BoardSource Conference Session – Pulling it All Together

At a meeting last week (get the context and watch here), the 3 people who will be presenting at the BoardSource conference on behalf of Creating the Future – Gayle, Nancy and me – got together to assemble the content of our session on Radical Accountability. The purpose was not just to have an outline of the session, but to figure out our materials as well – the slides and handouts we need to get to BoardSource by the end of the month.

We could have just done this privately, but our session is about the fact that all Creating the Future’s meetings happen live online with the participation of anyone who wants to chime in via Twitter. So it was natural for us to craft that very session in the same way – openly online with folks tweeting their thoughts!

What you will therefore see in the meeting (link is here) is not just the video of that session, but the tweet stream as well, where Judy Hansen and Kent Schell helped us with ideas and thoughts and direction – the very things we will be talking about during the session.

What Do We Want This Session to Accomplish, and For Whom?
We recognized that likely participants in the session would be board leaders (and perhaps ED’s) and consultants. We also recognized that the session description, as it was proposed, is the most succinct description of what we hope this session will accomplish: “The highest potential of “accountability” is for boards and their meetings to be a place for a community’s aspirations and concerns to be heard and acted upon.”

Board Leaders:
• Comfort that openness is possible – despite their fears, despite their lived expereince.
• Support from an existing community that is trying this – “I’m not alone”
• Provide practical ways to move to greater potential
• Provide pratical ways to get the community involved / to turn outward

• Tools that help them bring clients to the next level
• Language that will help them speak with clients about this approach, at different points along the continuum of the client’s potential to embrace the approach

What conditions must our session create, to accomplish those goals?
• Help them feel this isn’t as scary as they think – and that they can feel comfortable trying it, despite their fears
• Help them feel trust that people won’t throw bombs – the commitment that “We won’t do anything rash if you don’t.”
• Help them

The following is the outline we came up with for our 90 minute session:

1) Introduce the session
First, we’ll talk about how Creating the Future chose to do this – that it was a matter of walking the talk of our values.

From there, we will walk them through what we will do in the session, to provide context for what they are about to experience. We’ll be explicit about the fact that we will talk not just about how to “do” open participatory meetings, but WHY. That this is more a way of thinking and being than a new model for governance. That we intend to model the values that guide our meetings in the way we structure the session. And that the context for the session overall is the context noted above: that the highest potential of “accountability” is for boards and their meetings to be a place for a community’s aspirations and concerns to be heard and acted upon.

Examples for the session will be Creating the Future (online) and Onward Willow (community-based org). We talked about asking folks to self-identify re: how they feel about what Creating the Future is doing (some may be skeptical, and we’d like to know that!)

2) Table Discussions: The Possibilities
What could opening the doors and allowing more participation in your board meetings make possible, and for whom?
Discussion at the tables, then come back for group “aha’s”

3) Group Discussion: Creating Conditions for Success
To help create the conditions for the people in the room, have the discussion about what it will take and what might hurt their board if they try it – create the conditions right there.

What would it take for your board to consider opening its doors? What would need to be in place? What are you concerned might hurt your board if you did this? (And then, what would need to be in place for that NOT to happen? And what could that fear make possible?)

4) Practice Session:
The presenters will choose a scenario and discuss it as if they were the board. Participants will participate as if they were in the room with an actual board. (We might ask participants to go along with the discussion, to show how it works when it’s working well. Then towards the end, we can ask for one person to be disruptive, to be able to talk about how those possible scenarios could be handled.)

We will use the internet to have people tweet, so they can experience responding in that way. That will also bring others into the learnings from the session, who weren’t in the session itself.

5) Discussion: Putting this into Practice
The take-aways from this session are about how you would build more openness and participation into your own board’s work. What had stood out for you? What will you be able to put into practice?

That leaves us with the following questions:
• Does this sound about right for a 90 minute intro session? What resonates? What falls flat?
• What handouts would you provide for this session?
• What slides would you use?

We look forward to adding your thoughts into the pot, to make this session the best it can be. (And we hope you’ll come join us at the conference in November!)

Deadline for our having slides and handouts to BoardSource is this weekend. We look forward to your help!!!

3 thoughts on “BoardSource Conference Session – Pulling it All Together”

  1. As of today, here are the handouts and slides we’re thinking about:
    • “The highest potential of accountability is for boards and their meetings to be a place for a community’s aspirations and concerns to be heard and acted upon.” (In addition to this being its own slide, an abbreviated version of that could be part of the shell on EVERY slide.)
    • Outline of the session
    • “The most important results will come not from simply opening your doors, but from deeply understanding WHY you are opening your doors and designing a process that reflects that purpose.”
    • What could opening your meetings to more participation make possible, and for whom?
    • What values about participation and openness do you want to see in the community? What would those values look like in action at the board table?
    • What would it take for us to feel comfortable opening up? What could hurt us if we open up? What might our discussion of those things make possible – for our organization, for our board, for our community?
    • When you think of about community and participation rather than just observation, what’s being lost when your greatest fears are holding you back from encouraging community participation?
    • That’s a great question to discuss with your board!
    • Your board will create the most impact when the design of the processes and systems you use in your day-to-day board work reflect the future you want to see in your community.

    • Outline of the session (including all questions we’ll ask at each point)
    • “We won’t do anything rash if you don’t”
    • “The highest potential of accountability is for boards and their meetings to be a place for a community’s aspirations and concerns to be heard and acted upon.”
    • That’s a great question to discuss with your board!
    • Links to watch Creating the Future’s meetings, links to where consultants can connect with other consultants who are trying these approaches (unfortunately we don’t have a non-consultant group yet), link to Dimitri’s FlashClass on using technology to engage boards.
    Process Design: Creating the Future’s process for engaging conversation (rooted in our values)
    Process Design: Onward Willow’s process for engaging conversation (rooted in their values)
    Theory Handout: How to design board processes and systems so that they reflect the board’s vision and values

  2. Love the name, love the approach. Suspect some will wonder how EDs will feel being watched as they give advice, receive direction and feedback and generally become more accountable on a daily basis. I find treatment of senior staff an area where boards often have not been living their values. But you can just prepare for that question. Wish I could be there!

  3. We, too, wish you were going to be there, Jane. And re: the ED question, as we prepare for the kinds of issues that may arise (to seed the conversation if need be), that is a great one to include. Hoping you will share more thoughts as they occur to you!


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