Let’s Craft this Proposal Together!


BoardSource LogoFor the very first time in their history, BoardSource is opening their 2013 conference to speakers outside their own realm. Which means that pretty much everyone remotely related to boards and governance is spending this week writing a proposal to present at the BoardSource conference – including us!

Several of Creating the Future’s governance geeks have gathered to help craft the proposal – Bill Musick, Judy Hansen, Tesse Akpeki and Kim Tso (Kim has volunteered to actually do the writing!)

And our topic? What our board is learning by opening the doors and inviting and engaging openly in truly participatory governance – or as Bill Musick dubbed it, Radical Transparency. (We will probably have a subtitle that relates this directly to engagement, but I confess I think that title is sexy, especially considering that BoardSource’s theme this year is about thinking big and bold. Which doesn’t mean that even the title isn’t open for suggestion – it is indeed.)

Background
From our beginnings 3 years ago, Creating the Future vowed to engage participation in every major decision this new organization made – starting with the decision about what to name this org! After hundreds of comments and ideas shared over several months, Creating the Future was born.

From our naming decision to every major decisoin including our conflict of interest policy, our engagement efforts grew to inviting individual guests to fully participate (i.e. discuss along with us) at our board meetings. And then last December, we just opened the doors and windows and asked anyone and everyone to be part of our board’s dicsussions.

Which is why we are here, engaging you in THIS decision – what to say in our proposal!

Here’s what we know:
As a living laboratory for accomplishing social change, we need LOTS of people to be experimenting, to see what really works beyond just our board.

That’s why it is important to us to share what we are learning – what this open, engaged participation is making possible for us. And it’s why it is important that we invite others to learn alongside us.

So the question ahead of us is simple:

How can we put all this great stuff into a form that will not only get a panel to approve this proposal – but make them so excited they want to attend the session themselves?

Please add your comments below (and if you are reading this via email or a reader, please follow the link to the blog to be sure all the comments stay together – we don’t want to lose any great thinking!)

  • For which audience at a BoardSource conference could this session make the most difference?
  • What do we want attendees to learn? What conditions will be conducive to their learning that?
  • Why is it important that people learn this? What difference will learning this make – and for whom? (Board? ED? Organization? Community?) How can we engage attendees who don’t consider open engagement to be a priority? What are the benefits that outweigh the risks and energy required?
  • What do boards and CEO’s need to have in order to benefit from greater transparency? What mindset, what relationships, under what circumstances will this be beneficial (vs. a chore)?
  • What problem does Radical Transparency solve? How do attendees tend to experience the problem? What is the most intractable dilemma they find themselves in, that could be resolved if they would practice Radical Transparency / Open Engagement? What is keeping them up at night that Radical Transparency / Open Engagement could improve?
  • How can the presentation encourage early adopters to put a toe in the water of more open, engaged, participatory governance?
  • What format(s) could engage participants in exploring “radical transparency” and “open participatory engagement” for a 90 minute session? How might we model that open participation in the format we use?
  • In what specific ways will the session Radical Transparency fit the conference theme of Bold Leadership: Taking Risks, Thinking Big?
  • What will be different about this presentation, to set it apart from the rest? What will make someone say, “If I don’t attend any other session, I want to attend this one”?
  • And lastly, how can we talk about this with as little jargon as possible? How can we use language that excites and speaks to the heart vs. “consultant-ese”?
  • And obviously, is there a question we missed? And if so, would you both ask AND answer it?

Thank you for answering any or all of these. And whether we present or not, we will see you at the BoardSource conference in Los Angeles in November!

10 thoughts on “Let’s Craft this Proposal Together!”

  1. Here are thoughts on some of the questions…
    •For which audience at a BoardSource conference could this session make the most difference?
    Executives, Board Chairs and Board members – especially those that think they have basics in place and are ready to move to the next level.
    •What do we want attendees to learn? What conditions will be conducive to their learning that?
    Why transparency is important – what it contributes to acheiving highest potential. Need to pique curiousity and distinguish between “radical transperancy” and “minimum” transperancy, such as that required by government contracts, grants or state/municipal laws.
    •What format(s) could engage participants in exploring “radical transparency” and “open participatory engagement” for a 90 minute session? How might we model that open participation in the format we use?
    show blog as example of radical transperancy in creating proposal for the session; examples of other issues shared transparently – what benefits CTF received; what were the points at which you wondered – should we really put this all out in the open?
    •In what specific ways will the session Radical Transparency fit the conference theme of Bold Leadership: Taking Risks, Thinking Big?
    Going beyond the basics to achieve maximum potential for organization, board and community engagement
    •What will be different about this presentation, to set it apart from the rest? What will make someone say, “If I don’t attend any other session, I want to attend this one”?
    Include the stories of what people said to discourage/encourage you to take this approach. Use experiential example to prod people into thinking about how they could open up standard facets of their board process to radical transperancy.

  2. Karl Wilding’s post on a different thread is great answer to the advantages to radical transperancy…it builds trust (as opposed to confidence)….here is how Karl makes the distinction:

    “Broadly speaking it was argued that Trust and Confidence are often conflated but that in fact they are different. There was a widespread concern about the fall in trust in institutions at the time – and the argument that trust relations were critical to giving was put forward.

    “The response to trying to rebuild trust though was efforts like donor’s charters, promises that only x% of your gift will be spent on admin. The argument goes that these measures weren’t about trust though: they were about building confidence. In doing so, they assumed a lack of trust, and posited a solution that was more equivalent to a contract – with recourse, in some cases.

    “Some have argued that building relations based upon on contracts and confidence potentially reinforces that the notion that trust is a problematic basis for relations – charities cannot be trusted. It also moves away from a discussion about shared values, which are the basis of a trusting relationship.

