Governance Now conference notes

Last week saw the launch of the Cultural Governance Alliance, with the CGA website going live and with a day conference called Governance Now. Laura Drane, interim CEO of Theatre Bristol, was there and amongst many others so was Robin Simpson, CEO of Voluntary Arts, who is one of the founding members of the CGA. Here Robin shares his thoughts on the day.

“On Tuesday I was at the Goldsmiths’ Centre in London for the Governance Now conference – the launch event for the new Cultural Governance Alliance, of which Voluntary Arts is one of 15 founding members. The CGA is a direct response to the 2017 Independent Strategic Review of Governance in Arts Organisations and Museums (undertaken by Hilary Carty, David Bryan and Anne Murch on behalf of a consortium including The Clore Leadership Programme, Clore Duffield Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Foyle Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and Paul Hamlyn Foundation). The CGA is being managed by the Clore Leadership Programme and Hilary Carty and her team have done a great job establishing the Alliance and managing the conference.

Opening the Governance Now conference Sandy Nairne, Chair of the Clore Leadership, programme pointed out that the conference was sold out, with most tickets gone within an hour of being made available, suggesting a real interest in governance within the cultural sector. David Hall, Chief Executive of the Foyle Foundation said there was lots of advice on governance available but it was not being used consistently. There is a clear need for more guidance, signposting, case studies and reassurance: the CGA can play a key role in improving governance.

Mags Patten, Executive Director Public Policy and Communication at Arts Council England, said that, in terms of fiduciary and statutory governance requirements most Arts Council funded organisations are doing well but we need to look at behaviours not just process. We need a creative, curious and passionate culture. To attract the best talent we need to draw from the biggest possible talent pool and in terms of diversity the sector is still not good enough. Women, people from BAME communities and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds are under-represented on boards. Most people in the sector buy these arguments but don’t know how to respond to them. ACE is investing in the Cultural Governance Alliance and will be investing more in leadership development from next year. Mags said ACE is keen to support the governance journey of individuals and suggested reimagining the Board Bank for the 21st century.

Joanna Baker, Managing Director of the Edinburgh International Festival, described the complete overhaul of the governance structure of EIF. She said constitutional reform had proved incredibly enjoyable and reinforced a common sense of purpose.

I chaired a conference session on Futureproofing Boards and Succession Planning, addressing strategies for enabling board diversity and the dynamics of recruitment, appointment, induction and skills development. We had a fascinating discussion, looking at the barriers presented by traditional board meeting terminology, the lack of understanding about the role of a Trustee, the need to look at diversity of thinking styles on a board as well as diversity of physical characteristics, the need for buddying to help new Trustees, and much more.

There were a range of other sessions including:
– Digital Innovation and Communications (harnessing tools for board effectiveness)
– Culture & Society (cultural leaders championing their civic agenda)
– Resilience & Foresight (Horizon 2050: Hack to Boards of the Future)
– Lightning talks – a series of fast-paced 8-minute bite-size talks to illuminate key tools, concepts and provoke new thinking

The Governance Now conference finished with an inspirational summing up by Voluntary Arts Chair, David Bryan. It was a great event and a great way to launch the Cultural Governance Alliance. For more information see: @GovernCulture #GovernCulture #GovNowCulture Much of the content throughout the day was recorded and should be available to listen to shortly.”

Written on Monday 19th November 2018