Cowichan Board Meets Board

thinking-together-for-a-changeThe Cowichan Board Meets Board project started before there were any funds available to communities. In June 2010, an invitation went out to thirty-six community social service agencies. Twenty-three board members and executive directors from twelve different agencies came together.

The purpose of that first gathering was to have a conversation about what were the things we had the deepest passion and concern about in our community and what might be possible if there was an opportunity to come together again. Interest was expressed in having another gathering.

A group came together to provide logistical support and since then there have been seven more gatherings. The focus of each of these was to create a space for people to come together to:

  • Build meaningful relationships
  • Focus on the whole community rather than on their own organizations
  • To generate activities that would have the greatest impact for board members and their leadership role in the community
  • Have dialogues with local government and businesses

The premise of these gatherings is based on the work of Juanita Brown (World Café developer) and Tome Hurley that is found in Conversational Leadership: Thinking Together for Change (2009). Conversations are seen as fundamental to the existence of social systems, communities and cultures. Networks are the basis of each of these settings.

Tangible actions coming out of Cowichan Board Meets Board include:

  • The development of a joint initiative of Volunteer Cowichan and the Cowichan Campus of Vancouver Island University of training for board directors in sustainable fundraising, building a strong foundation for the organization, financial literacy and building collaborative partnerships.
  • A workshop for board directors on the skills required for collaboration.
  • Using the determinants of health framework to explore the possibilities for partnerships and sharing resources amongst organizations that have common programs and services.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding amongst four agencies to develop opportunities to share resources.

So far, the learning has been to persevere. Each gathering seems to bring out different folks. Although there are about twelve to fifteen people who regularly attend, there are anywhere from fifteen to forty who are new to the concept of board directors and executive directors from different agencies meeting. The importance of taking time to build relationships comes forward time and time again.

The main recommendation is to have conversations that begin with people’s passions before building a structure. For example, Mothers Against Drunk Driving started with one mother’s passion, then the structure was built. Meg Wheatley, an author, speaker and consultant talks about the importance of applying the lens of living systems to organizations and communities. She suggests that we use the following questions to invite people to consider what is possible for the healthy people in thriving communities:

  • What are the things you have a deep and abiding concern for?
  • What is it your really have passion for?
  • What is possible here?
  • Who cares?

For further information contact: Leslie Welin at