Avoiding Board Politics—No, We Mean Really!

board meeting” by Nosha

May 21, 2017; Salt Lake Tribune

So, far be it for NPQ to say “we told you so,” but the so-called “collective impact” body that’s been charged with making decisions on homeless services in the Salt Lake City region is not acting very collectively.

We reported on May 1st that the highly politicized public squabble over the still-open board seats at Shelter the Homeless did not bode well for the future of the effort.

[Salt Lake County Mayor Ben] McAdams said up until now there’s been “no formal mechanism” for coordination and collaboration between the city, state, and county on homelessness issues—which is why the county’s Collective Impact on Homelessness Committee has called for a “backbone” organization to coordinate services and hold service providers accountable to goals in the future.

But cohesive accountability is certainly not the hallmark of the effort to date, if we are to believe the Salt Lake City Tribune. While the paper reports that a decision has been made about where to site two of three new shelters divided by gender, no one knows, apparently, who made the decision and based upon what. The nonprofit purportedly leading the homeless-reform effort announced two sites on Friday, but one of the nonprofit’s board members knew nothing of it and executive director Janell Fluckiger disclaimed responsibility.

“Our organization didn’t make that decision and therefore didn’t vote on that,” said Fluckiger. “The subpopulation was a decision that was made that we did not make.”

The county mayor said weeks ago that it was the nonprofit’s decision, but then later said the decision was made by some combination of mayors, mayoral staff, and legislators. Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupsi thinks there are process problems. McAdams does not.

Apparently, no one wants to take full responsibility for deciding the siting of the different populations, though a lot of shade is getting thrown around. An article in the same paper on May 18th describes the group’s most recent meeting as contentious.

If readers will remember, we wrote on May 1st that:

The paper also reports that a closed session discussion of the current board took up the topic of the appropriate role of elected officials on the board. These kinds of boards, where representatives come in to advocate for or represent a distinct group of stakeholders rather than to advocate for the mission as a whole, can be very tough creatures to get moving in a single cohesive direction.

This attempt at “collective impact” becomes somewhat pathetic in practice, proving once again that just because you smack a label on something does not mean that thing is suddenly transformed. You actually have to act differently to get it done. For more reading on this topic, please see “Collaborating for Equity and Justice: Moving Beyond Collective Impact.”—Ruth McCambridge