By Mansfield G.M. Duopu,Minneapolis,Minnesota
The recent Organization of Liberians in Minnesota (OLM) Board debate showed a classic lack of understanding of some of the candidates about the duties and functions of a governing for a non-profit organization, like the OLM.The over-used word at the debate was “programs”.
It should be made crystal clear that Boards in the non-profit world do not get directly involve in programming. That is an administrative function. I do not intend to demean the energy, intent and commitment of the candidates, but Boards do not write grants. I heard some of the candidates touting their grant-writing skills. This is good, but the decision rests with the Executive to solicit this expertise if they lack it.
The Policy Governance Model and The New OLM Board
The new Board will be setting a new policy agenda for the organization by removing the politics of destruction and replacing it with a spirit of cooperation. This transformation will take a group of competent and experienced people from what have bedeviled other Boards (not necessarily the OLM)as incompetent groups of competent individuals(Gillies,1992,pg.3).
Research have shown over time that there’s one thing incompetent Boards have in common: They do not function well. Other studies have shown that ninety-five percent of Boards are not fully doing what they are legally, morally and ethically supposed to do.
John Bartee in his political acumen brought up the unconstitutional impeachment of the present president and the determined rebuke of the community few months back. That speaks a lot to what amounts to Board malpractice(though Bartee termed it treason, I will not go that far).
The new Board should come with one thing in mind; that it exists purely for the purpose of check and balance and not an opposition party.
The new Policy Governance I am proposing, begins with this assertion, then proceeds to develop other universally applicable principles:
That the OLM Board composition, history and peculiar circumstances will dictate different structural arrangements by the new Board if it must depart from the business-as-usual mode. In this new Policy Governance dispensation, the new OLM Board should move quickly in designing systems that are internally consistent, externally applicable (considering its tax-exempt status), and to a great relief of those of us concerned with governance integrity, logical.
Logical and consistent principles will be demanded by the community this time around to deal with the decades of non-performance, hodgepodge practices, and whims of individuals and capricious decision-making. The usual blame-game will not be acceptable.
The new Policy Governance model I am proposing demands that the OLM Board effect a new paradigm shift to enhance what policy practitioners call incremental improvements of the organization.
I know from experience in other organizations I have been associated with, that paradigm shifts are initially difficult to cope with, since they render previous experiences out-dated.
This will demand significant collaboration within the Board on the one hand, and collaboration between the Board and the Executive.
To achieve this Policy Governance model, the new Board must first understand governance in a new way, and be discipline enough to behave in a new way. Does this ask too much of the new Board?
Perhaps it does ask too much of the would-be members, but from what I gathered from the debate, all the candidates seemed committed to the task ahead.
Board as Owner-Representative and Servant-Leader
The big question is, who owns the OLM? In the business world, we can easily see that the Board of Directors is the voice of the stakeholders of the corporation.
It is not always apparent in the non-profit world. Do Board members know who owns the OLM? That’s should have been a question in the debate (oops!!).Most of the candidates alluded to the OLM being a membership-based organization.
It presupposes that for one to claim membership, one has to be a due-paying member. While it is true that the OLM encompasses all the Liberian associations or organizations in
In this article, I intentionally referred repeatedly to the new Board as a collective and not the individual members. This is because the new way in non-profit Board Governance, everything is based on collective decision-making.
I am happy to note that some present OLM Board members in persons of the acting Chairman Harris Meh and the former Chairperson Marie Hayes have had extensive training in Policy Governance.
I hope the new OLM Board will consider such an opportunity. I personally could serve as a contact person at the
Finally, the new OLM Board must speak authoritatively on policy issues/options. In other words, the Board must speak with one voice or not speak at all.
The “one-voice” principle in Policy Governance makes it possible to know where the Board stands on issues, what it says, and what it did not say.
This does not necessarily mean unanimity, but it does require all members to respect the decisions of the Board even if their views was defeated. One that note, this is my personal pick for the new OLM Board and a brief reason:
Harris Thursday Meh- Seniority, proven and tested leadership over the years. I hope this will be his last run for elected OLM office.
Doris Parker- The epitome of deeds and not words. She has a proven track record of service to the community over the years. The Liberian Women Initiative is a living example of what she will bring to the new OLM Board.
Amara Kamara- I admire his dedication to service. I saw his work for the past two summers. He’s not your flamboyant talker, but one can be assured despite one’s politics that Amara is a leader in his own right.
Decontee Koffa- Youth and vitality. I see her as the transition from the old guards. She is the symbol of a new OLM for the future. At this very tender stage, she’s already involved in the community. She’s not one of those “I WILL DO IT WHEN I GET THERE”.
John Jenkins Bartee- Consensus builder. Pragmatic politician. A mover and shaker of real politicks. Common sense oral historian and folklorist who will tell the story of fairness and accountability.
Thank You. We look forward to the next debate.