Wednesday, May 01, 2013
The Hundred Thousand Dollar Question
How do we apply the lessons of her tenure to the choice between Jim Key and Tamara Payne-Alex to succeed her?
Gini Courter has been an extraordinarily ambitious Moderator, attempting to make the UUA Board the real leadership of the Association. By establishing Policy Governance, her plan was that the Board would begin to evaluate the work of the Administration and Staff, holding it accountable for effective work toward the goals of the Association.
You could say that it is a plan to increase the power of the Board. You could also say that it was a plan for the Board to step up to a Board's expected duties. After all, Boards are supposed to evaluate the work of the organization to make sure that it is fulfilling its mission.
Behind the plan was an analysis that the problems of Unitarian Universalist drift was the a problem of governance: the people who worked for us were largely self-directed and unaccountable, even though they were talented and committed people. This analysis meshed with the concerns of those that saw the UUA staff as insufficiently concerned with actual congregational life. The Board, which represented the congregations, would assert its authority over the administration, making for a more democratic and effective association.
It did not work out as expected. The Board and the Administration have not been able to work out a system of right relations with each other, which has surfaced as disputes over reporting.
It is tempting to just say "a plague on both your houses" and "get your act together". That's cheap and shallow analysis, akin to shallow analysis that holds Barack Obama and John Boehner equally culpable for the deadlock in Washington DC.
Our collective leadership are adults, acting consciously to reach the goals they think are important. They are also in a conflict which has its own dynamic.
Here are my questions:
What was the problem that reforming the governance of the UUA supposed to fix? What are the other dimensions (not governance) of the necessary solutions to that problem?
Did Gini Courter move too aggressively toward imposing policy governance on an administration that had serious reservations about it?
Has the Morales administration resisted being evaluated by the Board? Why?
How do each party see their mandate from the rank and file, as expressed in their respective election?
Are their technical issues outstanding about how to set measurable goals for the association, and how to report on progress toward them?
I can't help but notice that the Board has emphasized accountability to the congregations, while the Administration is talking about "beyond congregations." Is this a real difference?
Now that Gini Courter is approaching the end of her service, how does she evaluate her success in bringing better governance to the UUA? How do Jim Key and Tamara Payne-Alex see the situation now?
I invite others to offer their perspective on this situation.