Blog posts

Governance Now 2019: A Round-Up

By Rowena Price

A Clore Leadership event in partnership with the Cultural Governance Alliance.

Attendees at Governance Now 2019
Attendees at Governance Now 2019. Image by Roswitha Chesher.

On 8th November 2019 over 150 culture sector leaders, including many Cultural Governance Alliance members, gathered for the second edition of Governance Now - the flagship governance conference for culture sector trustees and professionals.

Returning after sell-out success in 2018, this year’s conference brought together a wide range of expert speakers to share insights and best practice to help you get ahead in the art of achieving good governance.

The day was supported by headline sponsors Saxton Bampfylde, who also shared pre-conference insights on governance reviews exclusively for the Cultural Governance Alliance. We also welcomed a group of young trustees who were sponsored to attend via generous support from Minerva Search.

With a focus on exploring practical solutions to common problems, speakers, facilitators and attendees tackled common knotty issues around governance structures, strategies and day-to-day relationship management.

“Thanks and congrats to Team Clore for a great day on Friday, really interesting speakers, lots of food for thought and great networking.” - Fiona Morris, Chief Executive & Creative Director, The Space

Top three takeaways

The day featured an abundance of top tips and shared experiences about how to create and maintain a high performing board, with a few key themes coming through strongly throughout. Here are our top three takeaways:

1. Build your board for the worst of times, not the best of times

This phase, succinctly coined by Gill Thewlis in her workshop session ‘Getting to Grips with Board Performance’ aptly highlighted similar advice imparted in a number of the day’s sessions. From the cautionary tale of what can be learned ‘When the Going Gets Tough’ from Oxfam’s Caroline Thomson, to the sobering story of the loss of a key member of staff from South East Dance’s Cath James, the notion of ‘preparing for the worst of times, not the best of times’ very much hit home with attendees in the room and those following proceedings on Twitter.

“No organisation is immune from crisis, that is something important I want to say, right at the beginning. But whilst you cannot immunise yourself against a crisis, you can take steps now to mitigate the impact of one if it should hit you.” - Caroline Thomson, Chair, Oxfam
Caroline Thompson speaking at Governance Now 2019
Caroline Thompson speaking at Governance Now 2019. Image by Roswitha Chesher.

And, therefore, we offer a provocation: is your board and leadership structure resilient enough to withstand unexpected challenges and curveballs? The NCVO Governance Wheel and the CGA Practical Guide to Governance are both excellent tools to help you assess and benchmark where you’re at and how you can improve.

2. Good governance cannot happen without clear communication and open conversations

Whether you’re dealing with a crisis situation, doing your utmost to ensure your organisation stays in financial control, getting to grips with safeguarding, or simply working to ensure best practice in board meetings and administration, time and time again our speakers stressed the crucial importance of paying attention to how you communicate, particularly between the Chair and the CEO.

“It’s easy to say that this balance is all about communication. And really it is. Every time I have seen the relationship between the Chair and the Chief executive break down, it’s been because they haven’t been communicating well.” - Moira Sinclair, Chief Executive, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Chair, Clore Leadership

In Moira’s keynote she extolled the virtues (and benefits) of paying close attention to the aspects of governance that make things clearer and less arduous for all involved. Creating space to breathe, writing better board papers, setting the agenda together, and creating a feedback loop all featured as ways to improve communication and effective team work in governance.

In addition, as Hilary Carty noted in an Arts Industry article about Governance Now, external communications, as well as internal, are also relevant to the role of the board.

“Awareness of the power of social media has heightened, and organisations are having to address that. So there’s a need to have really good communications across an organisation, a need to have a united perspective in dealing with challenges, and knowing where the responsibility lies… have a strategy.” - Hilary Carty, Director, Clore Leadership
Dave Young speaking at Governance Now 2019.
Dave Young speaking at Governance Now 2019. Image by Roswitha Chesher.

3. Ask yourself the question: how can you do your best work?

It was Dave Young, whilst taking part in a panel discussion following a series of lightning talks, who offered up one of the most resonant provocations of the day. The simplicity of the question ‘how can you do your best work?’ belies the profound importance of all of us asking this question of ourselves and of our colleagues, on a regular basis, and taking it seriously. It provoked a palpable ripple of resonance in the room, with attendees note-taking and tweeting about this most useful of prompts.

So - how can you do your best work? As a trustee, do you have the resources you need? Is your approach and the culture of your organisation conducive to you delivering governance to the highest possible standard and to the greatest effect?

The Cultural Governance Alliance exists to support you to achieve the best possible practice in good governance.

If you’re not already a member, sign up today for discounts to events like Governance Now, new content and guidance, network connections and a tangible opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to good governance in practice.

Watch keynotes and lightning talks

Be the first to know about future events like Governance Now by becoming a member of the Cultural Governance Alliance today - join us!

The next Clore Leadership governance event is Achieving & Maintaining a Diverse Board on 13th February 2020.

Visit the Clore Leadership website to find out more and register by 6th January 2019.

arts_councilFill 42BoardFill 1 CopyFill 1Fill 42Dropdown Copy 2FacebookFinanceInstagramLinkedInMenu ToggleSearcbui-chevron-nextui-chevron-prevArtboard 4RolesSearchStructuresStudyTwitterYouTube