The experience of Inter Pares
  • I just finished reading a really interesting paper written by the staff of Inter Pares, an organization that I’ve drawn much inspiration from over the past several years. Founded in the mid-1970s as a way for Canadians to support social justice organizing abroad, Inter Pares has always been strongly influenced by feminist thought. Yet in its early years, it was hierarchically structured and followed most of the conventional nonprofit management practices of its time.

    It wasn’t until a decade into its work that the staff began asking themselves the question: “If we want to espouse these values we have overseas around equality – shouldn’t we be looking at our way of working with each other and try and put those values into practice in terms of how we organize ourselves internally?” What followed was a rich, living experiment that stretched over 25 years and continues to unfold today.

    This paper, titled Does it work? Feminist Analysis and Practice at Inter Pares is a fascinating exploration into the core feminist principles they have been living out in their work- engaging the whole-person, sharing decision-making and power, taking a co-creative approach to developing and implementing projects, etc. – and how practicing them on a daily-basis has radiated out into their broader social change work in powerful ways.

    What their own reflections, archival research and independent evaluations have revealed is that the skills they have honed through their internal process of co-management are the very same skills that have led to their success in catalyzing and sustaining effective coalition-building and providing meaningful and long-term support to grassroots movements around the world.

    What I love about Inter Pares is that they manage to be incredibly passionate and rigorous about living out their values without being dogmatic. For them, feminism isn’t a set of static tenants to preach and stoically adhere to, but a way of being and working that constantly evolves.

    I’ve added this paper to the Further Reading section of our website. If you’re interesting in learning more about how Inter Pares works, check out this link where you can download a copy of the Inter Pares staff agreement, which outlines their co-operative management principles, structure, processes, work conditions, salary policy, and sample job descriptions.

    July 20th, 2011 | Tana Paddock | 1 Comment

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