While individuals can do a lot, the wellbeing of the world's people depends largely on how well their institutions function. I have been particularly interested in improving the operation of not-for-profit institutions, which range in scale from families to international organizations. The areas beyond my own family in which I have contributed the most effort have been cooperatives (i.e., businesses owned by their customers), colleges (especially Austin Community College), and politics (leftish, but with some footnotes and heresies). Here are some of my projects in this area which have left web-postable traces.
ACC Board Advisory Committee on Budget & Finance: I greatly enjoyed working on this advisory group appointed by Austin Community College trustees, in which I was able to combine my deep experience with ACC (and that of supporting ACC staff members) with the wider perspectives of several dedicated community members. Our final report summarizes our work.
Friends of ACC: This organization was formed for an uphill but successful campaign to encourage Austin voters to gradually double their rate of tax support for Austin Community College (it will remain below state average). One of my contributions was a communications web site. Friends of ACC is continuing as a support organization for efforts by citizens in neighboring communities to join the ACC district.
West Austin Democrats: While I am more than willing to acknowledge the many flaws in the Democratic party, I see it as the only reasonable avenue through which to approach direct electoral politics within the Texas and U.S. governments. Some of the finest people I know are veterans of work in this arena. On the other hand, the power and money orientation of American politics, especially above the local level, is not inviting. This pair of conclusions has led me to recently put some of my time into serving as an officer of the West Austin Democrats political club and trying to find ways to enhance its effectiveness. A web site that I provided for fall 2004 enabling people to check if their friends among the 585,000 Travis County voters had early-voted yet attracted over 80,000 lookups in the October 22 - November 2 period.
Balcones Camp Fire Council: I have recently begun service on the board of the local Camp Fire USA organization (originally Camp Fire Girls, but coeducational since 1975). This youth program, whose flexible approach supports and extends the families of its participants, deserves to be much better known.
Policy Governance: During eight years as an elected Trustee for a large community college, I coordinated the development and implementation of a policy-based model of Board operation adapted from John Carver's Policy Governance™ system. That model, and the policies and discussion materials it generated, are explained in the materials linked to from this page. I welcome inquiries from people involved with other non-profit institutions about Austin Community College's experience with these ideas. Look at the Austin Policy Model section of the ACC web site for an overview of this work.
Open Governance: I developed the Board of Trustees portion of the ACC web site. It is oriented toward content and information, rather than form, but provided a level of visibility of Board operations that is uniquely high among American colleges.
Financial Analysis: Knowledge of basic accounting principles is one of
the best tools available to promote good institutional governance. These
ideas are too useful to be left solely in the service of greed. Here
is an introductory summary and explanation,
derived from a commentary I once wrote for Wheatsville
Food Cooperative. Recent
improvements in governmental accounting standards means that public
entities (except the federal government) will henceforth have to use similar
reporting principles, a welcome change. Recently, I have used my
membership on a financial advisory
committee for the Austin Community College Board to promote the use of
financial modeling in guiding ACC planning and policy development.