What is Policy Governance?


Policy Governance is a model that describes the responsibilities and function of a Board of Trustees. It defines the work of the Board as 'governance;' and makes the distinction between governance and management.

It begins with a simple premise:

the job of the board is to see to it that, on behalf of whomever the board perceives to be the ownership, the organization achieves what it should and avoids situations and conduct that are unacceptable.

Most literature advises boards to govern by developing policies. Policy Governance describes specific policy categories. All that the board has to say is contained within those categories. This suite of policies ensures that the organization achieves what it should, is accountable for results, and acts toward the staff and the public in an acceptable manner. Also, the board enacts policies that require it to perform its duties in a disciplined manner.

Policy Governance® is a complete model for board governance which has been developed by John Carver of Carver Governance Design, Inc. His seminal book on the subject is Boards That Make a Difference, published in 1990 by Jossey-Bass Inc.


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