Your park’s governance structure: why the committee leadership might work for you

It’s no surprise that park groups organize themselves differently from not-for-profit organizations with paid staff. For many volunteers, park work is a ‘side-hustle’ on top of work or family responsibilities. Individual responsibilities can range from light to overwhelming, and the governance model that an organization has a lot to do with moderating workload. 

Grassroots Growth, a project from Volunteer Toronto, highlights three models of governance common for smaller organizations like most community park groups. The three most common models to consider for your community park group are Strong Leader, Leadership Team and Committee. This article will illustrate the application of the Committee model, as applied by (FoRRP).

According to Grassroots Growth, with the Committee model “members of the governance structure are organized into various committees or working groups. Each committee is responsible for specialized tasks with respect to the group’s activities. All the committees do work that ties back to the organization’s mission and vision.” The Committee model is useful when your group is too large for a Leadership Team model or you are looking for ways to share leadership better and move things along more quickly.

We spoke with Zac Childs, Convenor of FoRRP in Toronto, Ontario, whose organization takes care of three parks in west Toronto: Fred Hamilton Playground, George Ben Park, and the Roxton Road Parkette. 

The organization came into being in 2011 when a group of eight Ward 19 neighbours responded to a City of Toronto need for local guidance on upgrades to Fred Hamilton Playground. These eight people formed FoRRP, which started out with a Leadership Team governance model: each member had a distinct duty, but all worked together on a common goal. The Leadership Team model spreads the load amongst a number of members.

Your park group’s governance structure: why the team model might work for you

It’s no surprise that park groups organize themselves differently from not-for-profit organizations with paid staff. For many volunteers, park work is a “side-hustle” that happens while managing busy work and family responsibilities.

Grassroots Growth, a project from Volunteer Toronto, talks about the various governance models common for smaller organizations like most community park groups. We’re going to cover the team model and address how it’s been applied by two different park groups, differently.

To do this, we spoke with Louise O’Neill, Convenor of Friends of Cedarbrook and Thomson Memorial Park (FCTMP) in Scarborough, Ontario, whose organization recently transitioned from a strong leader model to a leadership team model. We also spoke to Ana Cuciureanu from Toronto’s Friends of Parkway Forest Park (FPFP), an organization that has adopted a hybrid version of the team model that they’re found effective.

By way of definition, a team model means that “all core volunteers work together to make decisions.” Adopting a team model makes sense when your group is small; you are looking for ways to include others in decision making, and working to avoid the burnout that can come with one individual carrying the load as a leader. Your ideas and solutions might turn out to be more creative, and sharing the load can feel good for everyone on the team.

Assiniboine Park Conservancy

St. Charles River Society

Park Governance – A Collaborative Partnership Between Les amis de la montagne and the City of Montreal

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