Thursday, April 21, 2011

A smaller board vs. greater democracy?

Third is a series of posts about the April 2011 Board meeting

During the November District Presidents meeting, as the presidents were struggling with several difficult issues, I heard several express understanding of the UUA Board's need to be smaller -- they were struggling with having substantive and complicated discussions with 19 around the table -- how do you do 26?

When I first joined the Board, the Finance Committee played part of this role -- in a more relaxed environment, with fewer people, we often had the kind of discussion that would have benefited the entire board, but instead created a situation where some board members had more information than others. But setting efficiency aside, can a smaller board be more democratic?

My dictionary defines "democracy" as a "system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members, typically through elected representatives". A look around the Board table might suggest that we do not fully represent "all eligible Unitarian Universalists" -- we are mostly of a "certain age" and class, and nearly all Caucasian. Our current district selection process does insure geographic diversity, an important factor, but at the unintended cost of other kinds.

This is why the Board is submitting a by-laws revision that would change the current process of 19 trustees elected by districts plus 4 at large to 11 at large on a slate of 11 from the Nominating Committee. The suggested by-law includes language that says:

The Nominating Committee shall endeavor to nominate individuals so that the membership of the Board of Trustees and each elected committee reflects the full diversity of the Association, especially in regard to historically marginalized communities, but also balancing amongst size of congregation, lay and ordained, geography, age (including youth and young adults), and gender, among others. The Nominating Committee shall consult with groups and organizations including those traditionally underrepresented in Unitarian Universalist leadership, to help inform the nominating process.

So to coin a phrase (or quote a president), a smaller board vs. greater democracy is not only a false choice, but depends on the methodology to select the smaller board.
The full set of recommendations also includes shorter terms for trustees, and a transition plan that starts in 2013. I will be running webinars for all Pacific Central District delegates in early June that will provide the entire text of the by-laws recommendations and a chance to discuss them.

Next post: a shared "shared vision"

A Shared "Shared Vision"

Third in a series of posts about the April 2011 UUA Board Meeting

Several thousand Unitarian Universalists contributed to the current UUA "shared vision", or ends, first through Open Space Technology at GA 2007 in Portland, and then through Appreciative Inquiry at GA 2008 in Fort Lauderdale. The initial draft was vetted in 25 smaller meetings across 12 districts, with 85% of those in the meetings saying the ends capture "almost all" or "most" of what our members wanted to happen. The Board made the most common recommended changes, and we have been working with this set of ends since April of 2009.

In light of our Unitarian Universalist value that says everything is open to question, this vision too is subject to change. The stakes are higher now -- 12 districts have either adopted these ends as their own, or are in the process of doing so. The "ends" have been shared between UUA Board and the UUA President, and now the district boards.

This is one of the reasons "Gathered Here" is such a powerful concept. Using Appreciative Inquiry as the underlying mechanism, there will be hundreds (thousands?) of conversations over the next 18 months that identify what is important to us, and what differences we want to make in the world. These will be both one-on-one, and in congregational settings, including voices that are not always "at the table", such as Young Adults who identify as UU but may not currently be congregation members. Common themes will be identified across congregations, clusters, and districts -- by fall of 2012 we expect to have enough information to consider revisions to our current shared vision.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Making Progress -- April 2011 UUA Board meeting

Second in a series of posts about the April 2011 UUA Board meeting

There was a lot I liked about this board meeting. It was still our version of the Boston marathon, but at least there were fewer 7:00 am meetings. More importantly, it felt like some of the changes we have been attempting to make in governance over the past few years were finally starting to happen:
  • the Shared Vision, or Ends, of the Association moved from esoteric rhetoric to something alive and guiding our efforts
  • we considered new ways of looking at old issues, such as the Ministerial Fellowship credentialing process
  • financial processes put in place to protect us when things are not so great, such as the policies of the Endowment Committee, and the formula used for the payout, are working
  • a Justice GA that was exciting and truly different was taking shape in front of our eyes
  • we were able to come to agreement on the grubby part of by-laws changes that would downsize the board while strengthening democracy
  • we began tackling something we had been admiring from afar since the Summit on Excellence in Ministry: is there mutual accountability between the Association and our two "identify schools", Meadville Lombard and Starr King?
I will be posting on these -- and more -- over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Springtime in Boston

First in a series of posts about the April 2011 UUA Board Meeting

Next week's UUA board meeting includes finalizing several resolutions to put before delegates this summer, and some deep discussions about critical issues. In the latter category is a discussion on Thursday night about funding theological education, on Friday morning ministerial credentialing, on Friday afternoon the strategic view of ministries put together by the UUA staff, and on Saturday night the vision for GA 2012. Thursday afternoon also includes a 3 hour workshop on "right relations training" in preparation for GA 2012. There is also significant time devoted to reviewing the content of the President's "Ends" Monitoring Report, essentially the "state of the state" for how we are doing on meeting our long term goals as an Association.

By-laws proposals involve reducing the size of the board, eliminating Actions of Immediate Witness (at least temporarily), and the details of the selection process the board will use to nominate the moderator.

At various times we will be joined by the GA Planning Committee, members of the GA Accountability group, and leadership from our two theological schools.

These topics -- and more -- will be covered over the next few weeks. You can download the packet here.