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Handout 2: Alternate System Thinking Scenarios

Note: These scenarios appeared in a different form in Workshop 4.

Accessibilities Audit Scenario

A congregation is planning to do some major work to repair the foundation of the building and to upgrade space. They have had a successful capital campaign and have raised nearly enough money—but not quite enough. Now they have heard from local government officials that they will not be granted a building permit until they have addressed some major accessibility issues in the building.

This project will be costly. The chair of the governing board believes there is no more money to be had from the congregation. She convenes a meeting of the governing board, which includes:

  • A member who is angry with local officials for imposing this on the congregation and believes they have no right to do so. His attitude is that they should support, rather than undermine, the building repairs and upgrades the congregation is undertaking.
  • A member who has arthritis in her hands and her knees and sometimes finds the front steps and the door handles difficult to negotiate. She has never told anyone about this difficulty.
  • A member who believes in his heart that making the congregation more accessible to those with mobility impairments is the right thing to do, and is convinced a way can be found to do it. He is often seen as the "impractical" one in the group.
  • A member who wonders if there is any practical way to financially manage the accessibility upgrades. From her point of view, the planned upgrades will benefit many people and the accessibility upgrades only a few.
  • A member who has been the representative to the building task force and is exhausted. She has done all that she can do to get this project ready to the point where construction and renovation can begin, and finds this news discouraging.

Safe Congregation Scenario

A congregation's insurance company has informed them the congregation will no longer be able to purchase liability coverage unless they have a policy in place for prevention of sexual abuse and misconduct. The prevention policy must include the use of criminal background checks for volunteers and staff. As the governing board convenes to consider this challenge, members of the board are of several minds:

  • The chair of the board believes liability coverage is crucial to the well being of the congregation and the board has a fiduciary responsibility to see to it that a safe congregation policy is adopted.
  • A board member is concerned about finances, especially about the potential cost of criminal background checks. She is also concerned because a large donor has stated that they view background checks as an invasion of privacy.
  • Another member is concerned about the implementation of any safe congregation policy. Who will be responsible? How will they get training? Do current staff members have enough hours to take this on?
  • A member—one who has been reading in the papers about child sexual abuse among volunteers and professionals entrusted with the well being of children—believes a safe congregation policy cannot come soon enough.
  • Another member keeps thinking about the first Unitarian Universalist Principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person. How does this Principle to protecting children? What about our volunteers? Do background checks violate their worth and dignity?
  • A long-time member trusts everyone in the congregation. Required background checks and other policies seem unnecessary. He wonders if liability insurance is really needed- and resents the insurance company for pushing the congregation around.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Saturday, October 29, 2011.

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