Georgette Nicolaides of Syracuse Real Food Co-op

At the Syracuse Real Food Co-op in Syracuse, New York, a quiet technological revolution is taking place that is helping the board use its time effectively as they work through the tasks of evaluating policy and auditing their performance. They are using the easy-to-use survey program Survey Monkey to do board policy monitoring. Each month a different board member is in charge of certain salient parts of their policies, and launches a survey for whether they think something needs improvement or not. The assigned board member shares those results in a summary with the whole board.

Their board has agreed that the areas where the survey results show agreement, they will not take time to discuss them. “If there are areas where some feel like things are fine, and others see room for improvement, that always leads to good discussions,” said Georgette Nicolaides, board chair. “We’re finding that it’s giving us a vocabulary on Policy Governance, and it’s an opportunity for people to pass on Policy Governance to the next generation of board members.”

The board is working on bylaws and ends statements as a result of some of these discussions, as well as considering moving to another location. The benefits of using Survey Monkey are that the implementation of evaluation gets spread around among all board members, and it streamlines the process.

She said Survey Monkey has somewhat of a learning curve, but most board members are proficient at it. “We only have 24 hours a year together. This allows us to prepare and not have long arguments at the table.” Nicolaides said that she’s usually surprised by the high level of agreement shown in the results. “Usually only a couple things merit discussion. It’s been good. It’s how we clarify our vision,” she said.

Online Recorded Workshop: Board Self-Evaluation

Cooperative Grocer article: Making Ourselves Accountable by Rose Marie Klee

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