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In Search Of A New Model For Selecting Board Members

Ranjani Saigal
05/05/2020

Having worked with a large number of Indian community organizations I have been always saddened to see the confusions sometimes caused by board elections. Good people fighting over trivialities is never pleasant. Such elections see the depletion of positive energy and creation of a lot of negativity.   What causes these tensions? Can this be avoided?    

It is a fact that people who join an organization  get a sense of ownership of the organization. Some are worker bees (I have encountered so many such wonderful people) who are content contributing their talents to the organization and do not care about titles. They feel a sense of ownership because of the sweat they have put into the organization. Yet others seem to feel a sense of “importance” being a titleholder in an organization and this also gives them a sense of ownership and they feel it important to keep the “title” in their family of friends so they do not loose their importance. Whether it is contribution of sweat or the idea of keeping titles in the family of friends, the sense of ownership sometimes flares up tensions at the time of election. 

Can we rework the model of the organization so that we can avoid such unnecessary tensions? I found one organizational model that offers much hope.  The highlights are as follows:

* No one is allowed to join the board unless they have volunteered for at least two years.  One has first to be a worker bee to understand the organization
* The team works in a non-hierarchical manner.  Thus titles do not have a sense of importance associated with them
* Most importantly the election is by random selection. Anyone who has volunteered for two years can put his or her name to become a board member. If the number of interested potential board members exceeds the number of open board seats, there is a random draw. 

 What is the advantage of this procedure?  

* Everyone has to be a worker bee and really understand the meaning of volunteering.  
* Titles are not advertised and thus teamwork is encouraged. 
* Since the draw is random, there are no negative feelings.  Thus people who are associated with the organization continue to engage. 

Whether it is this or any other model that can prevent petty elections tensions, it is indeed important that organizations need to  look into them. At a time when we need to come together as a community it is important to prevent trivial fights.  I sincerely hope organizations and people running for office will look into how to improve the process for the future. Most importantly I hope every organization will focus on and find a Chief Happiness Officer who can encourage togetherness and ensure that members work in a team with the motto - Work Hard, Have Fun, No Drama !




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