Community-Driven Institute


Governing for What Matters
 (Community-Driven Governance)
 Part 4: A Celebration of What is Possible
by Hildy Gottlieb Copyright ReSolve, Inc. 2008©

For prior installments,

Click Here  Part 1 - The Analysis

Click Here  Part 2 - The Structure

Click Here  Part 3 - The Plan

Board members join boards because they care about the cause and want to make a difference. Governing for What Matters builds upon that inspired passion as a board’s single most important strength.

With the community’s highest aspirations front and center in a board’s work, Governing for What Matters aligns the board’s accountability for the organization’s means behind the thing that matters most - accountability for leading the organization to create a significant, visionary difference in the community.

As you can see from the preceding installments of this article, the individual components of a board’s work do not have to change dramatically. Boards will still meet, discuss, vote, decide. They will still plan and monitor those plans. Their role will still be defined by their place in the organizational chart.

What does indeed change dramatically, however, is the board’s perspective - the way the board sees and thinks about its job. From that change of perspective comes a dramatic change in results. And that is because when we change the way we see things, things change.

Governance as a Celebration of What is Possible
Governing for What Matters is all about aiming boards at our highest possible expectations - the expectation that boards will play a vital leadership role in shaping the future of our communities.

That simple change in thinking changes everything.

Rather than focusing all their time and energy on the means, to the exclusion of the end results, boards who are Governing for What Matters expect to hold themselves accountable, first and foremost, for “leadership towards creating more significant impact in our community.”

Rather than seeing “vision” and “values” as touchy-feely mumbo jumbo, boards who are Governing for What Matters are guided by vision and values as logical and realistic guideposts. Rather than considering “time to discuss our impact in the community” as a luxury they cannot afford, boards who are Governing for What Matters know such discussions are the most important discussions they can have.

Rather than being continually whipsawed by organizational circumstances, boards who are Governing for What Matters hold themselves accountable for proactively ensuring that every aspect of the organization’s operations are healthy, to ensure they have everything they need to create visionary community change.

When it comes to both the difference they want to make in the community, and the difference they want to create in the organization, boards who are Governing for What Matters focus on the future they want to create, rather than the current-day problems they hope to solve. Rather than “governing for what could go wrong,” boards who are Governing for What Matters are governing for what is possible.

Governing for What Matters does not accomplish any of this by telling boards what to do, because people who are inspired do not need to be instructed in every minute detail of their work. Inspired by their power to create significant change in their communities, boards who are Governing for What Matters can therefore rely on simple systems to get the job done, tethering their accountability for legal oversight, operational oversight, and board mechanics to their primary accountability - community results.

And so, the final point to celebrate is that boards who are Governing for What Matters do not hide their light under a bushel. Instead, those Community-Driven boards are excited, energized. They take pride in being part of a board whose culture is palpable the moment you walk in the room.

These are the boards that will tell us, “If a prospective board recruit expects us to operate like a corporate board, we let them know right up front: That’s not us.”

They are the boards who will proudly state, “We are not like boards that just push papers around. This board is actively making a difference!”

That difference is always cause for celebration and inspiration. And it is the very heart of what it means to Govern for What Matters Most.

This series of articles has been adapted from The Pollyanna Principles: Why Nonprofits Have Not Changed the World and How They Can, due for release in the fall of 2008. To be among the first to read early chapters at Hildy’s blog before the book is released, subscribe to the blog Click Here



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