    “So, my thesis is that a nonprofit world based on confidence relations gets you so far: but if we really want to move the giving needle, we need to build the sorts of relations based on trust that you’ve been talking about. Perhaps one of the added implications is that trust relations also tend to be face to face, which potentially says something about the scale of activity.”

  3. I suspect that this topic might also be really appealing to both younger people, as well as committed change agents.

    The creative impatience that younger folks (and who defines younger?) experience trying to learn how this sector works and contribute, and yet being too early in their careers to be at all the decision-making tables, can be such a discouraging element. Many of us lament our challenges in successfully attracting a full spectrum of ages. This transparency could be really powerful.

    If I may be so bold, it might also be fair to address how and when this practice is most meaningful. For a sector-changing initiative, like CTF, this tranparent, engaging approach is brilliant (truly)! What about a local organization that includes board members running complicated companies that demand significant amounts of their attention and families that they would like to keep intact? How can you dovetail this approach into their lives – forgive me if that was never the intention.

    Perhaps part of the presentation might include ‘how radical transparency can change the nature of your meetings … or learning from the Creating The Future gang’.

  4. Bill –
    First, thank you – this is great stuff. Second, loving the distinguishing between transparency as compliance (i.e. as an ends unto itself) vs transparency as a means to reaching for what is possible. The means vs ends thing is an aha for many people. I’d forgotten about that, so thank you!

    Anne – I love the thought of focusing on young people as an audience. I’m going to guess that BoardSource is filled with old codgers like me, and that having a session that is geared not only to experienced board members (as Bill noted) but to young people – this is not a contradiction, but a “yes and.” LOVE this!

    Keep it coming gang. We need all the great ideas you guys have!
    HG

  5. I’m with Bill about the audience – people who know the basics but are looking for something more. I think of how often I’ve sat in board meetings,and heard people ask, “How do we know what our community/clients/donors want or need?” Radical transparency not only invites those people in to the room, but allows for ongoing feedback about what is working.

    How would Radical Transparency look at different points on the continuum? Where would we anticipate attendees would be? What would meet them where they are and open the door a crack?

    A live demonstration, with attendees being the board, and listeners tweeting could be inspiring and eye opening. That would make it a “must attend” for me :-)Conferences are often too much sitting, too much passive ingestion of material (to the point of overload),with not enough opportunities to share wisdom. A structure that allowed attendees to walk away with the start of a plan, using simple, free tools would also make the session stand out.

    Those are the thoughts floating around the top of my head this afternoon.

  6. “A live demonstration, with attendees being the board, and listeners tweeting could be inspiring and eye opening. That would make it a “must attend” for me”

    So, Nancy, can you see me jumping up and down in my chair as I read your words, screaming yes yes yes yes yes yes this is SO COOL!!!
    🙂

  7. And then of course, any answers to your wonderful questions? “How would Radical Transparency look at different points on the continuum? Where would we anticipate attendees would be? What would meet them where they are and open the door a crack?”

  8. Is a 2fer too much???….introduce the continuum of readiness at the beginning, either explicitly or subtly, as a way of asking people to identify where they stand on transparency and then engage the group on different levels throughout the course of the session: any of you feel you can’t do this? Any that it’s too risky? Any that aren’t sure how to proceed? Any of you already raring to go on doing something about this when you get home? And perhaps interweave audience questions/responses into moving people up one step from where they start….AND modelling for them how to move other doubtors forward one notch when they get back home.

  9. I can offer a few thoughts from the Executive Director/CEO perspective…

    Getting a board to consider “opening up” and “turning outward” can be a daunting challenge. Feels risky, seems like work, etc. Offering an opportunity to do some of that without asking the board to leave the boardroom has some great “selling” features…feels safe, seems convenient, etc. And early successes (or maybe it’s simply not having it fail) help to fuel momentum and allow board members to embrace the new approach in bigger and bolder ways.

    I work with a board that has been fairly comfortable in doing things the same way, for some time now. Their readiness to consider community impact planning was in part due to their realization (with a little nudging) that they had become TOO comfortable and maybe even bored and disengaged. While our steps are still baby ones at this point, early indicators are that they see the benefits and rewards to opening the governance box and shining some light in. How wonderful to have that to work with in moving them even further!

    There’s also a built-in accountability to radical transparency that should resonate with mature boards whose “basics” are well evolved…witnesses to their governance work not only bolster integrity and inclusiveness, but can provide an important channel of feedback that many boards don’t have (and often forget to seek out).

    I love the idea of moving beyond the basics, speaking to boards who may be ready for more. But it’s important to distinguish this as a shift in thinking, not simply a new model to try on for size. Combine that with something about the “aha” moment (when the thinking shifts) to underscore not only how easy this is for boards to sample and consider, but how powerful it is when thinking itself is what’s altered.

    I think younger audiences will really be drawn to this. And what a fabulous way to encourage, inspire, engage, and “train” the governance volunteers of the future! There’s far too little of that around.
    Hope this helps. Good luck with the proposal and fingers are crossed!

  10. Apologies for not being available to comment earlier this week. Your proposal must have gone in by now.

    Nonetheless, I do have an idea to share under the “format” question. It’s a variation on Nancy’s idea.

    Actually hold a CTF board meeting(!) in the conference session, with the attendees as the most likely tweeters(!). Perhaps have as the agenda a continuation of the discussion you began on engaging everyone in the decision of what to say about Radical Transparency in this proposal to BoardSource.

    Standing in the shoes of the outside participant will likely mitigate fears about the level of risk involved, and encourage them to engage directly in thinking about the true level of risk, what can be learned, the overall benefits, etc. The discussion becomes authentic rather than modelled.

    Would certainly be BOLD LEADERSHIP: TAKING RISKS, THINKING BIG…

    Thanks for the chance to participate.
    Kent

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