After a spiritually charged morning program in the presence of Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Govinda and Srila Prabhupada, followed by a hearty breakfast of South Indian fare, the first day of the GBC Strategic Planning’s Organizational Development’s meeting got underway.
ISKCON has seen considerable global expansion since its birth in 1966. Srila Prabhupada designed the GBC’s current leadership model at a time when the movement was smaller and less complex than it is today.
To ensure that as ISKCON grows, its organizational systems and process remain relevant to a growing ISKCON, the Organizational Development Committee was established and mandated to thoroughly review ISKCON’s current leadership model. While remaining loyal to Srila Prabhupada’s directions, the Committee was tasked to study any necessary structural developments and enhancements in order to meet the needs of the expanding ISKCON movement. The goal of these systems and processes is to address ISKCON’s current and future needs, providing support and the creation of an organization that encourages growth (outreach) and facilitates better care of the devotees. The Organizational Development Committee works both in ISKCON and on ISKCON, to ensure what needs to remain aligned to the original spirit and culture remain so and to establish the necessary adjustments to take ISKCON into the future.
One significant initiative that has come out of the Committee's work is zonal configuration, and part of today’s meeting focused on this topic. When Srila Prabhupada established the GBC in 1970 he appointed twelve GBC Zonal Secretaries to lead thirty-four temples in three or four countries. Nowadays ISKCON has twenty times that many temples, and thousands more devotees, communities and congregations, yet it still has only thirty-two GBC Zonal Secretaries.
That means that some GBC zones span three or four continents. This stretches the GBC Zonal Secretaries too thin, makes traveling around a zone expensive and jeopardizing the Zonal Secretaries’ health. In addition it doesn’t afford the opportunity for the GBCs to spend enough quality time in each part of their zone – and so it becomes challenging to comprehensively provide guidance, supervision, and support to the devotees they’re assigned to care for.
Fixing this situation is urgent if we want ISKCON to improve. Org Dev’s first pass at it has been to consult the different GBCs from the various areas of the world and they identified 133 smaller, more manageable, zones. As Srila Prabhupada instructed, these zones are not configured around individuals but take into consideration things like a zone’s culture, population, size, number of temples, economic profile (is it first-world or third-world?), and several other criteria.
The process of zonal configuration has revealed to the Organizational Development Committee the clear need for more zonal representatives, compelling the GBC to consider related issues, such as scouting for talent and the development of leaders.
These projects will require full, focused attention and energy, but the Organizational Development Committee members know that their implementation has the potential to open the doors to a very exciting future for ISKCON. The Committee is taking practical steps to establish a GBC College for Leadership Development.