Does Democracy Exist In The Voluntary Sector?

Does democracy exist in the voluntary sector?  I would argue that is not the case, but then I would also argue that there is not democracy in the public sector either.  Evidence would suggest otherwise because the voluntary sector has accountability and transparent practices in producing minutes and democratic voting at events such as Annual General Meetings.

Without naming organisations and saving getting a disgruntled letter, in my experience democracy does not exist in the voluntary sector.  My own observations are that the larger the size of the Board the lesser the levels of democracy are in place with only 2 – 3 Board members putting forward cases for strategies and operational practices that are agree upon.  Board members are, on paper, equals but that is not what happens.  Board members go about getting their suggestions through based on alliances rather than logic.  If Board members are in key roles such as Chair, Treasurer or Secretary then anything they say goes, as a general rule.

Sometimes these suggestions from some rather forceful people have been to the detriment of long-term financial growth for voluntary bodies.  It is too easy for Boards to agree to take the voluntary organisation down the route that the Chair, etc understand. 

Whilst status quo is not being advocated here, what Boards need to be wary of is a Board member, or members, taking an organisation down a route that is completely new and does not have a proven track record to work, or even any evidence of how it might work. 

Board members are generally well-meaning community spirited individuals which also means that they might be more prone to giving people the benefit of the doubt.  What needs to be impressed upon all Board members is to take a pedantic approach to decision making by ensuring that those are evidence based.  Go further and question evidence provided. 

If an idea stands up to scrutiny, then it will probably be a good idea.  Evidence presented that is based on one individual claiming success is not enough.  Independent evidence needs to be submitted for safe decision making. 

Do not allow yourselves to be lured into something you do not understand or have not been presented with logical evidence.  If Board members find themselves saying that they do not understand what is being presented but are happy to go with along with what is being presented then that is a dangerous position to be in.  Decisions made on that basis are flawed.  What should happen is that details should be explained to Board members who do not understand what is being presented.  Not only is that the fairest thing to do it is a respectful approach and demonstrates genuine team work and genuine democracy.

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