Good Governance Project

APA Good Governance Project 2014 Update

In this video, 2014 APA President Nadine Kaslow, PhD, explains the results of the Good Governance Project (GGP) — a multiyear effort to optimize the association's governing system for the needs of the 21st century. In their report to the Council of Representatives in August of 2013, the GGP team outlined seven proposals for change. Kaslow explains the changes proposed and council's historic actions creating a new model of governance for the association.

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Phase I: Good Governance Project


Good Governance Project Report to Council: Assessment of Current Governance (PDF, 537KB)

Between February-July 2011, governance gathered data using:

  • Guided group discussions with the council and others, with 270 written responses.
  • Thirty qualitative telephone interviews.
  • More than 400 surveys from all key stakeholder groups to assess perceptions of APA's governance.
  • Initial benchmarking interviews with relevant associations to collect stories of how other organizations are addressing governance issues.

The GGP team reviewed and analyzed data, identifying areas to further explore in order to determine if APA’s governance is optimized. They tested themes, shared relevant information about success trends in governance and conducted in depth discussions while collecting feedback on key topics.

As part of the assessment, the team looked at the data in light of typical symptoms of stress in the governance system (PDF, 72KB) and developed a taxonomy of governance (PDF, 141KB) to assist in the analysis.

Themes from the gathered data
  • APA’s governance is complex, at times cumbersome. It provides opportunities for everyone to be heard. It generally results in good, but not timely, decisions.
  • There is confusion between involvement in governance and the programmatic systems that engage members in the organization. Currently, the primary way to engage with the organization is to become involved in governance.
  • It is generally unclear who is responsible for what, with little evidence of accountability. This is true both organizationally and individually, and for volunteers and staff.
  • Responses generally expressed parochial views, filtered through constituency lenses.
  • APA's governance is perceived to be a closed and political system. There is dynamic competition for leadership positions and recycling is commonplace, which impacts the balance between institutional knowledge and fresh ideas. There is widespread discouragement among those who seek to enter leadership roles.
  • There is no process to identify priorities — all issues are handled as “one size fits all” and everyone is invited to weigh in on everything.
  • There is frustration about governance, as well as hope for change, and there is general agreement that governance needs to be “updated.” This is accompanied by a desire to “not lose anything.”


Good Governance Project Report to Council: Options for Change (PDF, 1.1MB)

In response to the council’s directive at the February 2012 meeting, GGP presented the representatives with three options for change, ranging from incremental to moderate to clean slate scenarios.

  1. Incremental change to the existing system
  • Remove perceived barriers to governance responsiveness and streamline the council agenda.
  • Create a triage system.
  • Increase accountabilities and linkage to the strategic plan.
  • Increase use of technologies.
  1. Moderate change to existing system
  • Authority is split between a Board of Trustees for “corporate” and internal policy roles, a “Communities of Interest Assembly,” and boards and committees for specialized content.
  • Governance bodies are competency-based, and broadly representative of communities of interest rather than organizational units.
  • Includes new mechanisms for increased direct member input, triage, evaluation of strategic alignment, and expanded selection and orientation process.
  1. Clean slate — a new governance design
  • Establish a Board of Governors with diverse representation but a much smaller number of members than the current council.
  • Use technology to increase communications and efficiency.
  • Utilize ad hoc working groups and convene ad hoc summits to be aware of APA's operational environment.
After dialogue and deliberation, the council indicated they were ready for a change in governance models. In a fairly even split, they endorsed both the moderate and the clean slate scenarios.

Final Recommendations

GGP released its final report in June 2013. The proposed change strategy presented to APA's Council of Representatives contains seven major elements. While each element of this change strategy builds on previous decisions, many of the proposed changes could stand alone. There is a fundamental assumption that there will be a board-like body and a council-like body.

Recommended Changes to Maximize Organizational Effectiveness of APA Governance (PDF, 638KB)

APA's Board of Directors reviewed the report at its 2013 convention meeting, and made revisions to several motions in an effort to incorporate feedback received through virtual town hall meetings and during council’s July 31 session. The motions the board developed related to the structure and function of the board and council vary somewhat from what was recommended by the GGP Team.

During its session on Aug. 2, 2013, council voted to approve eight motions. The final motion adopted created a working group to implement the plans for governance changes.

See Phase II: Implementation for more details.

GGP Team

Good Governance Project Team

APA appointed a project team of 15 APA members and five supporting liaisons (both APA staff and representatives from a consulting firm, Cygnet Strategy LLC). The team members represent diverse stakeholder perspectives. They are also known to be able to disagree without being disagreeable, and are committed to collaborative inquiry and learning.

Phase II: Implementation Working Group