Blog posts

Governance Now 2020: A Round-Up

By Cultural Governance Alliance

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

Attendees at Governance Now 2020

This year, over 150 culture sector leaders, including many Cultural Governance Alliance members and some new faces, gathered online for Governance Now - the flagship governance conference for culture sector trustees and professionals.

In a year of immense change and upheaval, attendees and speakers came together virtually to share insights and best practice on how good governance is critical in ensuring that arts and culture organisations weather the storm of 2020.

The conference was supported by headline sponsors Saxton Bampfylde, who shared pre-conference insights on overcoming strategic challenge, exclusively for the Cultural Governance Alliance.

The conference kicked off during Trustee’s Week, and took place over the month of November, ensuring that as many people as possible could benefit from the insightful keynotes, invigorating provocations and informative workshops that we had lined up.

Although the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sector was central to the themes covered throughout the conference, there were many moments of hope and regeneration despite the difficult circumstances. Ultimately, delegates were offered an opportunity to connect, exchange and explore our collective routes out of this year’s challenges and ways to navigate those still to come.

We opened proceedings on Thursday 5 November, with the theme of diversity and community. Keynote speaker Nina Simon, CEO of the non-profit organisation OF/BY/FOR ALL, delivered a speech on Revisioning Relevance.Nina asked some questions around why we should choose to change in a time of uncertainty, how to unlearn deeply ingrained habits and assumption that are keeping us from growing, and which communities we might lean towards who exist outside our bubbles.

“We have a responsibility as leaders to shift and grow community power, address power imbalances whilst also engaging and working with traditional communities to invite them to be part of the change.” – Nina Simon

Nina Simon’s community focused keynote was an appropriate reminder to all who were listening that despite the feelings disconnectedness brought about by the circumstances of Covid-19, one of the benefits of migrating to a virtual format was that she was able to join us from the United States.

Similarly, a common thread that joined the provocations from Hilary Jennings, Tom Spurgin and Andrew Barnett was the need for more organic, authentic and sustained engagement with marginalised communities.

Vyla Rollins, Executive Director of the London Business School Leadership Institute, delivered the keynote, opening the second week. Vyla shared many tips on adaptability with the conference delegates, expressing that “rising to deal with [the challenge of Covid-19] involves injecting adaptability into every single aspect of our lives and work.”

In their provocations, Alan Lane and Sophie Lewis both shared the ways in which their organisations have shifted and adapted to deal with Covid-19. Slung Low have formed a community support hub and facilitated a food bank for their local community to alleviate food scarcity brought about by the pandemic. Sophie highlighted the National Children’s Orchestra’s shift to digital working and how this has encouraged her team to be ambitious and creative in their programme delivery. Judith Miller explained that risk management for organisations does not mean the avoidance of risk altogether, but rather about building the confidence to “take risks with our eyes open”.

“We need to be a culture focused on learning and improvement and not a culture of blame.” – Judith Miller

The balance between values and risk was explored by Clore Leadership Fellow Damian Hebron on 19 November. Damian chaired a panel including Chiara Badiali, Andrew Miller and Vicki Amedume. The key takeaway from the panel debate was that organisations should do more to prioritise the climate crisis and diversity initiatives in their risk planning, as this ensures that marginalised voices are centred and that the sector models sustainability and longevity. A risk workshop hosted by Good Governance Institute allowed conference delegates to apply their learning from the panel debate directly to their own organisations.

“This is the biggest crisis the world has experienced since WWII, there will be continual flux and change, but the opportunities to grasp important issues around climate crisis, representation and democratisation... They're huge.” – Andrew Miller

To wrap up Governance Now 2020, former Clore Leadership Chair and author Sir John Tusa took the virtual stage as our final keynote speaker. Drawing on decades of Governance experience, Sir John shared anecdotes from his time on Boards serving as both a trustee and chair, giving delegates advice on how they can utilise their own experience on Boards to affect positive change. Anna Lowe offered a response to the keynote by John Tusa, and shared her own perspectives on Governance as a young trustee. Anna showed the great value in boards embracing views from younger people – particularly in their ability to tap into the cultural and moral zeitgeist. She noted that serving on sub-committees on race equality and environmental sustainability in particular are ways for young people to push the agenda for change.

Matt Wilde, Toks Dada and Tatum Swithenbank ended the session with provocations touching on their journeys as young trustees. The three speakers shared their experiences on Boards, and how organisations can do more to engage and energise younger trustees.

“We have put on the diversity and inclusion events. We have had the conversations. What's next? We can't push representation and staff sustainability to the end of the pile. Diversifying boards is the bare minimum. We need to see inclusion integrated into everything.” – Tatum Swithenbank

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library and a Trustee of Clore Leadership closed Governance Now 2020. In his closing remarks, Roly touched on the positive ways that governance in the arts and culture sector has changed over the last 20 years, saying: “[change] is born partly out of crisis, and necessity, but partly out of the sheer inventiveness of this sector…”

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.

The Governance Now 2020 Programme.

The Governance Now 2020 Speakers' Biographies.

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Date: Tuesday, 2 February, 2021
Time: 10:00 to 13:00

This bespoke, pragmatic and high energy session will help to give the Chairs and CEOs/Artistic Directors of organisations the tools they need to work together in ensuring that their organisations can navigate the waters of artistic risk, financial information, legal responsibilities, strategic planning, finance, diversity, recruitment and succession planning.

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