synergy means that while each of these pieces has its own identity and purpose, it is part of and essential to the whole; one piece is not more important than the other.
The Succession Committee
ISKCON, like all organizations, must consider its future from many angles. One of those angles is its future leadership. So the GBC formed the Succession Committee to help them search out devotees who appear to have the capacity and dedication to lead ISKCON forward – devotees who are already becoming leaders in the preaching field, project leaders, temple presidents, and devotees whose specific service it is to care for others. If these devotees are to realize their potential, they require good Vaishnava association, training, spiritual support, and opportunities to develop their experience. They also need a thorough grounding in the movement’s history and the details of Srila Prabhupada’s legacy so their leadership capacity and integrity as Srila Prabhupada’s followers becomes solid. Some of these devotees may eventually serve as zonal representatives or members of the GBC.
Aside from ISKCON’s future needs, most of our GBC members and many of our temple presidents are aging. Some are hoping to gradually be relieved of their management responsibilities to focus more on sadhana and preaching. So ISKCON needs new leaders at all levels – the GBC, zonal secretaries, temple presidents, and project leaders.
One of the main thrusts, then, of the Succession Committee is to encourage ISKCON’s current leaders to find leadership potential in the devotees they work with and then to support that potential by providing responsibility and opportunities to develop confidence and experience. “There is unlimited opportunity for ISKCON to grow,” Jaya Krsna Dasa, Succession Committee chair, says. “After forty years of preaching we still have only about five hundred temples worldwide. The potential for development is incredible, but often we limit ourselves. By creating a culture of succession, which is based on seeing the potential in devotees and creating new fields of responsibility, we should be able to create a large number of leaders for the future of ISKCON.”
The Succession Committee launched a pilot training program in the United States for both current leaders who want to hone their skills and potential future leaders. The program’s twenty course hours have now been fine-tuned and are ready to be taught worldwide. It has been difficult, however, for local regions to organize the time and facility to host the course. Therefore the Succession Committee has decided to offer it in Mayapur in 2012 with two 3-week segments that can be taken over a 2-year period. The program includes a japa retreat and modules on leadership, managerial skills and social competency. “We also encourage current leaders in the field to mentor potential new leaders, so at our course we train leaders how to train others,” Jaya Krsna Dasa says.
And because training must include practical application, course attendees are given a managerial project to be accomplished before they complete the course. “We hope to open the minds of the devotees who take the course to the idea that there is so much to do. Whatever capabilities you have can be used in Krsna’s service,” Jaya Krsna adds.
In addition, the committee is creating a package on succession for ISKCON’s current leaders with checklists, job descriptions, and performance review tools to help them in their work with leadership trainees.
Jaya Krsna Dasa says, “We have four focal points: 1) Create a culture of succession; 2) Look for possible successors; 3) Train these devotees; and 4) Empower our current leaders to carry out this process themselves.”
If you are interested in seeing what it takes to become a leader in ISKCON or in the training courses for current and future leaders, please contact Jaya Krsna Dasa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Kaisori Devi Dasi