Policy Governance Basics

In recent years food co-ops have tended toward (while not universally embracing) an approach to the board’s role termed Policy Governance®.  The source of Policy Governance, originally developed for nonprofit and governmental boards, is John Carver and his book, Boards That Make a Differencehttp://www.carvergovernance.com.   A principal part of the Policy Governance approach is that the board should focus on defining the co-op’s aims or ends and on formulating policy that ensures progress toward those ends.  The board guides the cooperative by developing such policies and requiring reports that measure progress – while leaving operational matters in the hands of management. 

Following are some articles summarizing and exploring Policy Governance for food co-op directors (find more through an archive search); each of them is linked under Related Content at the bottom of the present page.

“Creating Boards That Lead,” by Ann Hoyt (1995) was among the first statements of the strong need for appropriate board leadership and a recommendation of Policy Governance.

“Using Policy Governance to Improve Board Leadership (1998), by Marilyn Scholl, provides concrete examples and testimony from food co-op boards.

“Ends: Defining Your Cooperative Advantage,” by Linda Stier (2001), illustrates the benefits of Policy Governance that were realized at Weaver Street Market.

“Taking Policy Governance to Heart,” by Mark Goehring (2009) reviews “The practical significance of 10 Principles of Policy Governance.”

Cooperative Board Leadership Development

Through its board of directors training as well as extensive online resources its Cooperative Board Leadership Development (CBLD) program, the CDS Consulting Co-op has deepened food co-ops’ understanding of Policy Governance: http://www.cdsconsulting.coop/services/cbld-leadership-development.  At the CDS Consulting Co-op website, visit the CBLD Library, which has a wide variety of co-op governance resources available for download both as text and as online recorded workshops: http://cdsconsulting.centraldesktop.com/cbld/doc/3154572.  An example from the CBLD Library: the work of startup co-op boards has been given a foundation in the “CBLD Policy Template for Startup Co-ops.”

[See related wiki pages under Board Governance.]