Balancing Transparency and Confidentiality in La Leche League
Both transparency and confidentiality are important to the health of any organization.
Transparency involves the organization’s responsibility to keep its members fully and honestly informed of issues relevant to the membership.
Confidentiality is needed in La Leche League
- in working with families,
- in working with Applicants,
- within Direct Connect Entity (DCE) administrative units, and
- in Board discussions and voting.
In LLL, the balance between transparency and confidentiality is achieved in the following ways.
Confidentiality for Leaders
The LLLI PSR (https://llli.org/leader-pages/policies-standing-rules/), which all Leaders must follow, states that a Leader shall keep confidential the medical and personal identifying information of the mothers, children and families with whom they work, unless otherwise required by law, or where the reporting of a danger to an adult or child is specifically required by law. Personal identifying information is any information that permits the identity of an individual to be reasonably inferred either directly or indirectly.
Therefore, before Leaders reach out to other Leaders for help in supporting a person, they must ask permission to share any information that would enable others to identify the person whom the Leader is supporting. Under no circumstances should a Leader reveal information about a person’s medical condition or legal issues without written permission. (Email, Messenger, or text all suffice as written permission.) Evidence of permission should be saved in the Leader’s log in case any future questions arise about whether permission was granted.
Confidentiality in Working with Applicants
Supporting Leaders and LAD representatives should keep confidential both that an Applicant is working towards accreditation and the details of application discussions.
It is not advisable to mention an Applicant’s status to Group members. This practice keeps the Applicant from being put on the spot to answer questions before feeling adequately prepared. It also protects the Applicant from being seen as a representative of LLL. This practice also avoids any potential for difficulties in the case that the Applicant does not become a Leader.
Within LAD, discussions with Applicants should be kept confidential from everyone not directly involved in supporting the application. Those supporting the application may be the ACLA and the CLA, the R/ALA and, if necessary, the DLAD. When supporting Leaders or LAD representatives need to consult with others regarding an Applicant’s situation, the Applicant must be informed about whom the supporting Leader or LAD representative wants to consult and then give written permission for the supporting Leader or LAD representative to share that information with those persons. In order to protect the Applicant’s privacy, no names or unnecessary details should be shared.
Confidentiality within DCE administrative units
Each DCE Council or Board is expected to have its own policy that balances its needs for transparency and confidentiality. Transparency is preferred in most instances; however, it is important to preserve the Council/Board members’ freedom to speak their minds about all issues without fearing repercussions, pressure, or retaliation from other members of the organization.
Confidentiality regarding LLLI Board Discussions and Votes
It is considered best practice in board governance to keep discussions and voting confidential. To encourage thoughtful, productive and innovative work from members involved in policy-making work, confidentiality helps ensure that not every single word and action are exposed to scrutiny. Confidentiality provides an environment of respect, trust and candor that allows Board members to openly share difficult information and opposing viewpoints, critically examine the issues, and challenge one another’s conclusions.
LLLI Board members are elected by the Leaders of their DCEs. They therefore represent and are obligated to present the perspective, wishes, and positions of their respective DCEs. Nevertheless, their duty as LLLI Board members is to prioritize the good of the global LLL organization over the good of one or more parts of the organization, which sometimes involves voting contrary to the viewpoint of their DCE. Privacy provides Board members the freedom to vote in the way that they believe to be the right decision for the sustainability and future of the organization.
The goal of openness, communication and accountability from the LLLI Board can best be achieved without revealing an individual Board member’s vote or identifying specific positions of particular Board members.
For these reasons, the LLLI Board will keep all Board members’ specific votes and personal discussion points confidential, even after the Board member is no longer serving on the Board. Former Board members are expected also to maintain confidentiality on particular people’s positions and votes.
Board members are free to explain the general arguments or points of view that were considered in the decision making. They cannot, however, reveal specific members’ positions or statements that were made during the discussions that led to the decisions, not even their own, and not even after they have left their Board positions.
Transparency in LLLI Board Work
Keeping the exact votes and precise words of Board members confidential doesn’t mean that Board members can’t let their DCE Councils/Boards and Leaders know what the LLLI Board is working on and what issues are being discussed. Board members can achieve transparency by
- Communicating how — and why — decisions have been made
- Sharing issues that are under discussion
- Sharing with their Councils or constituents their current positions on the issues before the Board decision is made.
- Describing and explaining the views of others without revealing any personal information that would allow someone to identify those others.
In order to preserve individual Board members’ ability to speak freely and to think innovatively and creatively, these practices of transparency should be carried out without mentioning other Board members’ names or identifying what perspectives any other Board member might hold.
Confidentiality does not preclude someone from “whistleblowing”—that is, reporting policy, financial, or legal infractions committed by any administrator or member of the organization. Every DCE should have clear and widely disseminated Whistleblower and Grievance policies. LLLI’s Whistleblower policy can be found at (https://llli.org/leader-pages/policies-standing-rules/)