What are the biggest governance challenges and opportunities as the sector responds to Covid-19 and the #BlackLivesMatter Movement?
The pressure on trustees of cultural organisations through Covid-19 must not be underestimated. Previously manageable non-executive commitments have tripled in scale due to emergency planning, increased volume in meetings to ensure businesses remain afloat as well as extra support to staff and management. So governance burnout is a major new risk whilst individual trustees balance their own safety with their home and work lives. In 2020 governance became deadly serious.
The message of #BlackLivesMatter and also #WeShallNotBeRemoved, to place greater value on diversity of lived experience needs to be responded to openly and positively by arts boards. It is only right that boards reflect the public that pay for cultural organisations, regardless of race, disability, gender, age or sexuality. This is not a new concept and the sector has responded wholly inadequately over the last decade since the Equality Act came into force in 2010. Whilst the age of the pale, white & stale board has passed, the pace of change must quicken.
What’s the greatest opportunity that sector-wide good governance might bring?
How has cultural governance changed in the last 10 years?I
It has increased transparency, there is less grandee-ism and greater representation both demographically and in the expertise boards can now call on. There is also an increasing expectation of a mature relationship between boards and their funders.
How do you see the governance of culture evolving over the next 10 years, particularly with the civic role of the arts and the climate crisis in mind?
Boards of cultural organisations are facing deeply uncertain futures as a consequence of Covid-19. It will take years to recover from financially and in terms of the extra stress on people. But there is no hiding from the extra responsibilities facing trustees in the mid term either - continuous flux and change, understanding an individual organisation’s role in responding to the climate crisis and further democratisation of governance structures.
What three words best describe the qualities that are needed in trustees?
Patience. Enthusiasm. Hope.
Tell us about your first governance role. How did you learn the ropes?
I started early, as the student representative on the board of the MacRobert Arts Centre when I attended the University of Stirling in the 1980s. It offered invaluable on-the-job learning, which has stood me in good stead as my non-exec portfolio expanded through the years.
What governance challenges are you facing at the moment and what are you doing to overcome them?
Across the board burn out. Managing the scale of my own board commitments that have heavily increased through Covid-19. Supporting senior management teams who are working flat out.
What advice would you give prospective trustees/(or chairs) in the cultural sector?
Be prepared for challenge, from every angle. Don’t duck it, embrace it!
We hope you’ll join Andrew and a host of other fantastic speakers at Governance Now 2019 — the flagship conference for culture sector trustees and professionals.
Governance Now takes place online from 5 November to 26 November 2020 . Book tickets here.
Governance Now 2020 is sponsored by Saxton Bampfylde and promoted by the Cultural Governance Alliance, a network of sector agencies led by Clore Leadership.