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Competency Development for Board Members in Public Park and Recreation Agencies

Amy R. Hurd

Abstract


This study sought to identify the competencies that board members in public parks and recreation agencies perceived as necessary to perform their duties. Competencies were defined as skills, knowledge, and characteristics needed to perform the duties of a board member. A systems theoretical framework guided the development of competencies. Systems theory has been used extensively in organizational development for many years and asserts that organizations are interdependent systems that rely on subsystems to achieve stability. When one part of the system is weak, it weakens the entire system. In public parks and recreation, board members are a major part of the organization, and their performance is pivotal to the effectiveness of the agency. The board influences all policies, services, and practices within an agency. Given this power and potential impact, a high performing board is imperative. Competencies may be the key to improving the performance of boards in public parks and recreation agencies.

A Delphi technique was used to collect data, and potential jurors were randomly selected from the National Recreation and Park Association’s Citizen Board Member Branch. A total of 23 jurors completed three rounds of data collection. They were asked to list the competencies they perceived as important for board members, rank the importance of the generated competencies to board members, determine if the developed competency categories were accurate, and determine if the competencies were assigned to the appropriate category. Based on the results of the Delphi process, the Board Member Competency Framework was developed. It consists of eight general competency categories and 56 specific competencies. The eight general competency categories included (a) advocacy, (b) board effectiveness, (c) community relations, (d) decision making, (e) education and experience, (f) finance and planning, (g) interpersonal characteristics, and (h) staff relations. There were nine competencies rated as extremely important. The highest rated competencies included (a) study issues before making decisions, (b) participate in committee and board meetings, (c) understand the purpose of the board, and (d) have the ability to make decisions. Given systems theory, the determined competencies serve as a framework for the development of training and procedures to aid board members in improving their performance which will ultimately impact the overall agency.


Keywords


Boards, competencies, delphi, jurors, public parks and recreation, nonprofits.

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