Exhale is thrilled to welcome Jovida Ross into the role of Director of Programs.
Jovida Ross brings to Exhale more than 15-years of leadership with grassroots community based organizations, and her passion for working with volunteers. Previously, Jovida was the Executive Director of Community United Against Violence, and a consultant specializing in organizational planning and learning. Jovida knows all about running talklines and how important it is for people to feel truly heard, especially for something that’s so personal, like abortion. She is passionate about social justice issues that affect the body and conflict transformation. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Women’s Building, where she was formerly a staff member. Jovida is a graduate of Mills College. She has been a LeaderSpring Fellow and a Coro Community Fellow.
Jovida has extensive leadership experience in building common ground. In her past role as Executive Director of CUAV she facilitated a process that brought people together towards a common vision. Jovida shares her experiences here:
When politics and mistrust get in the way of a group working together effectively, how does a leader establish common ground? I faced this challenging scenario just nine months into the job as a first‐time Executive Director.
Community United Against Violence is a 30‐year old anti‐violence organization with deep community roots. A strong group of long‐term staff had collectively run the organization through a difficult executive transition. The strategic plan had expired the year before, so as the organization stabilized, I asked the Board and Staff to begin visioning together. That’s when things got tough.
Our first brainstorm generated a collection of ideas so broad and varied, there was little holding them together. When we moved to refine the brainstorm, it became clear that there was a deep divide within the organization. About 40% of the staff believed strongly that we needed to prioritize serving survivors of violence with individual support. Another 40% couldn’t understand why we weren’t doing more community organizing and public advocacy. The remaining staff members and most of the Board felt lost in the debate.
How could I, new to the organization, lead the group to a coherent vision without alienating one camp or the other? At first, this appeared to be an impossible task. Once identified, the division began to show up in every aspect of our work. Staff meetings became tense. Everyone watched warily to see which approach I, as Executive Director, would support.
I am proud to report that we made it past the impasse. It was not always easy. With some hard work, we generated a powerful vision, re‐framed our mission, and identified innovative strategies which blended both individual and community transformation. In the process, we developed a cohesive team that was excited to be a part of something new.
How did we get there? There are three basic steps that worked for us:
- Invite the objectors in to build a cross‐divide team: with the level of trust so low, the only way that the polarized camps would support a solution was to include representatives of each in developing the process.
- Begin by establishing how decisions will be made: the group together identified what level of agreement they needed in order to support a decision, and how to handle it when there was not enough agreement in place, before discussing substantive material.
- Pose foundational questions, and generate the answers together: with everyone involved in developing material, the full group felt ownership of the answers. Working collaboratively, the staff came to see that the strategies which had previously seemed in conflict were actually complementary, and they became integrated into a new, stronger, unified strategy.
This approach develops a solution that everyone can believe in. I have used it since in similar situations, with similar results, and I am thrilled to share it with you here!
We look forward to all the ways Jovida will apply her expertise towards our mission of creating a more supportive and respectful social climate around abortion. Welcome Jovida!