Monday, January 28, 2013

Third in a series of posts about the January UUA Board meeting

This was the fourth -- and last -- report from the President on the "ends" adopted by the UUA Board in 2009.  This report did what the Board has asked for:  establish a "reasonable" standard for compliance and then measure to that standard.  Mostly using a standard that at least 50% of the respondents to two nation-wide surveys (one of which included Youth, Young Adults, and People of Color) would rate their perception of whether or not that outcome was actually happening, the result was that half of the outcomes showed "non-compliance".

Surveys have their own set of issues, but it's a start.  Interestingly, most of the non-compliance by this definition was not about what was happening within congregations, but rather in the intersection between congregations and the outside world, UU or not. Non-compliant areas included whether or not our congregations were perceived as multicultural and "struggling with issues of oppression and privilege", active participants in ministerial preparation and development, growing in membership, and "living their mission in their communities", as well as all of the outcomes that are part of living "in covenant with other congregations in our Association".  Also included as non-compliant was the outcome of congregations involved in "national or international efforts", and working in interfaith partnerships or alliances.  So far is anyone surprised?

What was not included in the report was a plan to address the non-compliance, which the board has asked for in the next few months.  This as an excellent opportunity to have meaningful discussions about serious issues within the Association, and what the Administration has been doing to address those issues.

The Board has been resistant to doing that in the past because it was not linked to data-driven standards.  In the not so distant past, board meetings would be filled with presentations from staff around programs being developed and implemented.  The board has pushed back, refocusing on the differences we want to make as an Association.  How do we know that these are the right programs, and that we are spending our resources in a way that will move us closer to the kind of outcomes board and staff agree on?  It's a little like having a house with structural problems that you want remediated, and the contractor brings you a list of projects that could be done on the house without any connection to whether or not this will enhance the structural integrity of the house.

For example, the Administration has been doing excellent work with a number of organizations around a strategic review of ministry. What part of moving to our shared vision does this address?  How can we determine if what we are putting in place is moving us toward "living in covenant with other congregations in the Association", or "working in interfaith partnerships or alliances"?  We understand these are long term goals, but being accountable to our member congregations and other Sources means achieving some indication that the programs are working -- or when we will know if they are.   

Sunday, January 27, 2013

How we gather

Second in a series of posts about the January UUA Board meeting

In 2009 the Fifth Principle Task Force presented their report with the refrain "the status quo is not an option". Task Force chair Denny Davidoff even threatened to propose revoking the UU fifth principle if something was not done to how we governed ourselves at General Assemblies.

General Assembly governance is still mostly "status quo", Justice GA notwithstanding.  Faced with a two year change process for the by-laws that govern GA plenaries, the board delayed action until after last summer's assembly.

It appears most of the recommendations will not be taken up any time soon.  We will still have delegates that are mostly self-funded, excluding those without the time or resources to get there, and often chosen because they were going, with little or no guidance from, or attempt to represent, their congregations.

Though an excellent piece of work, the recommendations were, as the Board requested, about governance.  What has become clear is that separating how we govern from how we gather is not only a leap for most of our GA attendees, but the two are synergistic.  Exciting workshops and opportunities for affinity groups to meet create a "buzz" that adds to the experience even for those addicted to by-laws.  Large annual gatherings of some sort create opportunities for critical mass for some of our smallest minority groups -- creating connections to each other that strengthen our faith. 

This theme was emphasized multiple times by the various groups invited to speak to the board on Friday:  Young Adults, members of DRUUMM, the District Presidents Association, and the UU Ministers Association. 

There is still agreement that there needs to be change in terms of how we choose delegates and hold them accountable.  I expect significant discussion at General Assembly in June  -- but don't expect any votes around Fifth Principle recommendations. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Last January

First in a series of blogs about the January 2013 UUA Board meeting

For me that is – this will be the sixth January UUA Board meeting before I leave the board in June as part of our downsizing to a more manageable (and effective) number of trustees. 

This board meeting includes finalizing a large number of proposals for by-laws changes.    There are bold ones (the combination of three “Mid-America” districts into one region, assuming passage by their member congregations) and others that we think reflect what delegates have already approved (electronic voting). We will not be submitting by-laws changes around General Assembly, but rather continuing what is a fairly complex conversation.

The meeting also kicks off the start of intensive dialogues on the impacts of the Association (the “Ends”) with the Board’s Sources of Authority and Accountability (what John Carver calls “moral owners”), with our DPA partners and through the work done with Unity Consulting around the voices of our other 4 “sources”.  You can expect to see a variety of ways to comment on these desired outcomes over the next few months, with the final "Ends" adopted at the June board meeting. 

It seems appropriate that my first January meeting in 2008 included "Policy Governance as Holy Work", which resulted in the first set of outcomes (Ends) for the Association.  Check back over the next few weeks -- the entire packet can be downloaded here.