Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book review: Nonprofit Governance: Innovative Perspectives & Approaches

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this summer launched two noteworthy books on nonprofit governance. Today, I introduce you to the second book, Nonprofit Governance: Innovative Perspectives and Approaches

First, a bit of disclosure: I have a chapter in this book and I had a role in helping to convene the discussions that led to this ambitious project (though, if anyone benefits financially from sales, it certainly isn't me). That said, I can take great pleasure in recommending this significant new addition to the governance reading list. Let me tell you why.

Nonprofit Governance differs in tone to You and Your Nonprofit Board. To some extent, that is inevitable. Practitioners wrote the latter; nonprofit scholars wrote the the former. As expected, their approaches are different. Surprisingly similar, though, is their interest in a common concern: the impact of what happens in the nonprofit boardroom.

I'll be honest. I've read and studied and contributed to the literature of nonprofit governance since 1997. I've frequently been frustrated by research questions that failed to answer one essential question: Who cares? How does this new knowledge expand our understanding of what it takes to govern effectively?

This book is different. The title describes one critical difference - its focus on innovative approaches to studying nonprofit governance.  It represents, within the governance research community, a call for new ways of asking and exploring questions about how nonprofit boards work and what effective governance practice looks like. The research questions asked have great potential value for those of us who serve on and advise nonprofit boards. They actually have a chance to impact nonprofit practice.

A sampling of the chapter titles that may be of interest:
  • "The role and impact of chairs of nonprofit boards" (Yvonne Harrison, Vic Murray and Chris Cornforth)
  • "Antecedents to board member engagement in deliberation and decision-making" (Will Brown)
  • "Beneath the surface and around the table: Exploring group dynamics in boards" (Wendy Reid)
  • "Board monitoring and judgment as processes of sensemaking" (Alan Hough, Myles McGregor-Loundes and Christine Ryan)
  • "Community-Engagement Governance (TM): Engaging stakeholders for community impact" (Judy Freiwirth)
Rather than offer more detailed summaries of favorite chapters here, as I did in the other book review, I'd rather write one or two follow-up posts with that goal in mind. One of my informal commitments, to myself and to readers of this blog, has been to help translate key governance research efforts into potentially actionable ideas with value to those of us working in the field. This offers an excellent next step (beyond sharing takeaways from my own work) in that process.

For now, I will offer encouragement to purchase and share this new title with your boards. I also will suggest that, read together, Nonprofit Governance and You and Your Nonprofit Board represent the significant infusion of fresh perspectives that the field requires at this point.

The nonprofit governance toolbox has expanded exponentially this summer. Will we accept the gift - and the challenge - of new ways of thinking and working as the sector's citizen leaders?

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