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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

A Peek Behind the Curtain: What Guides CHI

A Peek Behind the Curtain: What Guides CHI

We usually talk about the health policy work we do here, using data and analysis to inform decisions made across Colorado.  But that work doesn’t just magically happen. It is supported and guided by our board of trustees. While the technicalities of organizational governance may not sound exciting, they are critical in helping us use data and analysis to guide our organization.

I was reminded of this at the annual CHI Board of Trustees retreat, which was held earlier this month.  It was a lively meeting in which we reviewed the results of an independent organizational assessment, looked backward at our year-to-date financial performance and forward to next year’s budget, addressed governance and development topics and spent a good chunk of time reviewing the work of a subcommittee charged with developing a three-year strategic plan.

Reflecting on how well the day went caused me to think about some of the things that make for a great board.  So for all of you who have a board, here’s my short list:

  • Engagement:  This is much more than attendance.  Engagement is asking tough questions, participating in discussions, and taking pride in the organization.
  • Diversity:  Varied stakeholder representation is key, as is gender and ethnic diversity.  A president, CEO or executive director deserves more than hearing others echo back what she already knows.
  • Stewardship:  This goes beyond tracking the organization’s finances.  Stewardship encompasses caring for the whole of the organization from employee development to succession planning to community reputation. 

I also thought about common errors that can get boards in trouble.  These unsexy topics are important to monitor.

  • Bylaws:  When was the last time your bylaws were reviewed?  Too often they are written once and then put on the shelf.  The board secretary should review them annually.
  • Governance:  How do your board members know if they are doing a good job?  What is the level of self-reflection and self-assessment that takes place?
  • Development:  A healthy board needs fresh perspectives.  Is the rotation of term limits such that new people are joining each year? 

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and entire books have been written on this topic.  It is my hope that these musings may lead you to do some of your own thinking about the state of the board of trustees at your organization.