In the four-plus years since launching this blog, I've had a chance to not only find my blogging voice but also opportunities to articulate the particular vision and knowledge that inform that voice.
In this holiday edition, I share a few early posts that provide a sense of perspective for readers who are new to this blog. I hope they will provide context for who I am and why I approach nonprofit governance the way I do.
Creating a board LeaderCulture (July 23, 2007)
Long before there was a blog, there was an original model of nonprofit leadership. LeaderCulture flowed from my brain in 1998, while sitting on the tarmac in Greesnboro, N.C., following a visit to the Center for Creative Leadership. That trip, to accept the CCL's Kenneth E. Clark Student Research Award, set me on my path of a lifetime. LeaderCulture merited an article in CASE Currents Magazine. It felt brilliant at the time - and I do think there is value in what I created (See separate entries on each of the four elements: participation, communication, direction and recognition.). I haven't shared that model for awhile, but it definitely carries ideas that seeded everything that follows.
Boards 101 video (October 27, 2008)
I'm not exactly proud of the audio performance here; but the attempt to describe my understanding of the big 10 roles - and expand upon them with what I feel they lack - offers an initial view of my vision of nonprofit governance. As with the LeaderCulture model, there are links to what comes later in my evolution as a governance writer and facilitator.
Finding community in board practice (August 22, 2009)
There's a bit of a rough feel to this one, too; but in this case, that represents my evolving understanding of the key findings and messages of my doctoral dissertation research. This work has become the foundation of my thinking and work on nonprofit governance where, to my utter surprise, so many of the puzzle pieces naturally fell into place - in a high-functioning governance setting. It has given me my research agenda and my focus for working with nonprofit boards. I definitely need to record a more polished version of this work. But I appreciate the raw nature of this version, because it shows exactly where I was in my thinking five short months after successfully defending this work.
Series: Boards as communities of practice (December 28, 2009)
Yes, the evolutionary process to find the meaning of my dissertation research was a long one. (I've learned that that is a common phenomenon of the doctoral experience.) In December 2009, I launched a series of posts exploring in greater depth the key findings and what they mean for nonprofit boards. This entry provides a set of links to each post in the series.
It's all about vision (January 20, 2010)
With the exception of the notable flashes of knowledge described above, I spent the first three years stumbling and bumbling through blogging. I wasn't sure that I had anything important to say, and I lacked a sense that blogging was a valid venue for me. This post represents a multi-layered shift - for the legitimate 'aha' moment described, for the sense of place in the nonprofit world that I found in that experience, and for the new understanding of the voice I needed to develop and why. I don't pretend that every post written since this one has been brilliant and scintillating reading; but the clarity that began with this one launched a creative and intellectual shift. 'It's all about vision' takes on multiple meanings for its author.
My (draft) nonprofit learning manifesto (February 8, 2010)
In this one - and in the series that followed - I articulated the intersections between my understandings of nonprofit governance and adult learning that makes this particular blog unique. The 'draft' in the title is deliberate and important. My thinking about ways in which adult learning principles can be addressed in nonprofit board development is a lifelong process. My understanding of each point is just a little bit different today than it was in 2010.
Moving beyond 101 (March 14, 2010)
I was a little crabby when I wrote this one. Despite the counsel of wise friends to 'meet people where they are,' I still sometimes lose patience with resistance to going any further than the basics with our boards. We can't overtax them, I'm told, they're volunteers. We can't trust them, I'm told, they always fail to do what we need. We can't motivate them, I'm told, because they simply don't understand or appreciate the work that we do. I continue to know this: Boards give too little because we expect too little and support even less. While I always write with a goal of accessibility for my target audience (the nonprofit board member), I refuse to dummy content down. I respect what boards bring to the table, challenge them to offer their best to lead their organizations, and offer them tools for stretching to make that best possible.
CWAM 2010: Exploring board practices (May 14, 2010)
This one is important, because it represents the blog unveiling of my model, Board Practice Communities. It was a big moment for me, and a first step toward public discussion about this framework for building board capacity.
Boards 'on fire' (October 31, 2010)
One of the strengths of this blog is my ability to draw upon a diverse range of sources to expand understanding of nonprofit governance, or to explore it in novel ways. This one was inspired by one of my students who, despite having little knowledge about nonprofits and no experience with nonprofit boards, managed to capture the essence of what all governing bodies need to succeed. As I re-read my response to his challenge, I see a good, in-a-nutshell summary of what I consistently share in this space.
When I started writing this entry, I envisioned an easy way to bring newer readers up to speed on a holiday, when few will be sitting at their computers reading blogs. For the reader, that may be exactly what this post does. For me, there was an unexpected outcome: a stronger sense of context for my journey so far and a better understanding of how I found my blogging voice. Not many of these posts would qualify if I were creating a "best of" list. But all are important for the conceptual road map they create.