Sunday, April 25, 2010

Commission on Appraisal Funding

Second in a series of posts about the April 2010 UUA Board Meeting

In the end, the Board restored most (but not all) of the Commission on Appraisal (COA) funding for next year, as well as restoring part of the funding for the Commission on Social Witness (CSW). Because we require a balanced budget, about 40% of it came directly from the Board of Trustees budget, and 60% from the Administration. Before I left for the Board meeting, someone jokingly asked me if the COA wasn’t using their entire budget by attending the Board meeting. Aside from the “which budget year” timing issue, to their credit the Commissioners who came did so on their own dime, wanting to appear scrupulous about how they spend the money entrusted to them.

The COA is one of those committees that does not fall neatly into operational versus policy categories, as their recommendations over the years have fallen into either category. They are specified in our by-laws as an independent body, and are elected by General Assembly delegates. Since the Board is charged with conducting the affairs of the Association between GAs, we decided the funding decision was in fact the Board’s.

More fundamental though is the question of the purpose of the COA. Trustee Susan Ritchie, who teaches history and UU identity at Starr King, gave an excellent history of why the COA was formed in the 1930s, in an atmosphere of mistrust of the American Unitarian Association (AUA) administration, which had its own business meeting, separate from the delegates. There was no place to take issues when the board itself had no independence from the administration. Teed up, but not to resolution, is the question of whether or not there is a need for the commission going forward.

Assuming the existence of a COA, which we do until and if the by-laws are changed, I personally have two question:

1. What is the best way to get input on Commission areas of inquiry? The budget is almost entirely the travel expense of the Commissioners. When asked about electronic versus face-to-face meetings, we were told that face-to-face is necessary because not everyone is comfortable with technology. What is the trade-off between accommodating those who can physically attend a hearing (which I understand is seldom more than 50, and often less), and casting a wider net with those “willing to use technology”?

2. How do we insure that we are not duplicating effort, especially in difficult financial times? My understanding is that the Commission has chosen “ministry” as its focus this year, which topic has current ongoing efforts in the administration, the UUA Board, the Panel on Theological Education, and the UU Ministers Association. Acknowledging that the Commission is independent, to what degree are they willing to collaborate with those already engaged in these efforts?

The COA has played a valuable role throughout the history of the UUA. Its commissioners spend long hours of volunteer time. I am very grateful to the COA for taking on the Article II examination, as they could have said no to this required review. They did not, and in the end the Article II rewrite was defeated, with even some Board members voting against it. This would not feel like a "reward" (or much support, for that matter) for taking on something because the Board asked them to.

Next post: Linkage Update


Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed reading about the Board meetings on your blog. I read the article on uuworld today about the April Board meeting, and now yours, and I must say that there's One thing that I've found missing from all reporting on Policy Governance.

The Board is looking to define everything in terms of Board Work, and Staff/Organisational work... but there's another group, that I've never seen mentioned: Work of the Stakeholders.

Just as the Board can reserve powers to itself and give other powers to the Executive, The General Assembly, completely in line with Policy Governance, can define something as ITS work, seperate from and thus denying that power to the Board and by extension its Executive.

In the discussion on the Commission on Appraisal, their charter would suggest that this is the category to which it belongs.

Now, the obvious problem with this is funding: The GA has no fiscal authority.

There are solutions to this, some more drastic in their redefinition of roles than others, but why isn't the discussion of the Work of the Stakeholders in this discussion?

Linda Laskowski said...

The Carver Model does address "stakeholders", defining them as a broad category that includes employees, customers, vendors, funders, other organizations, and "moral owners". He singles out "moral owners" as a group with a special relationship to the board in terms of accountability. See pages 120-122 of "Boards that make a Difference".

I am intrigued with your question on how the General Assembly fits into policy governance - it is not specifically mentioned, yet clearly is a key player.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I should have said "Shareholders" In the Heartland, we tend to use the terms interchangeably, even though we shouldn't.

There is work the GA, and the collective congregations, can do that is not the work of the Board and the Executive

Erica Baron said...

After the Board meeting, the Commission held it's own regular meeting to talk about the direction of our study. So, here's what we're looking at:

Who’s in Charge Here?
The Complex Relationship between Ministry and Authority

Given the unique religious heritage of Unitarian Universalism, our congregational polity, and our diverse present, where does ministerial authority within Unitarian Universalist congregations come from? How is authority exercised and how does it relate to the meaning of ministry? On what authority do we call work done by clergy or laity “ ministry”? How does it differ from leadership, acts of kindness, and good works? How clear is it in our congregations who has authority to do what? To whom is one with ministerial authority accountable? Is a lack of understanding of sources of authority partly responsible for keeping congregations and our Association small? How can we both honor our religious history and tradition, and comprehend a source of authority that leads us towards health and growth even while we struggle with issues of authority? Of what help to us in this struggle is it that we are a covenantal faith?

It is our belief that this will be an area unique to the Commission, and that it will be an exciting and helpful report for the world of Unitarian Universalism.

Erica Baron said...

As a member of the COA, I want to clarify something about how we work. We meet in person so that we can do the important deep discernment that is our charge. We find that wrestling with the issues of the importance and depth that the COA does, there is work that needs to be done when we are physically together. It is our work with each other that brings us together. (We are serious about looking for ways to do this more cost-effectively.) As long as we are together, we take the opportunity to talk to people where we are. But that is not now, nor has it been for a while, the only way the Commission seeks input from other UUs. The Commission has been using electronic and in-person means of gathering input for quite some time.