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Policy Governance Week: Evolution of the board after 3 years of service by Bianca Montrosse-Moorhead, Eric Barela and Jara Dean-Coffey

Hello! We are Bianca Montrosse-Moorhead, Eric Barela and Jara Dean-Coffey. Our board service began in January 2018, which marked the year that Policy Governance (PG) was fully and formally instituted at AEA (led by Leslie Goodyear).  The fact that the work towards adoption began in 2008 and was not completed until two years ago is an indication of how challenging it has been to shift some of the ways of working and thinking within AEA. PG shifts power and makes the Board accountable to a shared set of practices, policies and ends goals, all of which are transparent to members. It has been interesting to see behaviors shift; roles get clarified, and perhaps most noticeable is the quality and caliber of conversations that the Board is having. 

Here are a few examples of what feels and is different:

Board conversations focus on process (e.g., who ought to chair this task force or workgroup, responding to member concerns as they arise, editing documents line-by-line in meetings).Board conversations focus on strategy (e.g., Who do we as an association serve? Who are we best positioned to serve?) and alignment of what we offer with AEA principles and values. 
Targeted conversations around revenue, resources and budget, including line-by-line and category-by-category budget review. Wholistic conversations around revenue, resources and budget include move toward aligning budget with strategic priorities (i.e., Ends Goals) and discussion around the larger context of AEA including trends, possibilities, realities and limitations. 
AEA public statements are solely about the practice of evaluation.AEA public statements also apply to how we as a board operate. There is now space at the Board to intentionally explore what this looks like and how we need to change as an organization to be in alignment with our values. Examples include this public statement, this public statement, and this public statement.
The Executive Director (ED) was not viewed as part of the Board, and authority to make decisions was unclear.The ED is part of the Board, and authority to make decisions is clearly specified in governing policies.

Two years in to the full implementation of PG, we are still trying to work through a few things as a Board and a membership association including:

  • Unlearning “us” versus “them” thinking when it comes to our staff: Sometimes we still hear our ED and staff referred to as “them” versus “us” evaluators. We all care about AEA and evaluation.
  • Responding quickly to current events through public board statements: This is new for the Board and it takes time to learn something new. This will get better.

As our terms come to an end, our observations are that the AEA Board and Staff feel more aligned and better equipped to navigate the realities of our world. We all feel pretty positive that without PG and such a strong staff that AEA would be in a most precarious position due to COVID-19. We are still building our muscles as it were to operate in a way that holds to PG, and each year it has gotten easier. 

This week, AEA365 is celebrating Policy Governance during which our AEA Board members and Executive Director will help readers understand this approach to association management. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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