Future Governance: A new practical model of participatory democracy for member-driven associations

This article was first drafted in the fall 2020 and was the basis of the intro video.

We Can Do Better Than Elected Boards

A member-driven association is an organizations whose primary purpose is to provide for the collective interests of members. Examples include:

As a rule, member-driven associations are governed by an elected Board of Directors, who give direction and hire and supervise an Executive to manage operations.


Board members are supposedly infused with the power to represent the members through the magic of elections. In reality, they are just self-selected people who volunteer to take on the position, often uncontested. If there is more than one candidate, there is no guarantee the winners of a popularity contest will be good representatives for the whole of the members. Once on the board, there is little to no assurance their meetings will lead to efficient or wise decisions. Professional association managers are all too familiar with boards who are benignly ineffective at best, or dysfunctional and problematic at worst.

We can do better.

I propose that the governance functions of a board of directors could be better accomplished if replaced with an alternative model of participatory democracy, achieved through a set of new roles and practices.

This article introduces the core concepts of this initial practical model and invites constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement. My aim is to develop the concept into a by-laws template document to enable organizations to experiment with this new model for themselves.

As a working title, I call this new model “Future Governance”.

Members Can Steer the Organization Directly

In Future Governance, the mission, goals, strategies and policies of the organization are formally approved through voting by members.

The Executive drafts policies and strategies based on member opinions as recognized through an ongoing program of member meetings and surveys. The meetings and surveys are frequent, efficient and reliably conducted by a professional facilitator, with published prioritized **idea rating results (**see further details below).