Organization, Structure, and Leadership of the Material Collective

The Material Collective first came together in 2010 as an informal group of colleagues who were interested in collaborating both as scholars and as friends. Our conversations, then and now, are both intellectual and deeply personal. As the Collective has grown in numbers and activities, however, we have discussed ways to create a more structured organization for the times that we need it. From the outset, we were reluctant to develop an overly rigid hierarchy, but we also believe it’s important that the group have some leadership and clarity of process. In other words, how might we put a system into place that allows for more participatory options, while keeping oversight in a small group to maintain coherence and vision?

So, in the interest of full transparency, this document lays out our current plan for the future of the MC:

Until now, the founding members have met (both in person and online) to make decisions about new directions for our work together. For the most part, that has meant crafting conference proposals together, working on publications and blog posts, and participating in the discussions on social media.

We founders currently serve as the main leadership body, which we’ve decided to call the “Core Committee” for the purposes of this document. Since our very earliest conversations, we’ve discussed the need to establish a means for new leadership to emerge, and we’re working on outlining a process for that.

Going forward, we want to include new voices in our decision making process, and we’ve identified a structure that we hope will allow the flexibility and multiplicity that is important to us, and also create on-going opportunities for many different types and levels of participation.

Hypothetical Model of MC Organizational Structure
(Green and Pink Indicate Projects Currently Underway; Purple, Blue, and Orange are Potential Future Projects)

Figure 1: Model showing relationship of Core Committee to Ad-Hoc Assemblages; example is of 5 hypothetical teams for projects to work on over the course of a year or so.

Figure 1: Model showing relationship of Core Committee to Ad-Hoc Assemblages; example is of 5 hypothetical teams for projects to work on over the course of a year or so.

The design prioritizes projects, which seems to us a quite organic way to create structure: to identify the events and publications we want to initiate or participate in, and then organize groups around them as needed. In this way, we hope to avoid the old academic “standing committee” that never gets anything accomplished!

The Core Committee will, once or twice annually, identify agendas and projects for the coming year, and based on specific needs, create the appropriate Ad-Hoc Assemblages. Every project will have a Core member/liaison who will help to identify additional people to work with and will reach out through social media for volunteers. We like this structure because it also allows mentorship, and after some time it is likely that most of the project ideas will not be generated by the core group—which has in fact already happened several times—so there is growth and development built in.

Please reach out if you have ideas about future directions or projects, or if you’d like to volunteer.

In the meantime, we’re continuing to develop a plan for ensuring a democratic process to help the Core Committee—and the Material Collective—promote positive change.