Reorganizing for growth

Left to right: Crystal Weaver, Rob Schlegel, Greg Gaeddert

Governance changes equip MEDA for greater impact, board members say

MEDA is restructuring its governance model for greater impact.

Proposed changes will better align with best practices in the international development sector and prepare for unprecedented growth opportunities.

“The horizon has a whole lot of growth for MEDA, way larger than we’ve ever been before, taking on bigger projects,” says Rob Schlegel, who chairs the MEDA Canada board.

Schlegel has had deeper involvement than most in the governance review that led to the proposed board restructuring. He served as MEDA’s interim chief financial and investment officer for four months following the tragic death of CFIO Orvie Bowman.
During that time, Schlegel built on work that Bowman had begun. MEDA consulted leading charity lawyers about best practices over the course of the governance review process.

The proposed changes involve the creation of a new not-for-profit organization that will guide MEDA’s overall governance, strategy and direction. MEDA Canada and MEDA US will be subsidiaries of the new entity.
That structure “better adapts to the changing opportunities and the mechanisms, or the methods in which we can grow our impact,” said MEDA US board chair Greg Gaeddert.

MEDA Governance Diagram
*Not all entities related to MEDA are depicted below, for simplicity’s sake. Following implementation of the governance changes all individual members will be members of MEDA (holding company).

“The tentacles of MEDA have outgrown that (existing governance) structure,” he said.

MEDA Canada, and MEDA US’s existing boards will continue to provide governance and oversight of the specific projects each organization has made. MEDA’s Canadian subsidiary will remain a registered charity. MEDA’s US subsidiary will still be a 501(c)(3) status non-profit organization.

The changes put MEDA squarely in compliance with a rapidly changing regulatory environment. They will also position MEDA for emerging growth opportunities, Gaeddert said.

Schlegel agrees. “What gets you from point A to point B on growth doesn’t get you from point B to point C, and that doesn’t mean what you did before is wrong,” he said. “What we’ve incorporated into (this new proposed structure) will help us get to the next level and impact so many more different lives than we could’ve done before.”

A not-for-profit governance structure will provide MEDA with much more flexibility in dealing with both regulators and institutional funders, Schlegel said.

“I’m excited about getting all these things in place,” said board member Crystal Weaver. “I think it allows us to do a lot of new exciting things in the future.”

Weaver is part of the US board’s executive committee, nominating & governance committee, and is also a director on the MEDA Canada board.

The proposed new structure assists MEDA in several aspects of a new phase of growth, said MEDA CEO Dorothy Nyambi. It will simplify governance and “absolutely serve as a catalytic engine” to assist MEDA in its strategic goal of creating decent work for 500,000 people, she said.

AS MEDA scales to bigger projects, it routinely will do investments alongside its project work. “Not that it was never done before, but it’s kind of the norm now that you’re going to do that,” Schlegel said. “Almost everything you do (in international economic development) is leaning that direction.”

MEDA will work to integrate access to investment, access to markets, and technological enhancements in order to enhance the overall impact of its efforts, Gaeddert said. “Access to capital is a critical part of the equation (of growing businesses and creating decent work).”

Project initiatives in Nicaragua have demonstrated the value of that integrated approach. Making investments in technology alongside investments in small and medium enterprises “helps the downstream, mid-stream and the upstream participants” in the agri-food market system, he said.

(Upstream is where farmers produce crops, livestock, and fish. Small-scale farmers need to adapt their agricultural practices through new methods of production to produce a better quality product, Gaeddert said.

The mid-stream participants are firms involved in logistics, processing, and wholesaling. These include the small and medium-sized enterprises that work with small-scale farmers to provide more consistent quality products. This group are critical MEDA partners, implementing quality standards that allow farmers to get better yields and prices for what they produce, he said.
Downstream participants are involved in retailing and consumption.)

Board members from outside of North America will serve on the overarching MEDA board. That board will become more international over time. “Diversity, whether it’s skills-based, location-based or experience-based, is beneficial to good governance,” Gaeddert said.

“Having representation from other parts of the globe, in parts of the globe that we do work in, seek partnerships in, raise money from… should all be beneficial to a better global governance structure.”

MEDA’s membership will be asked to ratify the governance changes in November, at the annual convention in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

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