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.

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