Interviews & articles

Matt Wilde - 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 Matt Wilde – founding Director of Blaze Arts - to hear his thoughts on the challenges and opportunities of ‘good governance’.

Matt Wilde

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

To curate a collective vision for the post-pandemic arts organisation, which moves away from complacency towards imagination and risk-taking.

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

The cultural sector being recognised for its worth and receiving significant investment at policy level.

How has cultural governance changed in the last 10 years?

Cultural governance has opened its arms to embrace people with a variety of backgrounds and skills. I’m seeing more boards recruiting younger trustees, for example, and truly valuing someone’s skills rather than years of experience.

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?

Governance in the cultural sector will need to adapt rapidly in order to re-imagine the role of arts organisations over the next 10 years. This could include bringing new trustees on board, enabling trustees to present challenges/questions to unpick collectively, and enabling individual trustees to take action on topics that most matter to them.

What can we learn from other sectors - in the UK and internationally - about good governance?

I haven’t directly experienced governance in other sectors, but we could consider adopting some principles from profit-making organisations around paying Board members to deliver roles within the organisation, for example.

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

Listening, curiosity, open to risk-taking.

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

My first governance role was as a trustee of pioneering music charity Brighter Sound, based in Manchester. I was one of their first young trustees, although they didn’t refer to me in that way. I used to participate in Brighter Sound projects in the past so had a great understanding of their work, and I was supported to become a trustee by the Director who taught me a lot about governance along the way.

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

As a Director on the Board of international concert venue The Bridgewater Hall, we have faced challenges in managing risks associated with Covid-19. This is an ongoing process that will require regular communication and scenario planning throughout next year.

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

To approach the role of a trustee with an open mind, considering how you can utilise your own assets and experience to complement the skills of the rest of board, instead of sticking to the way it has always been done.

We hope you’ll join Matt 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.

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