Using governance to create socially just organizations

One of the highlights of my week is teaching a course on nonprofit structure and practice for the Adler School of Professional Psychology MA in Community Psychology program (in Vancouver). One thread that that has popped up in the course is the fact that many organizations that fight for social justice are often in and of themselves not socially just. They don’t pay fair or living wages, they are complicit in oppression of certain groups, etc.

Last week our topic was governance and boards of directors, and I posed the question “how can governance practices be used to embed social justice in an organization?” Here are some of the possibilities the cohort came up with.

  • integrate social justice values into mission, vision and values
  • incorporate social justice education into training policy (ideally for both board and staff), for example, anti-oppression framework
  • fair voting process, discussion, especially for board re-election and policy amendments
  • commit to recruiting diverse and representative board members / not requiring financial contribution for board positions
  • multiple subcommittees, with cross-checking on powerful issues for bias
  • outline ethical guide for where financial investment/giving will be accepted / escaping “dirty money,” accepting funding based on values
  • compensation policies: living wage, distribution bell curve of pay
  • strong communication: meeting minutes available, open channels for staff and volunteer suggestions, transparency of upper-management
  • maintaining assessment and awareness of changing power relations and politics; being open to new collaborations – ties into ethics and growth

The students asked if there was a “socially just governance” guide. So far I can’t find one. *mini-book idea*