Governance: Who's looking at me when I'm looking at you?
Governance The big questionsOxfam Presentation, November 2012 Dr.Rama Naidu
• Why is there so much rhetoric that touts the significance and centrality of nonprofit Boards, but so much empirical and anecdotal evidence that boards of trustees are only marginally relevant?
• Why are there so many” how to govern” handbooks, pamphlets, seminars and workshops, but such widespread disappointment with Board performance and efforts to enhance board effectiveness?
• Why do nonprofit organisations go to such great lengths to recruit the best and brightest as trustees, But then permit these stalwarts to languish collectively in an environment more intellectually inert than alive, with Board members being disengaged than engrossed
• Why has there been such a continuous flow of new ideas that have changed prevailing views about organisations and leadership, but no substantial reconceptualization of nonprofit governance, only more guidance and exhortations to do better the work that Boards are traditionally expected to do
Other questions• While nonprofit managers have gravitated towards the role of leadership, trustees have tilted more towards the role of management. This shift has occurred because trusteeship ,as a concept, has stalled whilst leadership as a concept, has accelerated. The net effect has been that trustees function more and more like line managers.( seems unlikely, but is true. Boards look for trustees with specialist skills – auditing, legal, fundraising,etc)
• If managers have become leaders and leadership have enveloped core areas of governance, then a profound question arises:• What have been the consequences to Boards as the most powerful levers of governing have migrated to the portfolio of the leader ?
• What really happens , when constructed in this way is that Boards are predisposed, if not predestined, to attend to the routine, technical work that managers-turned –leaders have attempted to shed or limit.• With sophisticated leaders at the helm of nonprofits, a substantial portion of the governance portfolio has moved to the Executive suite. The residue remains in the Boardroom