To continue to use the metaphor of the train, I will jump on another one. The Society act is another set of rules that govern not-for-profit organization. If an organization chooses to become a “charitable” association, then that is a railway with a variety of tracks that some will say lead to brick walls when it comes to developing a strong social service. The Society Act is for BC organizations and outlines rules, bylaws, and methods of governance. I have wrote about the barriers of this system before and will do so briefly now once more. The Society act in my opinion is a little bit like a process of smoke and mirrors. It is something that an organization needs to call themselves an not for profit organization, but it also gives each an opportunity to create a cryptic set of rules called bylaws. There are some basic bylaws scripted in the Act, but it is generally an organizations leadership that adds texture to it. I have personally been involved in crafting bylaws as well as supporting organizations to change them. In each circumstance following the adoption of these rules I find myself scratching my head wondering why did we do that to ourselves. You see, that while the bylaws (or any policy to that effect) seems like a good way to keep law and order, each one is also a binding “gag” order in it’s own peculiar way. You see, bylaws, policies, and rules complicate our work…it guides it…but it complicates it. Can there not be a better way? Can we not find a better system to create adaptive self-governance that exudes transparent, ethical, and charitable behaviour?
Jumping onto a third train in our train yard, there is this phenomena called “free market”. In this environment, the rules of success apply. Yes there are rules, but the rules adapt and shift under a greater pressure: The momentum of free enterprise. Dan Palotta (2010) speaks about the nefarious set of rules that charitable organizations have to weave through on a daily basis that businesses can easily avoid. He believes however that we have created these puritan rules and ultimately have cornered ourselves, creating our own restrictions and disabling our ability to be adaptive. I surely do not see us throwing out the Society Act but I surely do think it is time that we develop new governance models. Perhaps we need to use the new Community Contributions Company opportunity that allows not-for-profits in a way to own businesses. Perhaps this “social enterprise” is the new way to access the open market while maintaining a board of local governors? Perhaps its a way to have the best of both worlds? I think there is a better way. If you have time, I hope you will come to the next Community Inc. workshop preamble at Tim Hortons (Alderbridge Way in Richmond) on Monday August 25th in Richmond at 6pm. Together let’s find ways to uncover your organization’s talents and build a better practice.
Palotta, D. (2010). Uncharitable. University Press of New England, Hanover, MA.