Sunday, November 18, 2007

Who sets the vision?

First is a series of posts following discussion with the Pacific Central District Board

The UUA Board is in the process of moving to policy-based governance, currently establishing executive limitations (which we are calling “Global Leadership Covenant and Expectations”) and expecting to fully operate in this mode by 2009. One of the major changes in the standard Carver model from the current view is that the Board, not the President, is responsible for setting the vision, working with the congregations to do so. This vision is then codified into a set of statements generally referred to as "ends". This is a very different model than that of traditional business institutions, where a CEO is often hired because of his or her "vision" of what the company should be, and is expected to inspire employees, investors, and often customers to implement it successfully.

A fundamental difference with non-profits (including churches) is that "customers", "investors", and "employees" become very muddy terms that do not translate well to a non-profit model. It may be totally realistic for a CEO to take a light bulb company and turn it into a multinational conglomerate selling everything from entertainment to jet engines (as General Electric has evolved) but member congregations (an amalgamation of "customers", "investors", and "employees/volunteers") might not feel the UUA should be branching out beyond its core mission - however that is defined.

In many ways the UUA has already acted in a "carveresque" manner through the various proposals, resolutions and study groups that are passed or created at the General Assembly - input that comes directly from the congregational delegates that can create a shift in policy and/or direction. The Board is expected to provide resources for these resolutions, and the President and Staff to see that they are implemented, which is in line with pure "Carver", though the Board's role in the detail of the numbers may not be. The Board began a more deliberate visioning process at Portland GA with the “open space” technology sessions which began to create the ends under which we will operate.

Is this realistic? To what degree are our congregations served by a "strong president" who may bring his or her own visions of what the UUA should be? How much flexibility should be inherent in the "ends"? How should the Board engage with congregations to further this kind of work? Do we start with a blank sheet of paper (as the open space technology did) or utilize the "best and brightest" of our lay and ministerial leaders to create ends that could be debated and revised by our congregations?

Next post: do we need to be part of a larger movement?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Eclectic Cleric: "Congregations Count"

The Eclectic Cleric: "Congregations Count"

In the "Shameless Promotion" department...

I just discovered the above link, which is a review of my General Assembly Workshop, "Congregations Count" about using process data to better direct membership efforts. This person does an excellent job of describing the workshop, and more importantly has some great additional insight into what this work is about. I have had good response on the workshop, which has been presented a number of times (including a couple of conference call workshops). I have a standard request at the end of each workshop: send me your data so I can refine the ranges for the benchmarks, which will make the concepts more useful for everyone. At GA I gave out 30 CDs, with the caveat that the takers would provide me their data - so far, zero.

Check out the Eclectic Cleric's post, and if you want to hear/see the presentation, go to Congregations Count where you can download both the presentation and the audio of me presenting it (which includes a lot of material not on the slides). And send me your data!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

White Privilege

Third in a series of posts from the UUA October Board meeting

I am still pondering something that happened during the UUA board meeting a few weeks ago.

I am well acquainted with the concept of privilege as something relatively unrecognized by the one who has it. I remember being a 26 year old telephone installation supervisor, the only female supervisor in a garage of men, being shown how to check the oil on my truck by my well-meaning manager.

I had been changing the oil in trucks since I was 14.

My boss did not mean to be unkind – it was just assumed that I would not know because I was a woman. This happened repeatedly, sometimes fairly and sometimes not. It was not until I started going out for a few beers on Friday afternoons with my male counterparts, and got to know them well enough for them to be honest, that I found out they didn’t know a lot of stuff either. But because people assumed a big strapping guy with a firm handshake and hearty voice did know what he was doing, he was seldom called on the carpet to prove it.

But back to the Board meeting.

Somewhat to our dismay, the Board has learned that the security conditions surrounding the Fort Lauderdale General Assembly site still include the need for a government issued photo ID. Viewed primarily as an annoyance by most of us, it meant something different to most if not all of our board members of color.

I have personally not been singled out for special security measures because of my color or ethnicity, nor jerked from a car and pushed on the ground because I was in the wrong neighborhood, nor questioned suspiciously about my citizenship at a border crossing. If I had, I might not be so cavalier about how “normal” this was in this day and age (try flying lately?) or so quick to feel confident that the people in charge would insure nothing bad happened. And I might – just might – try not to “fix” the pain reflected in these experiences.

I also have not lost substantial numbers of family and friends to violence, whether it is in urban neighborhoods, the Holocaust, or current genocides. There is much pain here.

A phrase sticks with me from a workshop at the Portland General Assembly: “The soul does not need to be fixed. The soul needs to be heard.” As I told one of the participants, I learned something from the Board exchange that I will continue to think about – I am just sorry that I learned it at someone else’s expense.

I did hear you.