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"

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