Judging the Inaugural Charity Governance Awards

Charity Governance Award

I was delighted to present the “Board Diversity and Inclusion Award” at the Charity Governance Awards ceremony on the 12 May 2016 to Leap Confronting Conflict, a charity that works with young people to manage conflict and to reduce violence in communities.

 

This inaugural award recognises excellent governance and true commitment to diversity. Nominees were judged on their efforts to attract a broad range of trustees and then support trustees to participate fully, along with a broader culture which welcomes different opinions. The well-deserved winner, Leap, is led by young people’s passion and insight, and has high standards of governance and board scrutiny.

 

Hosted by The Clothworkers’ Company in partnership with New Philanthropy Capital, Prospectus and Reach, the event was held in the City of London’s lovely historic Clothworkers’ Hall. It opened with a thought provoking keynote speech by BBC broadcaster and journalist, Edward Stourton.

 

A great evening and wonderful opportunity to shine a spotlight on challenging diversity issues within the Charity sector

A Fresh Prespective for the Board

British Lung Foundation logo On Tuesday 24th November I was invited to speak to the Board of the British Lung Foundation, a charity that funds vital research to save and improve the lives of people with lung disease.

At their ‘away day’ in London, we spoke about the importance of good governance and the vital role they have as trustees in upholding the organisation’s vision and embedding good governance across the organisation.

As an objective outsider I enjoy adding a fresh perspective and giving insight into different approaches that organisations can take to model their values, enhance their performance and deliver the mission.

 

Sharing Experiences at the Annual Trustee Exchange

On the 21 April I was honoured to be asked to share my experiences as Chair of Scope at Civil Society Media’s eighth annual Trustee  Exchange at America Square Conference Centre in London.  My keynote speech charted the ups and downs of steering governance through a period of rapid change post 2008.

 

No matter how turbulent the internal or external environment, a Chair needs to ensure the Keynote Speakerorganisation is fulfilling its purpose and serving all its beneficiaries.  I believe that during uncertain times and rapid change it is even more important for the Board to hang onto the organisation’s Vision, Mission and Values – and a key role for the incumbent Chair is to support the Board to hold its nerve in the midst of ambiguity and uncertainty in order to deliver the Mission, in accordance with the Values, eyes focused firmly on the Vision.

 

However, the challenge for the outgoing Chair, who no longer has any influence or standing (and rightly so), is to trust the Board will continue doing just that, regardless of its changing circumstances.

Rethinking an inclusive approach

Revitalise LogoOn the 24 March I was delighted to be able to facilitate a Board Strategy session for Revitalise. Revitalise is an established national charity that provides short breaks and holidays for disabled people and carers.

The board session was lively and provided a useful opportunity for board members to discuss and think through what makes for an inclusive Revitalise offering; what does inclusion really mean in the context of their vision, mission and values?

For me, it was rewarding seeing board members enthusiastically sharing ideas about how they could deliver more inclusive services in order to enhance the great work Revitalise does. I’m looking forward to hearing how their thinking develops in future.

 

Inspirational Stories of Governance

Inspirational Stories Panel Discussion

Trustees Week, celebrating the role of trustees and championing best practice in governance, was officially launched at the annual NCVO / BWB Trustee Conference at The Brewery in London on the 10 November.

I was delighted to be a part of the afternoon keynote panel addressing ‘Inspirational Stories of Governance’.

I was struck by the title and drawn to consider why governance is inspiring.  Excellence in governance may help us preserve the past – an organisation considered a ‘national treasure’ for instance – and it may help us to serve our beneficiaries well in the present.  But in the end, for me, it has to be because it can help us create a better future.

As I said on the day, it may sound grandiose but a better future for the human race is what I’m in it for.  And listening to the others on the panel and to audience members, I certainly found their stories inspiring!

Spotlight on the Charity Chairs Conference

Chairs Conference

The chair’s leadership role is vital in driving good governance in the organisation, but it can be a lonely at the top. This is why the Charity Chairs Conference this week in London was such a useful forum for charity chairs to get together in constructive dialogue and discuss the challenges and issues they face.

 

The conference was a year long culmination of the fantastic Lord Mayor’s Charity Leadership programme, which has provided a much needed spotlight on leadership within charities and brought together the City and charity chairs. It has also helped make a practical difference to chairs in charities through a programme of training, forums and thought leadership.

 

I was delighted to be on the panel discussing the Diversity of Boards chaired by Lord Gus Macdonald.  The lively panel discussion helped illustrate the many different types, makeups and sizes of non-profit Boards and provided useful ‘food for thought’ for delegates and panel members alike.

 

 

Staff at Board Meetings

There has been a ripple of concern running through the sector following guidance from the Charity Commission that seemed to imply that staff – including the CEO – should only rarely attend Board meetings.

 

Whilst it’s important for Board members to recognise and faithfully fulfil their responsibility for making decisions independently, I cannot see how we could make effective decisions without concurrent input from staff, whose executive knowledge of operations will always be deeper than our non-executive understanding.

 

The original guidance was much too stringent and counter productive to the effective operation of a Board.  In my experience having staff present helps Board members acquire insight into all areas of the organisation and builds a sense of unity of purpose across the executive and non-executive leadership alike.  Likewise, being present as Board members debate and discuss gives staff – and the CEO in particular – a deep understanding of the ‘mind’ of the Board.  It gives a coherent approach to strategy and planning, and supports the elimination of silo working by functional leaders.

 

Fortunately, the Charity Commission has attempted to clarify the guidance.  In my view, though, it still doesn’t go far enough in acknowledging the benefits of shared understanding and insight amongst the leadership in fulfilling the organisation’s mission.

Finalist at the IoD London and South East Director of the Year Awards

LON-SE-FINALIST-2013-black-300x108This week I was thrilled to attend the IoD London and South East Director of the Year Awards where I was shortlisted as one of three finalists in two categories, the ‘turnover over £60 million’ and ‘public and third sector’ categories. Congratulations go to Clive Lucking and Joy Saunders who pipped me to the post respectively – both worthy winners.

The gala dinner and awards evening was held in the magnificant Nash and Waterloo rooms at the Institute headquarters on Pall Mall. It was a really enjoyable evening and wonderful to be able to catch up with fellow members and old friends.

 

A New Association that Provides Support for Chairs

Association of ChairsAfter a year in the planning the Association of Chairs, a peer support and best practice organisation for non profit Chairs, successfully launched last month in London.

As a founding trustee of the Association I was delighted to see our hard work come to fruition. The support across the Third Sector has been overwhelming and since the launch on the 24th October membership has grown steadily, validating our belief that a significant gap existed in support available to non profit Chairs.

At the launch event we shared the results of the recent research we’ve undertaken in conjunction with NCVO, which will help define the next steps for the Association’s research agenda and we heard from some distinguished speakers about the role of the Chair and its importance to the organisation.

I was delighted to close the evening’s speeches by sharing my experiences as a Chair. How I believe that as the organisation’s Chair it deserves for me to know what I’m doing, so it can maximise the difference it makes for those it serves. Hence the valuable support role the Association can offer Chairs who may otherwise feel isolated.