Interviews & articles

Anna Lowe - Governance Now 2020 Speaker Interview

By Cultural Governance Alliance

This year’s Governance Now conference is all about how to anticipate and plan for the worst whilst delivering the best for your organisation.

In the run up, we caught up with Anna Lowe – Co-Founder and Director of Partnerships at Smartify and trustee at Tate - to hear her thoughts on the challenges and opportunities of ‘good governance’.

Anna Lowe

Tell us about your first governance role. How did you learn the ropes?

My first governance role was Tate Trustee! Although as a business owner I have experience working with my board and advisory board. At Tate I spent the first year getting to know the departments, talking to lots of people and meeting 1-2-1 with other Trustees. I also try to focus on the areas where I can add value rather than feeling a need to comment on everything going on.

How has cultural governance changed in the last 10 years?

I think it has become more inclusive… although there is still a long way to go.

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?

Trustees need to be brave in demanding change – even if it costs more or presents more challenges and risks. Even if arts organisations cannot directly impact the wider course of change, they can direct the character of change and support the artists and audiences involved in this work.

What’s the greatest opportunity that sector-wide good governance might bring?

To create resilient and trusted spaces for creativity and life-long learning.

What three words best describe the qualities that are needed in trustees?

Wisdom, Empathy, Curiosity.

What governance challenges are you facing at the moment and what are you doing to overcome them?

Tate like all national museums has issues with white supremacy and a lack of diversity throughout the organisation. I am co-chairing a Race Equality Taskforce with fellow trustee Farooq Chaudhry that will recommend actions we can take to move forward and create a more inclusive and equitable organisation.

What are the biggest governance challenges and opportunities as the sector responds to Covid-19 and the #BlackLivesMatter Movement?

The biggest governance challenge is boards that do not have diverse lived experience. Organisations need to do better in changing board recruitment processes and board culture to welcome trustees that accurately reflect the local communities within with they serve.

The biggest governance opportunity is to use this crisis year to refocus who arts organisations are for, and what role do the museum play in representing history and conveying ideas for future generations. Trustees should be supporting executives to rethink all existing systems.

What advice would you give prospective trustees/(or chairs) in the cultural sector?

Be brave, be open and be respectful. There as many things you can learn from fellow trustees. A board functions best from a place of mutual respect and friendship between the group.

We hope you’ll join Anna and a host of other fantastic speakers at Governance Now 2020 — 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.

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