September 23, 2021
Dear Seward Neighbors:
As many of you know, Seward Neighborhood Group has been experiencing a difficult and trying time. At the end of March, 2021, our Executive Director resigned citing difficulties working with the board leadership. In April, a majority of the board was blocked in its attempt to change board leadership, after which eight board members resigned, including several women of color. This left the board with fewer than the minimum of twelve members required under SNG’s bylaws. The board essentially ceased to function, hindering its ability to hire new staff, oversee current projects, take on new initiatives, or generally do the things that a community-based nonprofit like SNG needs and wants to do.
A special board election was held on July 28, 2021 in which approximately 180 SNG members participated. They elected eight new members to the SNG board. Upon being elected, the new board members discovered that the organization had fallen into deep disarray. Normal, routine administrative tasks had been neglected. Bills were not paid. Urgent correspondence was not read and was not responded to. SNG committees had largely ceased to function or report their activities. There was virtually no communication from the board’s leadership with the community-at-large explaining the situation or evidence of any plan to correct it. In addition, the City of Minneapolis’ Department of Neighborhood and Community Relations (NCR) initiated a special policy review of SNG, in part in response to its organizational turmoil.
Having discovered this situation, on August 20, 2021 the new Executive Committee asked Tiger Worku to resign as President of SNG due to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead. Tiger did subsequently resign as President, and from the board. Several other board members also resigned, some for personal reasons, others in protest of the Executive Committee asking for Tiger’s resignation. This again left the board with fewer than the minimum twelve members. Consequently, SNG held another election on September 22, 2021, and an additional five members were elected to the board, bringing the current board total to fourteen.
In the meantime, board members have been working to sort through and correct organizational issues. Check signing responsibilities have been brought into order. Overdue bills have been paid. Financial records have been brought up to date. Office keys have been accounted for. Some committee meetings are once again being held. A draft community engagement plan required for continued city funding has been completed and submitted to NCR.
Also, after a search and interviewing three candidates, the board hired Michael Jon Olson as Interim Executive Director to help manage the organization until long-term staffing issues can be addressed. Michael Jon is familiar with neighborhood organizations in general and SNG in particular, and is helping to bring its affairs into order.
The board has also received a written report from an organizational consultant who was engaged in March, 2021 to evaluate concerns expressed by the former Executive Director regarding board-staff relationships and other organizational dysfunction. The board has discussed the report with the consultant and will begin to carry out many of its recommendations.
We understand that formal communication from SNG has been sporadic, inconsistent, and unsatisfactory for many months. We pledge to do our best to keep the community apprised via several channels of the progress we are making. Look for updates on the SNG website, NextDoor, and the e-democracy listserv.
The work of rebuilding our neighborhood organization will be slow, and there will likely be setbacks as well as forward progress. But we are committed to doing the hard work and we invite your support and assistance — as committee members, board members, financial contributors, and in other ways — as we move forward. Thank you for your patience and support.
The Board of Directors
Seward Neighborhood Group