How We Work

SMWC’s leadership & decision-making structure prioritizes participation, transparency, & care, mirroring our human rights principles.

In 2022, we began restructuring leadership positions so our members could feel even more deeply connected and invested in our organization’s governance; and to further center and follow the leadership of poor and working class people across our programs and organizing campaigns. We departed from an executive staff model in favor of a more collaborative staff collective model, where organizers work closely with member-led committees and each other to hold the administrative needs and political leadership of the organization.

How does leadership work? SMWC Board members are nominated directly from our organizing committees (Work With Dignity, Political Education, Radical Nourishment, & Membership) and administrative committees (Personnel, Fundraising, & Finance). Members vote to approve nominees each year at our Annual Meeting. Our Political Leadership Team, a subcommittee of our elected board, guides our political strategy using SMWC values and principles, with input and energy from committees, as well as a deep analysis of our conditions.

Our small but mighty staff team collaborates closely on decisions that affect all of us. We design our roles to lift up each staff member’s passions & strengths, and share the hardest parts of our work equitably.

For Black & Brown organizers and non-profit workers in Maine, burnout is the norm rather than the exception. We see and feel the systems of oppression functioning within the very organizations we’ve joined in order to dismantle them. It is easy to become discouraged, morally jaded, and question whether all non-profits are doomed to become co-opted, distracted, ineffective vehicles towards liberation.

The forces driving social justice nonprofits to drift from our missions are strong: white supremacy culture, strict hierarchies that create imbalances in participation and workload, grind culture that robs us of crucial time to reflect & connect, and conflict avoidance that protects positions of power. But non-profit workers can enjoy dignified, supportive working conditions. Winning “work with dignity” for organizers, educators, social service & healthcare workers is an important part of our strategy to invest in care infrastructure.

In 2022, we set out to build a staff collective: 

  • Staff organizers support each other as peers and comrades instead of bosses and employees.
  • We implemented a four-day work week and a pay structure where every staff member earns the same living wage.
  • We built time and resources into our work for learning together about interpersonal & organizational conflict resolution, recognizing that healthy conflict is a critical part of social movement infrastructure.
  • We check in regularly about our energy and capacity, striving for a sustainable and restful pace. We share what we need and offer support when we can.
  • We focus on joy and what feels good in our work.