Changes and New Beginnings


By: 
Lisa VeneKlasen

Dearest friends, trusted allies, generous supporters and comrades,  

After an exhilarating, life-changing journey at the helm of JASS since 2003, I will be stepping down as Executive Director in February 2020. 

This is a momentous and exciting step for me and for JASS, one taken with care over the last many months with the full confidence of our amazing staff, leadership, and Board of Directors. This move occurs at a time when JASS is a thriving transformational force for women and feminist justice in a world on fire.

When we launched "Imaginging and Building Women's Movements of the Future" in 2006, we responded to rising attacks against women activists and freedoms that many did not seem to notice at the time. Today, when rethinking power, movement-building, and feminisms are "in," we are very proud to offer what we have expereinced, learned, and created alongside many allies in all of our efforts to forge a just, feminist, multiracial, and sustainable world for all.

In the very beginning in 2003, JASS was “just” associates a community of practice of brilliant activists, popular educators, and scholars from 20 countries who provided training and strategic advice to many international organizations and cross-subsidized work with social movements and activist researchers. This original community embodied my own political history as an activist; we were interconnected by overlapping experiences in an earlier era of internationalism, liberation, and cross-border solidarity, particularly in Central America and Southern Africa. We shared a set of activist-tested frameworks, methodologies, and strategies for building people-centered political and economic democracy. This powerful initial network – with just two staff anchored and co-led the evolution of JASS both institutionally and programmatically in Mesoamerica, Southeast Asia, and Southern Africa along with a set of courageous donors. It was this fertile combination of deep political roots and shared histories, and the political trust they forged amongst us that allowed us to both ground JASS and grow quickly in many parts of the world. It is also why building relationships and political trust remain at the heart of JASS’ ways of working.   

In the wildly creative spirit of building while flying and with the firm insistence that (organizational) form must follow (strategic) function, we boldly transformed this community into a multi-regional organization. Today we consist of three decentralized and interlinked regional networks with 9 country offices, 42 staff scattered across 12 countries reaching 26 countries and globally, 9 active advisors, a powerhouse Board, and a budget of $4.5 million. And, we remain fundamentally a community.

I am so proud of our many achievements along the way, including: 

None of this would have been possible without the generous support and collaboration from so many committed funders, allies, and supporters. JASS and I are so grateful for your leaps of faith, your strategic guidance, and your steady support to think big and work smart. 

I am also grateful to the JASS community, staff, and Board for the chance to co-create and build this important and unique organization that has been both a thought-leader and impacted so many lives and activists. I thank you for your unwavering love and respect that have enabled me to go against the grain in order to realize bold visions together. 

So what's next for me? The world is truly on fire -- and my commitment to democratizing democracy and building new potent alliances for a just future is as strong as ever. In stepping down, I look forward to serving JASS as a senior advisor and an active part of the JASS community of practice where JASS and I starrted -- to continue the work I love as a political strategist, popular educator, communicator, and bridge-builder between unlikely allies, ideas, and action. I'm excited to continue building with JASS the many "thought-in-action" partnerships we've begun that center power. I look forward to supporting the next generation of movement leaders and developing creative strategies to confront and build new kinds of power both with and beyond JASS. I also look forward to a much-needed break and the chance to reflect, write, and renew. I'm open to ideas and conversation - so please reach out. 

JASS enters this transition with strong co-leadership in every part of the organizaton. Our Joint Leadership Team and Board of Directors have established a rigorous process to appoint the next Executive Director and to ensure a thorough handover and continuity in this critical time of renewal. 

This letter is not a “goodbye” – especially since I’ll remain ED for many months to come but rather an initial celebration of a milestone and an expression of profound gratitude for all we’ve done together so far. It is drumroll for the exciting future ahead and new ways of collaborating to build a better world near and far.

With great love and respect,

Lisa