Jan 24, 2023 | Lisa Tatu Hey and Helene Wolf

Beginning our co-leadership journey

In the past weeks we’ve been sharing reflections, highlights, and achievements from our previous year on our social media. Today, we are excited to share some news about the future of FAIR SHARE: As of January 2023, Lisa Tatu Hey is joining Helene Wolf as Co-Executive Director to lead the next phase of our work.

Why co-leadership for FAIR SHARE

We aim to practise what we preach when it comes to Feminist Leadership and serve as a lab for testing its ideas and practices. Re-distributing and sharing power as well as developing new concepts of leadership beyond the “one person at the top”, are key elements we are advocating for. So it’s time to figure out what this looks like for us.

Over the last years we have experimented with new modes of decision-making and team leadership, and this journey will continue as we put a co-leadership model in place. In our vision of co-leadership, it opens up opportunities for all team members to take on more responsibilities and ownership. As with all things Feminist Leadership, the goal is not just to change what’s going on at the top, but transform the culture as a whole.

Why now?

Four years into our existence we are entering a next phase of our work: with a growing number of projects and activities (which you can read about in our latest newsletter), new partners such as the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, and a growing team, we laid the foundation for more impact towards gender equity in the social impact sector. Having two Co-Directors increases our ability to meaningfully connect with our communities and partners, to create and launch new, ambitious projects and to ensure a wider understanding of the different perspectives, complexities and opportunities that drive our work.

What this step means to Tatu

Lisa Tatu Hey: “Taking on this formal leadership position is an exciting but also scary next chapter for me. In the 2.5 years that I have been at FAIR SHARE, responsibility and ownership was distributed among the team, yet sometimes I would also fall back into old patterns of pushing the final decision back to the person with the formal decision-making power, in this case Helene.

“With the relationship Helene and I have created over the years, I know that she will have my back and make the time to support me when I need it. But now the time has come for me to step up and embrace the power, accountability and discomfort of someone in a formal leadership position. I’m eager to experience and witness how my critical perspectives as well as my vulnerability will help me shape what leadership – and now shared leadership – can look like for FAIR SHARE.

“Most of all, I am thankful that my wonderful co-lead and team trust and support me to take on this role, and that this transition will be a collective process: together, we will continue to transform the ways we make decisions, celebrate each other, live through the lows and the highs and create space for our team and collaborators to be their full, complex selves.”

What this step means to Helene

Helene Wolf: “In the patriarchal understanding of leadership, the position of Executive Director can feel really lonely: carrying all the responsibility for the survival of a nascent organisation means you sometimes have very tough decisions to make. Together with the team at FAIR SHARE, I started to un-learn a lot of these ideas and expectations of what leadership means. I do not always need to have all the answers, and I can count on others to take over when I am exhausted or overstretched as experienced during my sabbatical last year.

“And while my position in society as a white, cis, university-educated woman probably enabled me to found FAIR SHARE, it certainly limits my ability to see and acknowledge the different perspectives we now need to achieve our organisational mission.

“Formally sharing my position is an important next step in that journey – for me personally and for FAIR SHARE – and I am eager to explore this together with Tatu and the team. I hope to contribute – and thereby share – my 10+ years of management experience, the network that I built since establishing FAIR SHARE and my openness to being challenged by other perspectives and approaches to our work.”

And what do these steps mean for the rest of the team? They’ll share that in an upcoming reflection.

So what’s next?

We don’t have a readymade concept at hand; rather, we see this as the beginning of a process to figure out together what co-leadership means for all of us at FAIR SHARE. What will our collective, transparent and power-sensitive process towards co-leadership look like – among the two Directors and together with the team? How will we avoid falling into the trap of building patriarchal hierarchies within a growing team? What happens in times of disagreement or conflict? How can we fully leverage the possibilities of co-leadership so that it serves the purpose of FAIR SHARE as well as the needs and expectations of the team?

While we are starting with a lot of questions, we do not feel alone in our search for answers: We want to learn from a growing number of resources around co-leadership and learn from others who are further ahead in their journey such as The Global Fund for Human Rights, AWID, Mama Cash or FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund. And, as always, we will continuously share our experience and learnings with you throughout this journey.

If you have any thoughts or resources you want to share on this topic, get in touch via hello@fairsharewl.org