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Concordia’s SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation fosters allyship across sectors using an alternative governance model

‘We aim to dismantle power dynamics by including staff, Concordians and community members’

Three women sitting in a line and listening to the middle woman speak

Since its inception in 2019, the SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation has been rethinking the status quo to advance its vision of making Montreal more just, inclusive and broadly prosperous.

Throughout its journey, the delegation of power has remained a fundamental aspect of the centre’s decision-making processes, prioritizing diverse voices and upholding community accountability.

Specifically, decision-making authority circulates through a participatory model comprising the staff members, selection committees, program hubs and a steering committee.

One of the newer members of the steering committee is Danièle-Jocelyne Otou-Nguini, BA 13, who joined in fall 2023. She is also the board chair of the Black Healing Centre, funded by SHIFT. Additionally, Otou-Nguini co-founded New Room Group, an organization dedicated to accompanying leaders and teams through organizational change.

People sitting at a table talking together.

Decisions informed by a wide range of stakeholders

The selection committees, program hubs and steering committee are composed of a diversity of stakeholders from across the SHIFT community, including community partners, faculty members, students and other collaborators.

The steering committee provides high-level strategic guidance, including direction for the future and allocation of resources.

Otou-Nguini says that one of the most rewarding aspects of her experience so far has been making connections with people across multiple sectors.

A young woman with long, straight, black hair, wearing a white shirt. Danièle-Jocelyne Otou-Nguini: “SHIFT’s innovative governance model has served as a guiding light.”

‘I’m gaining deeper insights into how systemic change can be achieved and sustained over time’

Can you tell us what you find interesting about SHIFT’s governance model?

Danièle-Jocelyne Otou-Nguini: SHIFT’s governance model reimagines both the appearance and functionality of traditional board structures. Boards are often perceived as exclusive members-only clubs perched atop the organizational pyramid. SHIFT’s model aims to dismantle such power dynamics by including staff, Concordians and community members.

Drawing inspiration from natural systems, SHIFT’s governance operates as a decentralized ecosystem, fostering power-sharing and integrating continuous feedback loops to ensure inclusion and transparency throughout its operations.

So far, what have you found particularly exciting or fulfilling about your experience?

DO: Being part of this dynamic group has provided me with a tangible opportunity to contribute to concrete change within our community. Through our collaborative efforts, we’re able to implement initiatives that address pressing issues and drive a positive impact on the ground.

I’m gaining deeper insights into how systemic change can be achieved and sustained over time, by learning from diverse perspectives and innovative approaches. It has been both intellectually stimulating and personally enriching, allowing me to broaden my horizons and expand my understanding of social-change efforts.

Have you noticed any impact on your work approach as a result of your participation in SHIFT?

DO: SHIFT’s innovative governance model, which prioritizes inclusivity, transparency and decentralization, has served as a guiding light in shaping my professional endeavours.

Through my involvement with SHIFT, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the power of collaboration and the importance of incorporating diverse perspectives into decision-making processes. This experience has inspired me to seek out similar opportunities to foster inclusivity and equity in my work, whether by implementing feedback mechanisms to ensure all voices are heard, or reimagining traditional structures to better reflect the values of transparency and shared power.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my experience with the SHIFT steering committee has been the opportunity to make connections with individuals across sectors. Collaborating with professionals from various backgrounds and disciplines has not only expanded my network but has also fostered a sense of collective purpose and shared commitment to creating a more equitable and inclusive society.

Meet all the
SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation steering committee members.



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