Thanks for your patience. Here are some thoughts that we put together from the team at UMSL's Community Innovation and Action Center:
Structure is ultimately about who is accountable to who – therefore the best structures mirror accountability to the mission of the organization (geographic scope, most impacted communities, relevant stakeholders, etc.) Structure impacts who gets heard and how decisions are made and how problems are analyzed. Thinking through a structure that ensures that those most impacted by an issue are in a position of power will help bring multiple views on a problem and its potential solutions. If a structure has only a few in decision-making power then the perspectives will be limited and the diagnosis and potentially solutions to a problem may not be accurate or effective.
Some other key points -
* when making decisions, it is best to agree to the process before you work the process. This means that everyone is on the same page on how decisions will be made and when. When we are centering voices with experience on an issue, we need to recognize that there are various forms of power at the table. In order to create a safe space for honesty, ground rules and expectations are important. Ensuring that everyone is on the same page with the decision making process (vote? Consensus?) will help build trust and consistency.
* note that the work of a collaborative is iterative. You can always revisit your structure and decision making process if your process is not working. Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good. Schedule regular check ins with your members so they have a chance to reflect on the process and on what is working and what isn't. Go from there.
These are great questions and ones that take time to grapple with. We appreciate your thoughtful question and we wish you the best as you seek to align your structure with your organization's vision of the future!