In 2016, the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards began addressing a problem with its board. The CLARB leadership pipeline was proving to be almost unworkably narrow: Its 12 board members were all required to be licensed landscape architects, with 18 months of active engagement with the association prior to a board run. Those restrictions limited the pool of nominees, its strategic skill sets, and its overall diversity.
“When your leadership pipeline can only come from your membership, and your membership is very small and it’s made up of later-career Caucasian men, your access to diversity is very limited,” said CLARB Chief Strategy Officer Veronica Meadows, CAE.
Addressing that challenge would ultimately require a change in CLARB’s bylaws. But before that, the association needed to have a conversation about how it would identify knowledge and diversity gaps in the board and the best ways to fill them. To that end, CLARB convened a pair of task forces to look at competencies that would be essential for a forward-looking board and to develop a structure that would include board members with those competencies, even if they weren’t part of CLARB’s typical pool of candidates.
That work resulted in a proposed bylaws change that would allow for appointed at-large board positions to address competency gaps. When the proposal was first put to a vote among membership in 2018, it failed narrowly—a lesson, Meadows says, about the importance of communicating the need for change to members. After CLARB leadership redoubled its efforts to communicate the benefits of the plan, the proposal passed unanimously in 2019.