Good Governance Project

APA Good Governance Project 2014 Update

In this video, 2014 APA President Nadine Kaslow, PhD, explains the results of the Good Governance Project (GGP) — a multiyear effort to optimize the association's governing system for the needs of the 21st century. In their report to the Council of Representatives in August of 2013, the GGP team outlined seven proposals for change. Kaslow explains the changes proposed and council's historic actions creating a new model of governance for the association.

If you have any questions or ideas, please contact Nancy Gordon Moore.

Phase I


Good Governance Project Report to Council: Assessment of Current Governance (PDF, 537KB)

Between February-July 2011, governance gathered data using:

  • Guided group discussions with the council and others, with 270 written responses.
  • Thirty qualitative telephone interviews.
  • More than 400 surveys from all key stakeholder groups to assess perceptions of APA's governance.
  • Initial benchmarking interviews with relevant associations to collect stories of how other organizations are addressing governance issues.

The GGP team reviewed and analyzed data, identifying areas to further explore in order to determine if APA’s governance is optimized. They tested themes, shared relevant information about success trends in governance and conducted in depth discussions while collecting feedback on key topics.

As part of the assessment, the team looked at the data in light of typical symptoms of stress in the governance system (PDF, 72KB) and developed a taxonomy of governance (PDF, 141KB) to assist in the analysis.

Themes from the gathered data
  • APA’s governance is complex, at times cumbersome. It provides opportunities for everyone to be heard. It generally results in good, but not timely, decisions.
  • There is confusion between involvement in governance and the programmatic systems that engage members in the organization. Currently, the primary way to engage with the organization is to become involved in governance.
  • It is generally unclear who is responsible for what, with little evidence of accountability. This is true both organizationally and individually, and for volunteers and staff.
  • Responses generally expressed parochial views, filtered through constituency lenses.
  • APA's governance is perceived to be a closed and political system. There is dynamic competition for leadership positions and recycling is commonplace, which impacts the balance between institutional knowledge and fresh ideas. There is widespread discouragement among those who seek to enter leadership roles.
  • There is no process to identify priorities — all issues are handled as “one size fits all” and everyone is invited to weigh in on everything.
  • There is frustration about governance, as well as hope for change, and there is general agreement that governance needs to be “updated.” This is accompanied by a desire to “not lose anything.”


Good Governance Project Report to Council: Options for Change (PDF, 1.1MB)

In response to the council’s directive at the February 2012 meeting, GGP presented the representatives with three options for change, ranging from incremental to moderate to clean slate scenarios.

  1. Incremental change to the existing system
  • Remove perceived barriers to governance responsiveness and streamline the council agenda.
  • Create a triage system.
  • Increase accountabilities and linkage to the strategic plan.
  • Increase use of technologies.
  1. Moderate change to existing system
  • Authority is split between a Board of Trustees for “corporate” and internal policy roles, a “Communities of Interest Assembly,” and boards and committees for specialized content.
  • Governance bodies are competency-based, and broadly representative of communities of interest rather than organizational units.
  • Includes new mechanisms for increased direct member input, triage, evaluation of strategic alignment, and expanded selection and orientation process.
  1. Clean slate — a new governance design
  • Establish a Board of Governors with diverse representation but a much smaller number of members than the current council.
  • Use technology to increase communications and efficiency.
  • Utilize ad hoc working groups and convene ad hoc summits to be aware of APA's operational environment.
After dialogue and deliberation, the council indicated they were ready for a change in governance models. In a fairly even split, they endorsed both the moderate and the clean slate scenarios.

Final Recommendations

GGP released its final report in June 2013. The proposed change strategy presented to APA's Council of Representatives contains seven major elements. While each element of this change strategy builds on previous decisions, many of the proposed changes could stand alone. There is a fundamental assumption that there will be a board-like body and a council-like body.

Recommended Changes to Maximize Organizational Effectiveness of APA Governance (PDF, 638KB)

APA's Board of Directors reviewed the report at its 2013 convention meeting, and made revisions to several motions in an effort to incorporate feedback received through virtual town hall meetings and during council’s July 31 session. The motions the board developed related to the structure and function of the board and council vary somewhat from what was recommended by the GGP Team.

