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Sangha Organizational Structures

Sangha Organizational Structures

Postby Pedestrian on Fri Sep 06, 2013 4:05 pm

A few regular sangha members has begun trying to create a more formal structure for our local sitting group. (I sit with the Benevolent Street Zen group in Providence RI that is part of the Boundless Way Zen sangha.) The teachers are going to be making some changes and additions, but a small gaggle of members are looking at other ways to support and strengthen practice locally.

I'm posting to learn the basic organizational structure of the local groups with which you are or have been affiliated. Did they have assigned roles and responsibilities? Were there leadership boards or councils? That sort of thing.

I'd also be interested to learn about examples of communication tools such as online calendars, websites, social media groups, that sort of thing. How do you use -- and just as importantly, maintain -- them?

I'm sure I'm forgetting other questions, but hopefully you get the idea. Thanks in advance.
"Buddha, to liberate beings, cultivates practices everywhere." Avatamsaka Sutra.

Chris Seishi Amirault
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Re: Sangha Organizational Structures

Postby Jok_Hae on Fri Sep 06, 2013 6:38 pm

Hi Chris,

Most of our Centers are governed by a set of by-laws. These provide a basic governance structure, in the form of a board of trustees (or similar) with typical positions, such as treasurer, president, secretary, directors, etc. Parallel to that are positions more traditional in nature, such as Guiding Teacher, Abbot, etc. Our Dharma Mirror spells out much of this. Also, in small groups, such as we have in New Haven, there is much overlap and some unfilled positions. We don't have an Abbot right now, so I serve as the acting president of the board of trustees, a position typically held by the Abbot. There are about 8 of us involved in providing leadership for the Center, with everyone having different areas they take care of.

The communication end of things is tricky, because it takes a lot of time. I manage the website (quite poorly!), a facebook page and send out the bi-weekly updates. Consistency and delgation are the key, neither of which I have done perfectly! :hide:

Finally, there is the customer service end of things. If people contact you, it is pretty important to respond as quickly as possible.

Hope that helps a little. :Namaste:

Good luck and thanks for practicing,
Keith
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Re: Sangha Organizational Structures

Postby So-on Mann on Sat Sep 07, 2013 12:19 am

Dharma Rain has a structure called the "Mandala Model" which you may find informative:

http://www.dharma-rain.org/?p=about_organization

"We use the image of a Mandala to describe the shared and interrelated nature of organizational reponsibility among many different people, teams, and councils. The graphic visually represents how these elements work together. Each council has mandates and descriptions, and also develops policies and other informational documents pertinent to its work."
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Re: Sangha Organizational Structures

Postby Pedestrian on Mon Sep 09, 2013 6:06 pm

Thanks, Jok_Hae and So-on. Those are all very helpful indeed.

Guo Gu posted something related in the Ask a Teacher forum:

Guo Gu wrote:there's a chan saying: 30% teacher-student relationship and 70% dharma friends.


Another way to frame my question might be: how best to create auspicious conditions for support among dharma friends?

Meeting tonight to move the conversation ahead. Will report back.
"Buddha, to liberate beings, cultivates practices everywhere." Avatamsaka Sutra.

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Re: Sangha Organizational Structures

Postby Jok_Hae on Tue Sep 10, 2013 1:26 am

Pedestrian wrote:Thanks, Jok_Hae and So-on. Those are all very helpful indeed.

Guo Gu posted something related in the Ask a Teacher forum:

Guo Gu wrote:there's a chan saying: 30% teacher-student relationship and 70% dharma friends.


Another way to frame my question might be: how best to create auspicious conditions for support among dharma friends?

Meeting tonight to move the conversation ahead. Will report back.


Show up. I mean that very sincerely. Show up, week in and week out. Just be there, 100% and follow the situation. :Namaste:
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Re: Sangha Organizational Structures

Postby Jugglesaurus on Wed Sep 11, 2013 11:43 am

I'm not going to be very helpful with this, as I don't pay attention to wider structures enough!
In our city, we have several dojos and there is a committee that oversees stuff. We're part of a wider UK group, which also has a committee that meets regularly and also an AGM. That UK group is part of a bigger Europe-wide group. I know there are AGMs for that too, but my interest is a little limited. They sent me the minutes for one recently, but they were in French.
I think a good thing about our structure is that no single person holds total authority.
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Re: Sangha Organizational Structures

Postby Pedestrian on Thu Sep 12, 2013 3:48 pm

Jok_Hae wrote:Show up. I mean that very sincerely. Show up, week in and week out. Just be there, 100% and follow the situation. :Namaste:


I know it was meant sincerely, and I took it with sincerity. The only option, really....

Jugglesaurus wrote:I think a good thing about our structure is that no single person holds total authority.


Agreed -- that's a key part of our sangha, from the multiple masters and teachers on down to the folks packing up the zafus.
"Buddha, to liberate beings, cultivates practices everywhere." Avatamsaka Sutra.

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Re: Sangha Organizational Structures

Postby Guo Gu on Thu Sep 12, 2013 5:26 pm

So-on Mann wrote:Dharma Rain has a structure called the "Mandala Model" which you may find informative:

http://www.dharma-rain.org/?p=about_organization

"We use the image of a Mandala to describe the shared and interrelated nature of organizational reponsibility among many different people, teams, and councils. The graphic visually represents how these elements work together. Each council has mandates and descriptions, and also develops policies and other informational documents pertinent to its work."


very interesting. thanks for sharing that, so-an!

chris, i don't know your group so can't provide details but i can offer you a principle: in principle there should be a clear chain of command so everyone needs to know what to do, but it need to be a top-down model. in fact, the buddha instituted the sangha to operate in a democratic, shared responsibility model of interdependence. when things needed to be voted, votes were not majority but unanimous. there was hierarchy (seniority based on precept age), but there was also a double checking system (unanimous decision on everything and jobs always rotated so no one person stay in one position of authority for too long as to attach to it).

the reason for this is to ensure the smooth running of the sangha, creating, as you say, "auspicious conditions" for the support of each other in practice.

this is the principle. as for the specifics of "calendars, websites, social media groups, that sort of thing" it depends on the constituents of your group. do you have web experts? do you have designers? do you all have time to maintain online calendars, etc.? don't overwork yourselves. remember, it is the people that constitute the group. each member of your group, together, will have to recognize, adapt to, wait for, and create the proper causes and conditions to do any task. these four principles of recognition, adaptation, anticipation, and creation are important in deciding what you can or cannot do, what you ought or ought not to do, how you can do and how not to do.

Hope this helps,
guo gu
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Re: Sangha Organizational Structures

Postby Jugglesaurus on Mon Sep 16, 2013 2:34 pm

With websites and social networking, we have a website, an email list maintained by the same person who does the website, and a facebook page maintained by someone else.
Another thing we have that's great is google calendar. It lets you see who is scheduled to cover shifts etc, so if someone forgets to write it down, they can go and double check online.
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