Community-Driven Governance

Several weeks ago, my friend and colleague Carter McNamara asked me for a brief description of the Community-Driven governance framework we have been using with boards. And as I was just looking over that document, it is so succinct, I thought I would share it here. Here is what I told Carter:

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Community-Driven Governance is a framework that defines a board’s primary purpose as leadership towards making a significant, visionary difference in the community the organization serves. Because “making a difference” is the reason most board members join boards in the first place, we call this framework “Governing for What Matters.”

A board Governs for What Matters by holding itself primarily accountable for creating a better future for the individuals the organization serves and the communities it is affecting. Only then, within that context of Community-focused accountability, does the board hold itself accountable for ensuring the organization has the means to accomplish those end results – preventing legal and operational problems, eliminating existing problems, and most importantly, ensuring the organization has adequate infrastructure for accomplishing significant community-driven results.

In practice, the board’s work centers around an annual plan that aims first and foremost at the difference the organization will make in the community. The plan then addresses the organizational infrastructure needed to accomplish those goals. Throughout the year, then, the board is conscious to ensure that its interim decisions are all aligned with furthering the organization’s Vision, Mission and Values.

The approach is intended to be simple enough for any board to put into practice, while comprehensively addressing first the ends, and then the means for which a board will hold itself accountable. Simplicity is the key, as the more complicated and convoluted a system, the less likely it is to be maintained.

Community-Driven Governance differs from other approaches most significantly in its expectations – that boards will hold “leadership towards creating more significant impact in our communities” as their primary purpose. The board’s actions and systems then flow from those expectations, ensuring the organization has what it takes to make that impact a reality.

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I know I have been covering this topic in detail in the series of articles I have been doing at our website, but this synopsis was just so concise – well I appreciate your indulging me by letting me share it. And to those of you who have been using this approach, please let me know – is there anything I missed in this explanation?

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