9. The different perspectives of committee members

What are the common committee perspectives?

1. Democratic (‘a representative’) this person is generally elected onto the committee and this route to the committee gives them a sense of legitimacy. They are in favour of open debate, and may want to vote on decisions, and often feels a strong bond to the members. On the negative side they may treat the committee more like a council chamber, lobbying for one constituency over others and taking an adversarial approach with other committee members. The organisation is seen as serving the ‘constituents’.
2 Business (‘a business like approach’) an entrepreneurial, goal orientated person often willing to take risks. On the negative side they can get too close to senior manager, taking a ‘partnership’ approach to senior staff and blur responsibilities. Insufficient attention may be paid to some stakeholders and communication and a general tendency to look at the organisation as a business (fundamentally tricky as most non profit organisations represent a social response to failures of the market). The organisation is seen as a resource to be exploited and maximised.

3 Custodian “a trustee” perspective. This is the traditional charity trustee perspective. Generally this perspective is averse to risk, is concerned with the organisation’s good name and legacy and there is a strong feeling that they have been entrusted with something precious that they must look after and preserve.

We’re a self help organisations and this ‘charity’ talk isn’t really appropriate for us.

Two of the perspectives above; the ‘democrat’ and the ‘custodian’, often disguise a deeper division in perspectives. This is between a traditional charity model, in which there are three parties; donors (who give the money), beneficiaries (who receive the benefits) and trustees – a disinterested and impartial group who are essentially doing the bidding of the founding donors. This is the traditional charity/trust model upon which charity law is based. In this model, often known as philanthropy, the donors, generally from a higher, more wealthy social group, seek to do good for a poorer group further down the social ladder. However, increasingly during the last century many traditional ‘beneficiaries’ formed self-help organisations to help and empower themselves, seeing this model of working as more liberating and empowering. These two perspectives can be at logger heads as they are largely mutually exclusive. A committee containing people with both perspectives on it is probably heading for conflict.

There seem to be people on my committee coming to it with other perspectives than those you’ve mentioned

There are several lesser but common perspectives, including the Ambassador/Networker – outwardly focused and concerned with making links and connections not internal issues. The ‘Monarch’, happy to play a figurehead role; the ‘Firefighter’, who only really gets involved when there’s a crisis, etc

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A Word About Words

This site is aimed at those who govern (control) small organisations - whether they are charities, companies, both or neither. Those who govern them may be called a variety of names. We have chosen to use mainly 'management committee' and occasionally 'committee member' or 'trustee'. more...
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