Beth, Jeff, and Joe sat down in the conference room with Alan Field, another member of the Board's nominating committee. Mrs. Dreyfuss had originally agreed to join them for the meeting but had a change of plans at the last minute.
"Alan, thanks for being here," said Jeff. "I think you know that Beth and I, along with the rest of the Inclusiveness Committee, are excited about what we can accomplish."
"I'm glad to be here," said Alan. "Though I have to admit, we're going to have an uphill battle on some of this with the rest of the Board. We're not exactly in the majority. I wish Mrs. Dreyfuss was here with us. Everyone listens to her."
"I know," said Beth. "But we have to get started, or things will never change. Let's look at Exercise 10-A from the workbook, the benefits of a diverse and inclusive Board. Good, concrete benefits will help us move the rest of the members forward."
Alan pointed his pen at Beth. "How about more access to diverse donors?"
Beth wrote it on the worksheet. "I'll also add, more access to the political power base in our community. The mayor is African-American, and several members of his cabinet are from communities of color."
"I'd also add that a diverse Board will help us understand the needs of our clients," said Jeff. "Sometimes I feel strange voting on clinical policies when we have to rely entirely on Marcie or Luisa for an understanding of community needs."
"Excellent," said Joe. "This is just the type of thing we need." They noted five additional points and Beth turned the page to the next worksheet.
"Let's not forget these as we move forward with developing our plan," she said. "Now let's look at our research. You'll see the yellow highlighter notes the information on boards."
"Oh, now this is interesting," said Alan. "The nominating committee at the Dallas Children's Clinic has a 30 percent target for diverse Board members. But they start with the needs for particular skills, just like it says in the workbook."
"I saw that, too, Alan," said Jeff. "I like the sample of their recruitment grid."
"The worksheet asks us for trends," said Alan. "The only trend I see is that as the board stays all white, we're less and less like our community, which is increasingly diverse."
Joe turned to a page later in the report. "Look back here, where it describes the results of Eleanor's interviews with Board members."
"You'll see that several of the members think we're doing just fine. And two are outright surly when the subject is raised," said Beth.
"Well, they have concerns about changing a good thing," said Alan. "I get that. This is a great organization, and many other groups have been jealous of our Board's fundraising capabilities. But it's time to realize that our current strategy is just going to be demographically outdated."
"True enough," said Joe. "I think we should also share with the Board the results of the survey of community leaders."
"Oh yeah," said Jeff. "Did you see that, Alan? Fifty percent of respondents perceive the Children's Health Center to be unwelcoming of people of color. Eighty percent think that we don't welcome donors of color!"
"And that's dramatically different from the Board's own perception of itself," said Beth.
"So what can we do to change this?" asked Alan. "The workbook has some good suggestions...but I don't know where to start."
"How about if we follow the next exercise, and start by answering the first question: What is the primary problem we want to address in regards to the Board?" said Joe, reading from the workbook.
Beth was the first to speak. "I'd say ‘lack of diverse voices around the table' just to begin with," she said.
"I'd go beyond that. I'd say that we don't have a Board culture that values having those voices around the table," Alan added.
"I do," Jeff said. "How about if we also think about two somewhat controversial topics: increasing the size of the Board and establishing term limits. Remember, the research from The Denver Foundation showed that board terms which are too long can result in less inclusiveness."
"You're treading on sacred ground now," said Alan.
"Let's tread lightly, but we must tread," said Beth. "Maybe as part of our plan, we can put down a task of researching the practices of other clinics regarding term limits and Board size."
"I don't see Mrs. Dreyfuss giving up her seat as chair," said Jeff.
"I know," said Beth. "And I don't think Mrs. Dreyfuss should give up her seat as chair, at least not right away. We have to implement changes slowly so that the existing Board members, all of whom are tremendous assets to the organization, don't feel alienated or pushed out."
The group set up an action plan for their goals of diversifying the Board and creating an inclusive Board culture. For each objective, they set up tasks and time limits. "The Board meets on May 3," said Joe. "I'd like us to commit to bringing this action plan with the additional assessment information on Board size and term limits. Then we can get buy-in for what we'd like to put in the blueprint."
"Sounds great, Joe," said Beth. "But let's wait to pass along any specifics to the staff. I don't want them to get their hopes up about term limits if we don't get them enacted."
"Good, Alan," said Joe. "So our desired goals would be..."
"To recruit and retain Board members from communities of color," said Jeff. "But I don't think we want to set numeric goals. What do you think, Beth?"
"No, let's not go there. Some people are concerned about affirmative action or reverse discrimination," said Beth. "Let's just say we're hoping to become as diverse as the average children's health clinic Board. That gives us a target of 30 percent."
"Great, so our outcome will be a target of a Board with at least 30 percent of the members being people of color," said Jeff.
"Now let's look at our objectives. How about if we have as an objective that a person of color is at least in the final pool for any open Board slots."
"Good," said Beth. "That's a start. Now we need to address the whole question of Board inclusiveness."
"Well, the workbook says that the Board leader needs to set a tone for inclusiveness," said Alan. "What do you think the chances are of that?"
"Oh, I'd say we have a ways to go," said Jeff. "But we're here, so maybe we can put ‘developing understanding of culture among Board leaders' as an action step. Then we can work on that ourselves."
"Great idea!" said Beth. "Let's also add something about creating shared experiences together, maybe have the Board build in some cultural competency training. We talked about that way back, remember, Jeff?"
"Good thinking," Joe agreed. "I'll just report generally on what we're thinking. And Beth, Jeff, we should present this to Mrs. Dreyfuss before we show it to anyone."
The group agreed to exchange information by e-mail and reconvene after the Board meeting to finalize their portion of the CHC Inclusiveness Blueprint.
- Stories from the Journey
- Examples of Having Courageous Conversations
- Agreements for Courageous Conversations and Active Learning
- Inclusiveness at Work (publication)
- Inside Inclusiveness (publication)
- Fictional Case Study
- Inspirational Quotes