I'm here today with Professor David Renz, who's theBeth K Smith, Missouri Chair in Nonprofit Leadership. And he's the Director of the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, the Henry W Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Thank you, David, for being with us today. >> It's a pleasure to be with you. >> Now, I know you've been involved in governance conference the last few days, and I'm wondering if you could just share a few insights about your work in governance, talking about boards of directors, but beyond boards of directors, how do you think about governance? >> Well, to begin with, I think it's important to recognize that governance and boards are closely connected but they're not exactly the same thing. The fact of the matter is, boards engage in governance, but that's not all boards do. And governance is something that groups other than boards get involved with in most cases as well. Governance is the process of setting strategic direction, determining what the mission and priorities of an organization will be given the needs of a community. Identifying how we would create or operate programs to meet those needs and then allocate the resources, decide how the quality should be judged and ensuring countability for actually making the plans come to life. Usually, boards play multiple roles but they're doing that work in collaboration with the executive leadership. So in a typical organization, this all happens inside, but when we are dealing with complex community initiatives or complex problems, sometimes we'll call them wicked problems. The scope of the problem and the scope of the work is outside of it. Includes, but it's outside of and larger than the organization by itself. In those cases, we need networks of organizations working together. For example when those are complicated problems such as dealing with the breadth of the challenges of addressing HIV/AIDS in a community. Or another one that we've been working on lately here is the set of organizations trying to address childhood obesity in the Kansas City Metropolitan community. Multiple organizations that all need to coordinate and link with each other, and so it is the network that's actually making things happen, and therefore there's a governance process that occurs at the network level, not just at the organization level. In fact, governance is above and beyond the organization and the board. And that can end up becoming quite confusing or complicating for a lot of organizations and their regular boards, especially if they are not aware of what takes place in the larger environment that they're in. So the challenge is to maintain a degree of accountability of leadership inside the organization while also being more fully and broadly connected to the whole network of other organizations and actors who are trying to have an impact on the needs and problems or specific need and problem that your work is about. >> It sounds like governance in these networks is quite complex. Can you talk about some of the challenges of governing at this level? >> Sure, the great thing about coming together in these collaborative networks and initiatives is so that we can bring more talents, capacity, and abilities, resources to the table. But in an environment where there's increasing focus on accountability, on clarity of roles of actually being sure at the beginnign how we're all going to play our individual roles, it can end up being quite confounding. Accountability is complicated when you have multiple actors, each playing an individual role. And often, the funding sources, are the community leaders who are supporting these processes want to have very clear connections for individual organizational outcomes, and yet it's the network as an organization that has to be the focus of that accountability process. And it can end up being quite diffuse and confusing to people who are not used to thinking this way. >> Can you tell us how governance at the network level works? >> Well, it can end up being somewhat challenging and confusing because it is the typical work of governance that a board would be engaged in, but it crosses organizational boundaries. And so the In the process, and the decision making processes that they're using have to connect all of the organizations in the interests that each of them has in the process. How is it that we are going to each play our individual unique role? The one that we perhaps are most effectively organized and equipped to deliver. And then the whole question of how each organization weighs in with the talents, the skills, the capacity that they can bring to address the problem, and we have to plan that. The strategic process of deciding where and how we work together to bring this to life is a governance process, even while it's outside of rewarding individuals in an individual organization. >> Given that we are directing this course explicitly at boards, what practical advice can you provide students in the course about how to use your research to improve board performance? >> Well, one of the key elements of our research, I think it's important to recognize, is this notion that effectiveness is socially constructed. In other words, is in the eye of the beholder. And so what that means in practical terms is that different actors have different notions of what effectiveness is, of how they would judge whether they're doing a good job or not. That's true for the organization. It's also true for the board itself. And so, as a practical matter, we need to find ways to bring people together around a shared notion of what we're trying to accomplish and how people judge how well we're doing it. That is, planning and dialogue at the beginning, and if you're in the network that extends beyond the organization, that means you're probably more actively engaging others who are often well outside the organization. But at least your immediate stakeholders, clients, and constituents, your donors as well, because different folks have different opinions of what contributes to or constitutes effectiveness. And practically speaking, you want to know how they're going to judge. That then leads directly to the board working with your executive leadership and others to determine what are our roles in relationships. How do we, as a board uniquely add value? This is a critical discussion to have and it needs to start early on in the relationship with your executive team and potentially with others on the staff as well. If we haven't clarified how we work together, then we run the danger of interfering with each others work, second guessing each other and generally wasting time, energy, sometimes irritating our board members and staff members in the process. So getting clarity about those roles, who is doing what, where are the decisions, and who else gets to be a part of it. How do you judge whether we're making that difference, and then that whole business of relationships is critical. Growing our capacity to work together as a team, so the things that we know about team performance and effectiveness are significant. What are our ground rules? What are our expectations and norms for how will work together, especially when we're in conflict with each other? When we're trying to sort out difficult choices, how do we have a fair fight, you might say. You need to sort that out before you get into the difficult conversations, because once we're in a fight, a good fight hopefully, we can't go back usually and start over. We need to be able to actually have that constructive conflict with that team. And then as we are proceeding from there, how do we make our decisions? Do we have a shared sense of what degree of relationship building, of information sharing, do we need to have before we get to the point of making a decision? How do we make decisions? Do we vote? Do we talk about it until we're all pretty much in the same page? What is it that we're actually doing to come to a conclusion? And then are we actively using that to guide our work? What are the norms and behaviors that we should be honoring in order to do the work as a team or group? We know that's important in all of our team understandings. And because of this social construction notion where effectiveness is judged by people outside of the immediate group, it's critical that we be interacting with and staying in touch with the interests, needs, and concerns of those who are key stakeholders. So we need to decide who those folks are, and then really have ongoing contact and conversations with them about what is it that they think are the issues and how are they going to judge us effectively? Ultimately, performing in a way that they consider effect. >> For each week we engage in a period, a period, conversation around some key questions related to either the lectures or our interview. And so do you have any questions for us to consider and discuss this week? >> Well, first of all, I've talked about network governance. This notion of governance that's outside of and beyond any individual organization reward. I would invite you to think about real life situations. You could suggest would be examples of this. What are some of these complex or wicked problems in your community that perhaps a given set of nonprofits working in a network of already come together to to work on? There probably are several that you just haven't thought of quite that late. Second question that I'd suggest you consider is what is some of the most practical ways, that a governing board can stay in touch with the expectations, and ultimately the definition of effectiveness that key stakeholders hold? It sounds like elaborate language, but it's a practical matter. There's lots of ways that we can stay in touch with those who are the most important stakeholders. So we know how their definitions of effectiveness are changing, evolving for perhaps even we should be encouraging them to change. So what are the practical ways that you as a staff of board leader for the help make this happen? The third of the questions that I would ask is a little broader question, which is how do you see executives, particularly CEOs, executive directors. Those at the top of the organization helping the board prepare for and serve effectively in these networking environments? What is it that you can do? College board common, they kind of of talk about board-centered executive leadership, which is all about the idea of executives helping their boards be effective and successful. How do you think you might help your board or teams of board actually, prepare for and play these roles effectively? >> Thank you David, I know you're busy. You got a great conference and thank you for taking time to share your expertise with us today. [MUSIC] Thank you.