Sunday, July 15, 2012

UUFutures: Calling all Youth and Young Adults

If you know a UU Youth or Young Adult, please send them this post.

In the early 1990s, a group of people from across the country of South Africa came to together in an extraordinary series of workshops that created what came to be known as The Mont Fleur Scenarios.  Just coming out of apartheid, the insights provided by these scenarios, or alternative views of the future, changed the course of South Africa's history. The participants, who were from the African National Congress, which had just won the election; the white minority government, labor unions, and many other key leaders, had enough insight into the future to understand they must "rise slowly together like flamingos". 

The UUA Board is using the same planning idea to create alternative futures for Unitarian Univeralism -- what will the world be like in the year 2050?  Scenario planning uses a process that creates four different basic story results that are then expanded by teams of UUA board and staff members as headlines by decade.  Once the headlines are established, a writer on each team will create a story based on those headlines.  In October the Board will use those four different stories of the future to answer questions* like:
  • How would the purpose, form, or function of the UUA change in this future?
  • What are the most important steps the UUA can take to make a desired scenario happen or head off or moderate the impact of an undesirable one?  
  • What are the new opportunities that this future presents? 
  • What are the key dangers or problems this future presents, and what could the UUA do to minimize them? 
We have just finished the headlines, and that is where you (if you are a Youth or Young Adult) come in.  We would like your feedback on which headlines you like, and try your hand at writing some of your own.  We will ask you two short questions that will sort you into one of the four scenarios -- let us know what you think will happen!

Please click here to respond by August 1.

*from "Future-Focused Agendas" by Jannice Moore, part of the RealBoard Tool Kit series consistent with Policy Governance® principles.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Criteria for Continuing UUA Trustees

Sixth in a series of posts about Justice GA and the June GA Board Meeting

This is the first (and only) year that the Board is selecting 4 of its own replacements for a smaller board that starts in 2013.  The good news is that there are a lot more than 4 board members interested in continuing on the board.  Depending on which term length interests them, they can be appointed by the Board or nominated by the Nominating Committee. 

So on what basis does the Board select its continuity?  There will be a call later this month to continue the discussion that started at the Board meeting -- since I will be somewhere in Normandy on a bicycle, and am not eligible for continuing (for reasons other than the bicycle), here are my criteria:

What is the unique contribution of continuing trustees?  While what I call the "laundry list" of identities is very important for the Nominating Committee, it is less so for the Board (in terms of the 4 we appoint) because we are appointing only 4.  It is impossible to get the full spectrum of representation with 4 -- though what we do appoint clearly impacts the work of the Nominating Committee to insure that the final board does. The good news here is that the current Board is more diverse than the ones I served on previously -- for example, it would actually be impossible to have 4 white women "of a certain age" (just like me) appointed, or 4 straight white men. 

In my opinion, the most important criteria for continuing trustees is a) their knowledge of and b) accountability around our chosen form of governance.  According to the man himself, the principle reasons for the failure of Policy Governance® are 1) the board not holding itself accountable to its own policies, and 2) turnover in board members without adequate training.  We are getting better at the first, but not there yet, and adding the second could easily allow a ten year investment to go down the drain.  This is not "sunk investment syndrome" on my part, but rather my belief that this form of governance really does provide a structure for "normal" people to serve effectively on boards and be accountable to those they serve.

Accountability means the continuing trustee faithfully fills out those never-ending monitoring surveys, and makes linkage a distinct priority in their activities.  We have the information on who does (or does not) do that, but it's not public -- I vacillate between reminding myself that we are all volunteers, and wanting the kind of scrutiny that legislators get when they are tracked on how many votes they were present for, and how accessible they are to their constituents.

In terms of new trustees, not all Policy Governance® skills are created equal. Two questions I would like to see the Nominating Committee ask of prospective trustees who say they have Policy Governance® skills are
  1. Could you tell me what an operating definition is?
  2. Could I see an example of a monitoring report that you have evaluated? 
I am also looking for trustees who are willing to invest in the board/staff relationship, understanding that we have different roles but can collaborate on this journey together.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

World Cafe with Youth

Fifth in a series of posts about Justice GA and the June UUA Board Meeting

Energetic, noisy, slightly chaotic -- the third annual "World Cafe" with Youth Caucus and the UUA Board did not run out of pizza.

A cross between small group discussions and speed dating, World Cafes are a great way to get a lot of meaningful discussion in a short amount of time.  The discussion questions this year were focused on social justice - here is a sampling of some of the responses from about 75 Youth who participated:

Tell us about social justice activities back in your congregation
    Often it is projects “for the kids and youth” and not for whole congregation. 
   They are youth-led or very small, not cohesive
   Most consistently, they involve only the youth and children
   We learned about other religions before anything significant was taught about UU. 

What's happening for you here?
   Am making adult connections, as opposed to youth cons that are wonderful but all youth
   Seeing other ministers and types of worship
   Workshops and learning is fueling our flames and equipping us by learning about resources and how to use them
   Deepened spiritually
   Can do things that affect more than my own congregation
   For Bridgers, to know there are other congregations broadens their perspectives, but also gives them hope that wherever they go there might be another UU congregation 
   My church hasn’t spent any time teaching about national decision making, so I felt a little confused.    
   I've heard UUs talk about love and acceptance, and this is the first time I've felt any action.

How can we, the UUA Board,  stay in conversation with our Youth to accomplish and understand the deeper purpose of this GA?
   Come to cons!  Come where they are.
   Make learning available and accessible to them, encourage congregations to watch and participate in GA streaming
   Youth are separate from their congregations during services so not sure how to connect with adults
   Was not a priority in system at any level to get them funded to GA.   (Most of these fund raised for a year to be able to attend in PHX)

This year had a twist -- the last 5 minutes of each of three "rounds" turned the tables, and had Youth asking trustees any question they wanted to ask:

How did I get to serve on the board?
How can they get involved beyond their own congregations?
What opportunities do we have for them?
What service projects like UUSC trips?
How did you get to be a UU?  If you had to choose between being Unitarian or Universalist, which would you choose?

And these are from just a few of the groups (there were about 25 in two sessions)!

A personal note:  this is the first year I did not lead the World Cafe, but instead turned both sessions over to Caleb Raible-Clark, Youth Trustee, and Abhimanyu Janamanchi, Youth Observer.  They did not do it exactly as I would have -- they did it better. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Congregation on fire

Fourth in a series of posts about Justice GA and the June UUA Board meeting

"Is this GA a success?"   It's Saturday afternoon, at a GA feedback workshop for the UUA Board to hear from those attending in Phoenix. 

"We don't know yet." 

Success is not measured by this General Assembly -- it is measured by what happens when delegates and other attendees go home. 

If my congregation, the UU Church of Berkeley, is any indication, the chances are high that the answer will be "yes!".  Today's service included stories and powerful word pictures of General Assembly from our co-ministers, a chalice lighting by the 30 people who attended (a river of bright gold), and a follow up "summer forum" put on by the attendees. 

 "This was my first GA, and I have been changed forever."

"This is my 16th GA, and I have never felt this way.  I am transformed."

"I am outraged at what is being done in the name of my country."

"I cannot unknow what I know.  I cannot turn my back.  This has changed my life."  
So it went around the circle of attendees.  This congregation of 450 members has 30 people who came back changed.  Who are already organizing, contacting local partners, and inviting in others.  Who are seeing clearly the connection between justice work and their faith.  Who are deepening that faith.

Who are hopeful that this time, we can focus and make a difference.   And I believe this scenario was going on in hundreds of congregations this morning.

We are not turning back. 

Sin volver atrås,
Sin volver atrås.