Appendix 12: Five Action Steps to Inclusive Governance

Five Action Steps to Inclusive Governance

  • Start the conversation
  • Assess inclusivity
  • Develop inclusive governance policies and practices
  • Adopt strategies to develop a learning culture
  • Embed a culture of inclusion


It can be a challenge to start the conversation about inclusive governance.  This toolkit provides you with resources to support you in this process:

Developing a framework for inclusive governance (Appendix 1) provides a form-fill document that you can work through with your board. You can share it with your board members before the meeting so that they have time to think about the questions.

Our Further Resources section includes information on:

  • Power and privilege:  how to understand it and talk about it
    • Diversity toolkit: a guide to discussing identity, power and privilege
  •  The relationship between diversity, equity and inclusion
    • Tips for valuing diversity
    • A place at the table: understanding diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Unconscious bias
    • Unconscious bias and the board
    • Are you biased? I am
    • Managing unconscious bias: strategies to manage bias and build more diverse, inclusive organizations 


Once you’ve had the initial conversation, it is helpful to do an assessment.  Assessment tools can be useful because they help you to ‘check-in’ and ask yourselves some questions.  They also provide another way to continue the conversation.

Levels of Inclusion Assessment Tool (Appendix 2) provides a self-assessment form that you can work through with your board. You can share it with your board members before the meeting so that they have time to think about the questions and then set aside some time in the meeting to discuss the results of the assessment. We have included a debrief resource for use by the facilitator after the board has completed the assessment. You can find this tool in Discussion Tool to Assess Inclusivity (Appendix 3).

Once you have completed your discussion based on the assessment tool in Appendix 2, you may be interested in further assessment or similar resources.  Another assessment tool is the Diversity inclusion and equity assessment tool.


Now that you have had some important conversations with your board, the next step is to focus on your current and future governance board policies

Determine if you have a board diversity policy or a board diversity and inclusion policy.

If you have such a policy, form a committee to:

  • Review the current board diversity policy
  • Recruit new board members for the committee, ensuring diversity
  • Ensure that board orientation and ongoing development needs are met
  • Ensure the committee has terms of reference, review sample format, Appendix 4, and sample roles and responsibilities in Appendix 5.
  • Evaluate how the policy is working and changes that have taken place within the board since its inception. Were these changes positive? Were they expected?
  • Review and make recommendations to the board about:
    • changes to board composition, outreach and recruitment
    • board size, structures, policies and procedures
    • by-law amendments and board attendance
    • changes/additions to the policy, such as new language about equity and inclusion

Determine if you have a board recruitment policy.

If you have such a policy, form a committee to:

  • Review your recruitment and selection processes for new board members in the context of your conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion.
    • Is there any policy or practice you would change?
    • Is there any process you would change to make board recruitment more welcoming to potential members?
  • Ask newer board members about their experience of recruitment. If there were potential members who did not join your board, you could ask them if the process played a role in their decision (Although this type of evaluation can be difficult, it can yield great insights for your board).

If you do not have a diversity and inclusion policy or a board recruitment policy, forming these policies should be on your agenda at a governance board meeting in the near future. onBoard Canada has developed a toolkit and online training resources to support you in this process:


This next step is one that you may revisit many times since changing an existing culture takes time and effort.  The following is an action-oriented process that will help to move you forward to build a more inclusive culture for your board:

As preparation for this next step, invite your board to read over the section Go Beyond Token Representation in Chapter 4: Section 4.4.

Identify a priority group or groups to include on your board. Choose one or two areas to focus on over the next quarter, such as Incorporating Practices of Universal Design in Chapter 4.

Use the resource we have developed in Appendix 9, Discussion Questions on Developing an Inclusive Culture.

Based on your response to the discussion questions, develop an action plan that includes ways to consult and connect with people from the priority groups.

Create short and long-term goals and establish an evaluation plan that involves continuous improvement for inclusion. The ultimate goal is to include all relevant priority groups for your board’s mandate.

For more detailed information on priority groups and inclusive practices, please check our list of Further Resources.


By the time you reach this step, your board will have done a lot of important work. There may have been challenges and resistance to change.

This final step encourages you to take stock of your progress to create a culture of inclusion, by following Action Steps #1-4.

Here are some questions you may want to consider.

  • Have there been changes in your board?  What has caused those changes? You may decide to revisit the Levels of Inclusion Assessment Tool.
  • What actions have we completed to build inclusive governance?
  • What evidence do we have that we have made changes?
  • What are our next steps?

Take time to celebrate your successes and to affirm the steps that you have taken.


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