Governance corner
Practical tips from our MIG faculty
Identifying your board’s unity of purpose

Governing bodies work most effectively when they establish a rational and purposeful framework to focus and guide their efforts. One of the most important things we do as a governance team is identify our “unity of purpose.” What is this, and how is it different than a mission and vision? A unity of purpose is a clear and unambiguous purpose, which can be a written statement or shared understanding, that becomes the inspiration for all efforts, and the lens through which those efforts are viewed. The unity of purpose is an all-embracing sense of what the organization is, what it stands for and how the governance team functions.

The unity of purpose is the umbrella under which the board’s mission and vision live. The vision determines where we are going, and the mission provides the plan for how we will arrive at our destination. A strong unity of purpose conveys the values that guide behavior, defines the character of relationships, and frames the style and culture of the organization. It represents the overarching goal that transcends individual agendas and special interests.

Having a unity of purpose demonstrates that the governing board cares first and foremost about what is best for students. This simple statement reflects the governance team’s understanding of its responsibility to provide focused leadership and direction to the local educational agency.

To identify your governance team’s unity of purpose, consider these important questions:

  1. Why is it important to serve as a part of a governance team?
  2. Who are we? What is our purpose? To whom are we responsible?
  3. What do we value and believe in about the work of school boards, public education and the students we serve?
  4. What are we most proud of in our organization?
  5. As a governing board, what do we want to accomplish?
  6. How have we prioritized resources to support these efforts?
  7. What do we, as a governing board, stand for?
  8. How do we wish to be perceived by our community?
  9. What legacy do we want our governance team to leave?
  10. When we have difficult decisions to make, how will we be mindful of our shared principles and beliefs?

A unity of purpose helps team members transcend their differences to fulfill a greater purpose. Resources to help your team identify its unity of purpose include The Governance Core by Davis Campbell and Michael Fullan and CSBA’s Good Beginnings Workshops, facilitated by a CSBA Governance Consultant.