Policy Governance

The Board of Directors of the NSHRF adopted the Carver Model of Policy Governance as its Governance Model. The Four Philosophical Foundations of Policy Governance are accountability, servant-leadership, clarity of group values and empowerment.


Given its owner-representative role, the Board’s obligation to the true owners is to see to it that the organization achieves what it should while avoiding unacceptable activities and situations. Governance is part of ownership, not part of management. Defaulting to staff, to vocal consumer groups, or even to individual board members is a dereliction of this stewardship. Assuring this accountability and being at arm’s length from its fulfillment must coexist.


As owner-representative, the Board is both servant to and leader of the ownership. Failing in either part of this dual trusteeship – whether because of conflicts of interest, self-aggrandizement, or even simple passivity – is an abuse of authority. Thus the Board adds value to the owners (not to the managers), in that owners not only have their wishes served but also become more enlightened, responsible owners. Providing leadership to the owners and being their servant must co-exist.

Clarity of group values

The Board is vested with group responsibility and group authority, whereas no single member has any. Yet the platform of authority afforded by board membership tempts members to impose individual desires on the organization. Expressing individual values is requisite to the forging of group values but is not authoritative outside the group. Group wisdom that emerges from this active interchange must be made explicit in order to be expressed with certainty. Rigorous diversity and group wholeness must coexist.


Although staff are employed to serve the Board’s will, both productivity and humanity are better served if the staff’s latitude to make decisions, to try new ways, and to make mistakes is maximized. The Board is accountable for the organization’s ethics about people and promises, just as with any other aspect of organization. Productivity and human dignity must coexist.

Source: The Policy Governance Fieldbook, 1999, Editor Caroline Oliver

Additional Information: Boards that Make a Difference, 2nd Edition, 1997, John Carver; Reinventing Your Board, 1997, John Carver