The Intersex Society of America
This case presents a dilemma facing Cheryl Chase, the founder and Director of the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA), an organization whose mission is to end shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries for people born with atypical sex anatomies. Driven by her commitment to the issue, Chase develops ISNA and its board over the course of many years and achieves a high level of visibility and respect for the organization. Chase eventually realizes it is time to leave ISNA and to transition to a non-founding director. As with many nonprofits, this is a bumpy process for ISNA and for Chase. The new executive director quickly encounters difficulties and soon resigns, along with many members of the Board. ISNA then faces a substantial leadership vacuum and financial crisis, which brings Chase and her former colleagues back to the drawing board. The case ends on a positive note with a board retreat, where the mood is celebratory and the board is excited about the new ambitious agenda.
The case presents the risks inherent in growing an organization and the challenges of organizational leadership and board development. It offers students the opportunity to grapple with positive and negative leadership traits, the challenges of navigating leadership transitions, and questions of how to build a board, while also exposing students to difficult issues related to gender, sexuality, and identity.
This case was designed to be taught in graduate-level MPA courses in nonprofit or public management. Because the case includes issues related to organizational growth, board development, cultural competence, and issue advocacy, it is recommended that the case be taught later in the public management course sequence.
Laina Poon wrote this case under the supervision of Professor Marieka Klawitter and with the support of funding from the Ford Foundation Diversity Case Studies Project at the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Washington.