Strong boards make for strong organizations, and we are fortunate at Semiahmoo House Society (SHS) to have a group of Board members who have the passion, talent, and experience to create an inclusive vision for SHS and the community that must then be operationalized and carried out by the organization.
The Board of Semiahmoo is diligent in ensuring they are educated about and follow the Policy Governance model. This model of governance allows the board to focus on the big picture and to lead the organization by creating a vision and delegating the attaining of the vision to SHS’s management. The Board remains focused on the big issue by creating the mission, or Ends, of the organization. At SHS, our overarching mission is to achieve the following: “People with disabilities live self-directed lives in the community at a justifiable cost.” The Board creates an annual plan to consult with SHS’s “owners” and experts from different fields to ensure they are aware and knowledgeable about community living issues.
The Board has defined it’s “owners” as The Community. This means that the Board acts on behalf of the community when making decisions. To do so, the Board invites members of the community and groups that represent members of the community to Ownership Meetings where people are asked about the role they believe SHS should play in creating an inclusive community. Over the past couple of years, the Board has met with leaders from the Surrey School Board, medical professionals, immigration organizations, and business leaders to listen to their ideas around inclusion and share some of what SHS does to build a welcoming community.
The Board also spends time educating themselves on important issues to do with inclusion and good governance. At our most recent meeting, the Board invited Michael Blatchford, and expert in The New Societies Act to present about changes in SHS’s constitution and bylaws that need to completed within the next two years. Housing experts have also presented to the Board multiple times before decisions about our Inclusive Apartment were made. An informed Board makes good decisions! Individual Board members have attended Inclusion BC and BC Non-Profit Housing Association conferences during the last year to gain knowledge that will assist the Board in its decision making. As well, the whole Board participates in Policy Governance Training every couple of years to ensure that all Board members understand the model.
Board composition is continuously reviewed and evaluated by Board members. At a retreat in 2013, the Board did a thorough examination of the strengths and areas that needed growth for individual Board members and the Board as a whole. This examination included personality-type surveys that led to the conclusion that there was a deficit of Type A Personalities on the Board. As a result, the Board actively pursued candidates for the Board that exhibited that type of personality to make sure that the Board was well-rounded and brought different perspectives to its deliberations.
At one of our recent Board meetings, a visiting consultant witnessed Board members discussing a topic before an important decision was made. Board members debated respectfully, different viewpoints were offered, questions were asked, and everyone’s opinion was heard before the decision was voted on. The consultant turned to me and whispered, “Are all your decisions made this way?” The truth is, they are. We are fortunate to have a Board made of a diverse group of members who take their responsibilities seriously, listen to the community, seek education on important issues, and make decisions that creates a mission for the organization that will lead to a healthier and more inclusive community.
To learn more about our Board members, click here.
By Doug Tennant, Semiahmoo House Society
Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. The Semiahmoo Foundation exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.