Pre-work for the July 30 APS-IDEA Workshop

A. Meet as a team

  • If this is the first meeting of your team, we recommend devoting the time to introductions and discussion of individual motivations for joining the team and aspirations for its outcomes. Share the application with everyone on the team. You may have questions about what it will be like to join a national network and what role you will play individually and as a team. For insight, you can discuss the mission, vision, and principles of APS-IDEA in this overview. We recommend you not try to do more in one meeting; building an effective team takes time, and it is wise to invest in relationship building gradually and continually from the start. After the team meeting, read the three items below on shared leadership, as they will be discussed at the July 30 workshop.
  • If your team has met before, it is still worthwhile to read the APS-IDEA overview, to see what questions arise. Also read the three items below on shared leadership, then discuss them in a team meeting prior to the July 30 APS-IDEA workshop. Provide sufficient time for discussion of the readings. What does shared leadership mean for your team? Could you adopt it as a principle for how your team operates? Experiencing some discomfort during these discussions is normal, as shared leadership is often discordant with our norms and culture. Note what is uncomfortable and why.

B. Readings on Shared Leadership

A central concept of the APS-IDEA model for cultural change is shared leadership. Shared leadership is a type of participatory democracy in which members of an organization or institution share power, obtain multiple perspectives, and provide internal accountability for outcomes affecting them. The AIP TEAM-UP report defines shared leadership as “an arrangement in which power and decision-making authority are shared among top-level leaders (e.g., department chairs) and individuals with the most to gain from change but the least power to achieve it themselves (e.g., students, or faculty working on behalf of students).” Shared leadership provides the traditionally voiceless an ongoing role in shaping discussion and decisions, so that they do not have to rely on invitations to be heard.

The implementation of shared leadership depends on the organizational context. For most teams in academia, sharing leadership means including students, postdocs, staff, and faculty as co-leaders and members of their team. For others, it means having staff work alongside administration in setting the agenda for change and collaboratively implementing and assessing progress in this change.

For many physicists, this model is familiar in research collaborations but unusual in departmental processes in which students and staff are not usually given leadership. Shared leadership can operate in many different contexts and with many variations in its implementation. We ask you to keep an open mind and consider the pros and cons of shared leadership in your context.

The starting point is to more fully understand the concept and its application. The four brief readings below provide perspectives on shared leadership of efforts to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion in physics and related fields.The July 30 APS-IDEA workshop will build upon the readings below and your internal discussions.

  1. Review and discuss an example of shared leadership in EDI: UC Berkeley Astronomy Department Climate Advisors program. Review their website. Then read and discuss the two paragraphs below, extracted from the report of the AAS Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion in Astronomy Graduate Education, pp. 27–28. To construct their survey, the department engaged a shared leadership team of undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, staff, and faculty who collaborated across power differences.

    “[T]he UC Berkeley Astronomy Department, working with experts in the university-wide Office for Equity and Inclusion, has established a participatory process for conducting annual climate surveys of its undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, staff, and faculty and using the results to improve the department. Climate Advisors representing each group worked with the Office for Equity and Inclusion to create a survey, variations of which have been given annually since 2015. The results are disaggregated by social identity (though without intersections of these identities; the smaller size of an individual department severely limits intersectional analysis such as disaggregating by both gender and race/ethnicity). Their survey and action steps have been made public.

    ***The Berkeley study did not investigate in detail the mentoring of graduate students, or the persistence and retention of graduate students. Doing so, especially at the department level, is fraught because of the power dynamics and the worry students may have that any concerns raised might be used against them. Moreover, climate surveys are not ideal for gathering data with nuances in which individual stories are important or numbers of individuals in any group are small. For these reasons, we recommend that departments engage outside resources, for example, the AAS Climate Site Visits Program, when dealing with mentoring or serious climate challenges where power dynamics are an important factor. A Graduate Dean or Chief Diversity Officer can recommend other resources.”

  2. Consider how the APS-IDEA Steering Committee demonstrates shared leadership. This is a group of seven physicists, ranging in traditional seniority from a graduate student to a senior professor, who have jointly developed a network of departmental change teams seeking to enhance equity, diversity, and inclusion in their organizations. The team formed in October, 2019 and holds weekly videoconferences to create and support an international initiative involving about 100 departments, national labs, collaborations, and similar organizations in physics and related fields. Their implementation of shared leadership includes the following elements:

    1. Absence of hierarchy: each member rotates weekly through service as meeting chair, note-taker, and other shared responsibilities.
    2. The team uses consensus to decide planning steps and action items, and to create ad hoc working groups to accomplish them. Members sign up for those responsibilities according to their interest and availability.
    3. Each member brings unique perspectives and experience, and are encouraged to share them when making decisions. When some members have greater experience on some topic, an opportunity arises for everyone to learn and grow including those with the most experience.
    4. Everyone accepts that each member’s availability will vary with time; team members with extra time step up to assist those with less time.
    5. Encouragement and support are a big part of the team meetings. This has fostered a sense of trust resulting in members enjoying each other and their meetings.
    6. Many activities are recognized as professional development opportunities. Experienced team members provide encouragement and support for learning and growth of less experienced members.
    7. The team strives to lift the voices of those who may be marginalized in other contexts. Doing so without patronization enhances trust and promotes reciprocity in ways that recognize and compensate for real or perceived power differences.
  3. Read and discuss Sections III.A and III.D of G.M. Quan,, “Designing for institutional transformation: Six principles for department-level interventions,” Physical Review-PER 15, 010141 (2019).

  4. Read and discuss E. Holcombe and A. Kezar, “The Whys and Hows of Shared Leadership in Higher Education,” in the Higher Education Today blog, posted 10 May 2017.

Note the very different contexts of the readings. Shared leadership can be usefully applied in many settings including, we hope, yours!