Reinventing MCC for today's world
Mennonite Central Committee’s organizational chart evokes a map of the solar system. Eleven regional, provincial and national MCCs, arrayed as planets, orbit a red, sun-like disk, the greater binational agency. The 12-part MCC corporate structure has a tang of science: orderly but complicated.
It may be this simple, reasoned complexity that MCC will have the hardest time deconstructing as it continues to re-evaluate its governance and organization. The MCC binational board affirmed this project during its annual meeting June 8-9 in Akron, Pa.
Partially at issue, to some observers, is the fact that MCC is far too fragmented, with regional offices and headquarters, each with its own slate of seemingly independent programs. Overarching these regional offices are the two free-standing national organizations — U.S. and Canadian — each with their own needs, support systems and, to hear some tell it, ideologies. Governing all of these, in theory if not practice, is the binational superstructure — the Jupiter-like Great Red Spot around which all else swirls.
Still, while some believe MCC is fragmented, even beset by conflicting bureaucracies, it will be some version of bureaucratic structure that either helps MCC thrive or falter as it explores its own future and how it will work most efficiently.
As interim executive director Bert Lobe told board members June 8: “We are a bureaucracy, but with a difference, with a quality of ‘moreness.’ We need to articulate that better. What we’re looking for is a look back at the past and to learn some lessons from that past. After we get the vision, we will know how to structure ourselves.”
This “moreness” — a function not only of MCC’s faith-based heritage but its strong, seemingly inexhaustible support among its constituents — will continue to be MCC’s lease on life, no matter how the organization comes to be structured.
MCC is at a crossroads all large organizations must eventually negotiate. Having been formed more than 80 years ago to help Mennonite refugees suffering in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution, MCC now finds itself helping people not only to overcome adversity but to revolutionize the way they live by improving their general circumstances. Whether in Iraq, Palestine, Colombia or any of the scores of other countries where MCC works, the agency must find a way to take its next essential steps toward increasing its effectiveness as a global peacemaking, relief and development organization.
This will surely involve some streamlining and re-examination of priorities. But it also must involve a rededication to MCC’s core values of faith-based peacemaking. This means becoming more attuned to a world where ideologies among nations can overlap with little clarity and where wars proliferate with alarming speed.
Former MCC executive director Robb Davis said that if MCC didn’t already exist, it would have to be invented. This work of reinvention is happening now, to help Anabaptists answer the global call to help where some agencies hesitate to go. This time of change may prove to be one of MCC history’s most important chapters.
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