How the UUA Board Uses Policy Governance

Policy Governance® is a governance model created by Dr. John Carver. It provides a complete model for delegating authority from a Board to an Executive and monitoring operations against policy. Policy in the Carver model is defined in two ways:

  • Ends Policies, which define a future-oriented vision for an organization.
  • Means Policies, which define boundary conditions for operations and governance. Means Policies cover such aspects of operations as ethical behavior, financial responsibility, planning, and other Executive Limitations, as well as governance practices and the relationship between the Board and Executive.

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board creates policies in the following areas:

  • Ends: Policies that describe the long term goals and vision for the organization.
  • Executive Limits: Policies that constrain the means used by the President and staff to achieve the Global Ends.
  • Governance Process: Policies that describe how the Board will do its work.
  • Board-President Linkage: Policies that describe the delegation of authority from the Board to the President, who acts as Chief Executive Office to direct and manage the UUA staff.

The Board charges the Executive to accomplish the Ends Policies within the boundaries established by the Executive Limits. The Executive has freedom to choose any means that seem best to accomplish the Ends Policies, provided that they do not violate the boundaries set by the Executive Limits.

The UUA Board works with the President to create a Shared Vision (Ends Policies), delegates responsibility for operations to the President (who serves as the Executive overseeing all UUA Staff operations), and monitors Executive performance against the Shared Vision and Means Policies.

Our Board’s governance policies call us to govern on behalf of Our Sources of Authority and Accountability:

  1. Our member congregations
  2. Current and future generations of Unitarian Universalists (UUs)
  3. The heritage, traditions, and ideals of Unitarian Universalism
  4. The vision of Beloved Community
  5. The Spirit of life, love, and the holy

Governance for Congregations

If you desire general assistance with the terminology of the Policy Governance model, go to Policy Based Governance: A Resource for UU Congregations, and read from the many books published on the subject. Carver's book Boards That Make A Difference is one example.

At last count (early 2009), more than a dozen Unitarian Universalist congregations, and about 8 of our 20 districts, are operating in a policy governance based approach. Many of those congregations and Districts also have their governance policies posted on their own websites. We caution that while Carver lays out many principles for the governance model, almost every organization implements the model in a way that is tailored to their specific situation, so interpretation is required by the reader in every case.

Finally, the Board notes that the decision to move to policy governance on their part is not intended to be a recommendation for adoption by any congregation or district. That is the decision of each district or congregation.

There is a growing capability to train or consult on Policy Governance among our District staff. Contact your District Executive for assistance.