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7 essential components to ensure intra-board cooperation yields meaningful outcomes

There are at least seven essential components that determine the effectiveness of intra-board cooperation. These are:

  1. Commitment to resolution of the issue
  2. Willingness to commit the resources required to achieve the desired result
  3. Common understanding of the problem/issue at hand
  4. Agreement on the risks which can be tolerated during the process and vulnerabilities which accompany intra-board cooperation
  5. Willingness to problem solve to ensure resources are being wisely utilized prior to committing more
  6. Agreement on the information required to determine whether the desired results have been achieved
  7. Agreement on evaluation methods to be utilized by whom and when.


Commitment to resolution of the issue

Some issues are just nuisances. Boards want them to go away. One way to make that happen is to engage other entities in the problem-solving process. Unfortunately, when it appears that the problem is in hand, some boards can quickly turn their attention to other issues with the assumption that the intra-board cooperation is going to take care of the situation.


The reality is that commitment and constant communication is required from engagement to the end of the process. This means that the board’s commitment cannot wane. It is essential that the board remains a champion for the duration of the process.


Willingness to commit the required resources

Step one is engaging partners. Step two is clearly delineating the resources (human and otherwise) that the board is willing to commit, risks the board cannot accept, and the duration of that commitment.

For example, a board may engage in an intra-board collaborative effort but only be able to commit resources until the end of its current fiscal year. It is fair to advise partners of this limitation and determine what would happen if the problem is not solved within that time frame.


Common understanding of the problem/issue

It is easy to think everyone is talking about the same problem/issue, until the team starts delineating its action plan. Then they may find that the problem/issue they thought they were solving is not the same as that of some of the partners.

For example, not-for-profit boards may decide to partner to strengthen economic development in a specific area. When the team begins to plan, it may find that one board wants emphasis placed on the import/export business while others believe that tourism is the issue to be addressed.

The key is to state the issue/problem by outlining who, what, when, and where. When all partners agree on this information the team can begin to problem solve.


Agreement on the risks that can be tolerated

Some boards have more interaction with their key stakeholders than others. Therefore, the risks they can tolerate comfortably may be very different from a board which has little or no dealings with stakeholders and are considered an independent board.

One way to deal with this situation is to outline the political, social, financial, resource, and reputational risks each board will not consider.

Problem solving prior to committing more resources

Many projects can take on a life of their own. Prudent governance requires boards to complete a thorough analysis prior to committing more resources to any intra-board project.


Agreement on the information required

Expectations can vary widely. Therefore, it is incumbent upon each board to outline the outputs or outcomes it desires and the results it would need to see in order to feel that the project is meeting its desired aims. Some boards may want qualitative reports while others want objective data. The method used to collect each is very different. Therefore, it is vital to specify what is needed and the weight given to different kinds of information.


Agreement on evaluation methods

Evaluation methods can be very flexible or very rigid. How much time and resources is each board willing to commit to the process? These answers will affect the choice of methods which can be used and the amount of data that can be collected.


Final Comment

Intra-board cooperation is not intended to be used as an excuse to avoid solving problems/issues. It is intended to ensure resources are used widely, the aims of each board are met, and the desired outcomes are achieved.

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