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 many more through an archive search):

“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: http://www.cooperativegrocer.coop/articles/2004-01-09/creating-boards-lead.

“Using Policy Governance to Improve Board Leadership (1998), by Marilyn Scholl, provides concrete examples and testimony from food co-op boards: http://www.cooperativegrocer.coop/articles/2004-01-09/using-policy-governance-improve-board-leadership.

“Ends: Defining Your Cooperative Advantage,” by Linda Stier (2001), illustrates the benefits of Policy Governance that were realized at Weaver Street Market: http://www.cooperativegrocer.coop/articles/2004-01-08/ends-defining-your-cooperative-advantage.

“Taking Policy Governance to Heart,” by Mark Goehring (2009) reviews “The practical significance of 10 Principles of Policy Governance”: http://www.cooperativegrocer.coop/articles/2009-04-26/taking-policy-governance-heart.

Cooperative Board Leadership Development

Through its board of directors training as well as extensive online resources in 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.]