During its session on Aug. 2, 2013, council voted to approve eight motions. The final motion adopted created a working group to implement the plans for governance changes.

See Phase II: Implementation for more details.

GGP Team

Good Governance Project Team

APA appointed a project team of 15 APA members and five supporting liaisons (both APA staff and representatives from a consulting firm, Cygnet Strategy LLC). The team members represent diverse stakeholder perspectives. They are also known to be able to disagree without being disagreeable, and are committed to collaborative inquiry and learning.

Phase II

Council Actions

During its session on Aug. 2, 2013, council voted to approve eight motions. The final motion adopted created a working group to implement the plans for governance changes.

  1. Technology
    Enhance the use of technology to engage members.
  2. Leadership development
    Open and broaden opportunities for leadership participation and development.
  3. Triage system
    Consider items based on level of significance to the organization, the public, the discipline and APA members.
  4. Council purpose
    Refocus the work of the council from being a reactive, relatively passive body, to being active and engaged in directing development of policy.
  5. Fiduciary roles
    Separate fiduciary roles: the council focuses on policies related to the discipline, and the board focuses on running the organization and external relationships.
  6. Board composition
    Reconfigure the board to be more broadly representative of the general membership, increasing size from 12 to 15 members.
  7. Council structure
    Restructure the council to accommodate substantive changes and increase effectiveness in the future.

    Council looked at several models from very minor changes (Model 7A) to significant change (Model 7B or 7C):
    1. Model 7A retains the current structure, simply adding a leadership team to help manage the work flow of the newly added functions and specifying guaranteed seats for both the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students and Early Career Psychologists.
    2. Model 7B reduces the size of the council somewhat while creating space for valuable input from those who currently have no mechanism for governance engagement; reduces the size to about 135; supports a more issue focused process; and adds a leadership team to manage work flow.
    3. Model 7C, the “pillar model,” moves away from organizational representation and instead is organized around the pillars of the APA mission: science, education, practice, human welfare and health. A sixth pillar, advocacy, is also proposed. Each pillar would be represented by 15 seats, balanced by diversity (demographic and career level) and expertise in strategic and emerging issues. A leadership team is added to manage work flow.
    4. Model 7D, proposed on the floor, is a hybrid model containing elements of 7B and 7C.

    Council voted in favor of significant change (essentially eliminated 7A from consideration). There was not a clear majority in favor of one of the three remaining models, although there seemed to be a preference for retaining state and division seats, as found in models 7B and 7D. The Implementation Working Group (IWG) was asked to flesh out these two models and bring more details back to council for further consideration.
  8. Implementation Work Group
    Task IWG with developing implementation and transition plans of the changes adopted by the council.

Implementation Working Group (IWG) Team

APA 2013 President Donald N. Bersoff, PhD, JD, appointed the working group charged with developing the specific implementation plans of the governance changes that council adopted and presenting these to council for approval beginning in February 2014. IWG began work in fall 2013.

The Implementation Working Group members are:
  • Chair: Melba J.T. Vasquez, PhD
    Anderson House at Heritage Square │ Austin, Texas
  • Vice Chair: William J. Strickland, PhD
    HumRRO │ Alexandria, Va.
  • Mark Appelbaum, PhD
  • Martha E. Banks, PhD
  • Armand Cerbone, PhD
  • Ayse Ciftci, PhD
  • Paul Craig, PhD
  • John Hagen, PhD
  • Josephine Johnson, PhD
  • Linda Knauss, PhD
  • Bonnie Markham, PhD, PsyD
  • Ali Mattu, PhD
  • Marsha McCary, PhD
  • Gilbert Newman, PhD
  • Allen Omoto, PhD
  • Vivian Ota Wang, PhD
  • Mitch Prinstein, PhD
  • Kristi Sands Van Sickle, PsyD
  • Nancy Sidun, PsyD
  • Emily Voelkel, MA
  • Milo Wilson, PhD