How Structure Symbolizes Social Change

Black Mental Health Connections Montreal is a collective of passionate individuals and organizations that advocate for mental health awareness. Their work questions the systems that perpetuate institutional racism and oppression. This is crucial in understanding why they have chosen to organize in a non-hierarchical structure. 

From the beginning, the organization was formed to organize individuals working towards improved mental health care access for the Black community in Montreal. Every person who had the capacity to join had their voice heard equally. With equally weighted opinions, BMHC was able to start their work of dismantling the results of hierarchy and white supremacy internally before even implementing it in their programs. 

After some strategic planning in 2018, BMHC’s members capitalized on their deep interest in governance and their understanding of organizational behavior. This led them to implement a non-hierarchical internal structure.

In a hierarchical structure, authority comes from the head of the team, which can be a CEO, manager, or another executive. The decision-making typically does not lie with a majority of the organization. In contrast, non-hierarchical structure minimizes the number of managers and allows for decisions to be made by the majority.

Sharing responsibility for BMHC’s tasks began with emphasizing the organization’s values.“In our strategic planning, we were trying to think: how do we solidify that this is the value we want to uphold–that everyone comes into this space with varied experiences of Black mental health? How do we honor that without potentially replicating toxic structures?” Kristen, one of the current coordinators, said. “We came up with member levels based on the energy and capacity that people had coming to the table. They would maintain that everyone’s voice is equal and everyone is heard the same. So whether you’re coming here with academic experience, professional experience, [or] lived experience, your voice and vote matters just as much as everybody else that’s here.”

Now all contributing members understand their roles with the RACI framework in mind. This system categorizes people by asking; who is responsible for certain tasks? How will they be held accountable, and who can they consult if they need anything? Who has to be updated about the process?

The implementation of the RACI framework helped ensure that there was an understanding of equal roles and responsibility, which allows for collaboration. RACI is an acronym that stands for ‘Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed’. It is also important to specifically detail what each person will contribute to a task and how they are expected to carry it out. The most successful way to use this method of organization is to ensure that there are not too many people responsible for one task, so they can be adequately shared. 

Taking part in BMHC, whether that’s through becoming an active member, voting member, volunteering, or attending events, is rewarding because it brings you closer to a community of driven people. It is a unification of many different intersections all advocating for Black mental health. Maintaining, facilitating, and discussing mental health care can be a draining process. The community that BMHC has built allows for a group of like-minded people to support one another by sharing skills and contributing their time to the cause. 

In the future, BMHC wants to continue to expand and facilitate care from a community standpoint, giving people the resources to improve their mental health journey with support from their peers. They will do that by continuing to expand both their peer support and accessible education programs. By doing so they hope to continue creating bottom-up social change.

To stay updated on BMHC programming and contribution opportunities, follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.