After the first day of the 2nd International Jesuit Networking Conference, focused on the topics of network strategy and culture, the second day turned to the question of network governance and leadership.

The academic input for this session of the conference was provided by Prof. Brooks Holtom, who highlighted the practical shift in the way organizations work in the world today, having moved from authority and leadership following promotion and official position to leadership through inspiring followers and creating shared values and culture. He also encouraged the conference to pay attention to recognizing the social capital associated with the connection of networks and to the variety of ways leaders can use that capital to promote or obstruct the mission of an organization.

Case studies were presented from Fe y Alegria (Carlos Fritzen), the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network (Fr. Xavier Jeyaraj, S.J.), and the Jesuit Refugee Service (Fr. Tom Smolich, S.J.). This was particularly interesting as they represented a wide variety of governance models. Fe y Alegria has a very strong network identity, but its governance aims to preserve significant autonomy at national and local levels. GIAN, as the only network represented without dedicated staff, has seen both advantages in the flexibility of experimentation and challenges associated with a diffuse formal structure. JRS has a “federation” arrangement, with different patterns of governance in different parts of its network and is in the midst of a transformation both of how its structures are defined but also of how its participants understand their own identity as part of the organization and the broader Jesuit network.

Discussion after these presentations centered around the interaction between hierarchical governance and the more evolutionary development of networks and connections based on attraction, common vision, and other more informal relationships. Hierarchical governance is always involved in the growth of networks—sometimes mandating and encouraging it, other times obstructing or slowing it, but always helping to set and shape the constraints and context within which networks develop and evolve.

After the breakout discussions, during the concluding session the conference listened to input from participants with roles in the Society’s universal governance — from Fr. John Dardis, S.J, Father General’s assistant for discernment and planning, Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J., the secretary for higher education, Fr. Ed Fasset, S.J., the secretary for collaboration, Fr. Xavier Jeyaraj, S.J., the secretary for Social Justice and Ecology, and Fr. José Mesa, S.J., the secretary for secondary education. Additionally, the two heads of Jesuit Conferences present, Fr. A.E. Orobator, S.J. of the conference of Africa and Madagascar and Fr. Roberto Jaramillo, S.J., of the conference of Latin America, offered insights about the experience of networking in their regions.

As the conference concluded, participants offered input to the core team who will be drafting a document based on the experience of the past two days. There was strong consensus that the challenges of existing governance organized primarily around provinces and the global challenges we are called to address would continue, and require development and evolution of Jesuit models of governance. In addition, there was a recognition of the need for careful discernment, and especially careful listening for the movement of the Holy Spirit in our attempts to plan and initiate changes in structure, and always for structure to follow mission.

Continue to follow Jesuit Networking on Twitter, Facebook, and this website for updates with the findings of the survey on Jesuit networking, the document produced from this conference, and other opportunities to learn from and contribute to the variety of Jesuit networks around the world.