The Best Way to be Transparent. Three Simple Steps to Take.Aug 10, 2021
How do you ensure transparency?
Could we start with a basic premise? Public boards, supported by public funds, need to conduct the public’s business in public. How can that be so difficult?
Let’s start with the beginning.
The dates, times, and locations of your meetings are usually set far in advance. The Chair sets the agenda. So where do I, as a member of the public and an interested observer, learn of your next meeting and what you might be discussing? This is presumably a public meeting (other than in-camera items) so where is the information available? To start at a basic level, meeting information should be on your website with much advance warning. Next level, meeting notices should be in any newsletter, blog, or social media posts that you sponsor. Still more: meeting information could be posted in your facility to inform your public or members that a meeting is taking place, for example, today in the board room. Not hard. Why are we hiding?
The message is obvious: we do not want the public attending our public meetings… Now, that may deflect difficult questions, but it also hinders public engagement and better recruitment of new directors.
How does a member of your community access meeting agendas and minutes, finances, and results? Is the agenda posted to your website? The minutes? In a timely (no more than two weeks) fashion? Are the agenda, minutes, and supporting materials (financials, e.g.) provided for anyone who attends? Either on a few chairs or at a side table? Are you welcoming to observers by providing information?
Now look, let’s not go overboard. No member of the public should be sitting at the board table. No member of the public should be allowed to speak to any item on the agenda. But there may be a set time for public input or questions.
How does a member of your community access your personal profile? That would be you, as a director. Who are you? Why are you there? What do you look like? How do I contact you? As my representative, surely I should know something about you and how to get in touch with any questions or concerns. And, no, you will not be inundated. Sadly, your public just doesn’t care enough – but you still need to be transparent.
How can a community member review your annual reports? Do they comply with legal requirements (yes, there are requirements, more honoured in the breach)? Are your successes and issues outlined? Your accomplishments and results? With the board profiled? Where can I find this? One hopes easily, on your website.
We need to be more aware of our responsibilities, making known who we are, what we do, and when, with what results, and how we might be observed. We are stewards of public and member funds – they deserve no less.
What are your main “pain points” with regard to issues of transparency? What advice would be most helpful to you? And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!
Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.
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We are currently addressing these 10 Critical Questions Boards Need to Ask Themselves:
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 accountability and transparency?
9 How do you foster a culture of inquiry and assessment?
10 How do you continue to improve?
See our other blog posts for more insights.
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