Why are you here? Is Your Board Making a Difference?

intentional practices oversight and accountability: measurement roles and responsibilities Jun 15, 2021
Why are you here? Is Your Board Making a Difference?


What business are you in?


From experience I know that some of you will take umbrage at using the term “business” – we are a service! not a business! -- so let’s set that aside for now and for you, let’s use the term “sector”.


You may be quick to answer the arts, or social services, or student government, or public libraries, or… or…

But is this really the case?


What difference are you trying to make?


I chaired an art board and was surprised to find people who thought that their role would be to select films for showing. But that is a staff job. I served on a library board where some members thought that their value was in bringing their “user experience” to the table. Definitely useful for someone on an advisory board but not a primary role for a governance board overseeing millions of dollars of taxpayer monies. Then there was a school board I chaired where teens had few opportunities for community engagement outside of school but we didn’t see it as our problem.


Taking it up a notch – are you in that seat to improve the arts, student governance, library service, health provision? Or more than that?


Your Board is a business by any definition other than profit. It may not be popular but as a business you want to develop the assets of your shareholders (your community) and decrease the liabilities of these same shareholders (the community). These can be as wide-ranging as literacy, participation and engagement, activities and programs, services…


Surely, overall, we want to improve the quality of experience of people who live and work in our communities. Your “community” may be the municipality (a city, for example), your membership (belonging to your organization), the campus (if you are a student government), or however else you may define it.


Why should your community invest in you?


We need to come together with other agencies with similar purposes and determine the gaps in programs and services in our community, identify the duplication, and work to provide the greatest return on investment overall.


Are we passive or active in community development?


Players like you need to come together to analyze community problems, generate solutions and develop action plans to improve the cultural, economic, educational, environmental, social conditions of your community.


So… what is your vision for the role of your board and organization in your community? When do you discuss it? What difference does it make that you are sitting at the Board table rather than someone else? How will you affect positively and actively the lives of community members?


Knowledge-based governance leads to dialogue around critical issues, to direct communication with customers and stakeholders.


So, what are your community’s assets and strengths? What are the possibilities? What could you improve? initiate?

What are your organization’s particular strengths?

Is there deep knowledge of your community around the board table and among senior staff?

What is your level of participation in the community?

What is the correlation of your programs to other community agencies?

What do you hope to accomplish to improve your community?

How do you contribute uniquely and powerfully?


In many ways, the discussion is “simply” conceptual. But in fact it requires a rethinking and reconfiguration of priorities and partnerships.


Do you make A difference?

What effect do you have on your community?

What is the impact of the work that you do?

Does anyone care?



10 Critical Questions Boards Need to Ask Themselves:

(Free Download with more details available here)

  1. Why are you here?
  2. Who is your employee?
  3. What is your role?
  4. Why are you meeting?
  5. How do you ensure sustainable resources?
  6. What are your KSFs?
  7. How do you manage risk?
  8. How do you ensure transparency?
  9. How do you foster a culture of inquiry and assessment?
  10. How do you continue to improve?


You can get more of my thoughts on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Join our Facebook Group for Executive Directors and Board members: Governance as Leadership



P.S. May I ask a tiny favour? 

Would you mind sharing this blog with one person? I would love it. You can post the links in your Facebook Groups, LinkedIn or even send an email. 

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