Compliance-Focused Board

For the past few years, Creating the Future’s board and community have been discussing and researching an organizational structure for moving our mission forward. What structure will facilitate our 10 year experiment – to determine how much more humane the world could be if systems were bringing out the best in all of us? If a structure is doing just that – bringing out the best in us – what would it be and do?

Ultimately, the question came down to, “What do changemakers need organizations for anyway?” The answer was simple:
1) Changemakers need to be able to connect with each other – to learn together, support each other, explore together. Within that, it would be helpful if there were frameworks for interacting, that made those discussions as fruitful as possible.
2) Changemakers need resources.

To that end, the intent of our organizational structure will be to ensure that people doing the work to accomplish our mission have what they need to succeed, guided by Catalytic Thinking (which will ensure that our values are embedded in every conversation and decision). The rest will be all about linking people to each other and to resources.

One of those resources is the assurance that the organization is legally compliant, so that people on the ground can be assured of continuity and support. 

After 3 years of discussion, tons of research, and the blessing (and encouragement) of Creating the Future’s attorney, our board and community will begin meeting in the next few months, to finalize our restructuring plans. And where the board is concerned, the decision is clear: our board will focus entirely on compliance. 

For those coming new to this discussion, it may help to know that our board is comprised entirely of governance geeks and gurus, who live and breathe issues of boards and governance. In addition to the board members listed in the conversation below, Dr. Angela Eikenberry is a professor in the School of Public Administration at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, teaching nonprofit leadership and governance. Karl Wilding is Director of Public Policy at the National Council of Voluntary Organizations in the U.K. Dimitri Petropolis, co-founder of Creating the Future, worked for two decades as a consultant to boards of directors throughout North America. In addition, our attorney, Ellis Carter, has been practicing in the area of tax exempt organizations for 20 years.

Further, given the open, participatory nature of our meetings, the community that has been part of this conversation is also steeped in the highs and lows of governance throughout the global community benefit sector. All of which is to say that this has been a deeply informed, deeply engaged, deeply researched discussion, resulting in an effort we know will be an experiment. And that excites each and every one of us.

Our shift to a board focused on compliance has raised one big question: 
What exactly is an organization legally required to be and do? Setting aside all the layers of roles and responsibilities that have been added to that legal minimum, what ARE the legal mandates and requirements? If the board is focused on compliance, compliance with what? If we don’t know that, then our board’s job description will be as arbitrary as the fill-in-the-blank sign above from

In the conversation below, three self-described governance geeks gathered to answer that question: Creating the Future’s board chair Justin Pollock, Creating the Future’s co-founder Hildy Gottlieb, and compliance specialist (and Creating the Future fellow and faculty member) Ifeoma Aduba.


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Ifeoma Aduba is the Nonprofit Compliance Specialist at Harbor Compliance, a national compliance advisory firm. She is also the board president and longtime champion at the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations, a Standards for Excellence provider. She has decades of experience in all aspects of the community benefit sector, including the foundation world as well as running a large human services organization as its executive director. 

Justin Pollock is a consultant and coach to boards and leaders in community benefit organizations, through his firm, OrgForward. Prior to consulting, Justin was Chief Operating Officer at the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations, the developers of the national Standards for Excellence program.

Hildy Gottlieb is co-founder of Creating the Future, a 10-year experiment in systems change. In addition to its education and convening programs, and its demonstration / pilot projects with other organizations, Creating the Future itself serves as a testing ground for developing systems that bring out the best in people. Prior to founding Creating the Future, Hildy spent decades as a governance consultant, teaching and speaking all over the world.

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