Teach Policy Governance to Seminarians

I went to a day long Policy Governance workshop offered by the Pacific Southwest District today at Canoga Park, Emerson Unitarian Universalist in Southern California.  It was my first extended orientation and training, and honestly I found it very intriguing.  In talking with other participants, it is clear that this Policy Governance model, developed by the Carvers, is the structure getting the most attention, discussion and implementation at this time in the UUA.  There are a growing number of workshops, articles, and congregations adopting this structures.  Many UUA Districts are also taking on Policy Governance.  Clearly this has implications beyond just how we do business, but relates to our leadership development of religious professionals.    

I am buying into the central concepts, specifically that the model is based ultimately on developing higher levels of trust and accountability between leadership (the Executive Team or ET as they kept calling it today) and the Congregation whose will is defined through "one voice" by the Board.   The ability to prioritize the responsibilities and create clarity as to people’s roles with respect to the detailed decision-making is a huge plus in the world of liaison or portfolio boards that seemingly get frustrating re-hashing and micromanaging decision-making.

Rev. Marge Keip, retired, of Grants Pass Oregon and Mary Higgins, District Exec of Florida UUA are the two primary trainers according to Marge.  Marge is specifically training congregational leaders and Mary District leaders.  It has me thinking about the UUA affiliate organizations and if this would be something of benefit for them as well.  Policy Governance is clearly a paradigm shift in organizational structure, requiring time to internalize and document the process in any organization, perhaps even more challenging in Unitarian Universalist congregations.  It was originally developed for non-profits.  I’m still processing the idea through my anti-racism/anti-oppresion lens, and thus far, am wondering if indeed this is a more accountable and ultimately more justice-centered governance structure?  Obviously any system can be manipulated for the abuse of power, but this one seems to have more of our core UU values at heart.


2 responses to “Teach Policy Governance to Seminarians

  1. Indeed it can be abused. I’ve watched it happen. In a nutshell: do you create policy that serves the mission (healthy), or do you constantly change the mission to maintain status quo (no so healthy)? Or, worse, do you create a system in which all parties can claim an out from any accountability (“We just make policy, we don’t enforce it!”)? I think an organization needs a strong sense of mission and ownership before it takes on policy governance.

  2. I’ve seen it abused (or at the very least, badly managed) in my district, and it’s put a serious damper on the programming here.

    I actually like how it’s working here now… it scared the youth here, the YA’s rather liked it, onc it was fully explained (Which it appears is very hard to do properly)

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