Nonprofit Boards: It Is time to Lift Your Gaze and See the System
18 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2020
Date Written: November 15, 2020
Nonprofits the world over have faced significant crises in 2020, leaving them and their constituents in precarious positions. Responses to these crises have demonstrated incredible agility. However, they have also demonstrated that the first two levels of governance (level 1: fiduciary responsibility and level 2: organizational performance) are not sufficient in reimagining a new normal. The pandemic and the social justice movements remind us that nonprofit boards need to lift their gaze beyond level 2, and strive for systems impact. We call it level 3 governance. We’ve seen incredible agility by nonprofits throughout these crises; and systems thinking has long been understood to be a sound way to consider and address complex social problems. Thus, the timing is ripe to bring the two together, and nonprofit boards must take the leadership in doing so. Applying systems thinking at the board level has not been normal practice. This paper provides a framework for how boards might do so and, in turn, govern beyond their organization and meet the social purpose for which their organizations exist.
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