Editors note: This article from the summer 2020 edition of the Nonprofit Quarterly is the third iteration of “Reframing Governance,” which was first published in 2006 and substantively updated in 2012 and 2020 to adapt to new dynamics in a new world. Here, David Renz posits that while we have been obsessively focused on our organizational boards, much of the real consequential action is occurring elsewhere.
The article “Reframing Governance” was initially published in the Nonprofit Quarterly in 2006 to identify and discuss the implications of what I then perceived as a new form of nonprofit governance emerging in our communities—a form of governance that operated beyond the level of individual boards in individual nonprofit organizations and was reshaping many dimensions of nonprofit governance. I was intrigued with the growth of multiorganizational nonprofit initiatives emerging to address complex community issues and needs that outstripped the scale and significance of the usual forms of partnerships and collaborative initiatives, and, in particular, highlighted the emergence of a new level of governance integral to them. This phenomenon has continued to grow and elaborate exponentially as increasingly larger networks of public-serving organizations (nonprofit and governmental)—often labeled cross-sector collaborations1 or collective impact initiatives2—emerge to address in new and more powerful ways the most complex and wicked of our communities’ compelling needs and problems. Further, fueled by the rapid expansion of a myriad of increasingly sophisticated digital technologies and applications, these initiatives have