The challenge of good governance in charities, or businesses

Tweet1Over the last few days as 2017 ended its career and 2018 has emerged, blinking into the light and stormy weather a twitter debate has been taking place. In one sense it feels rather creepy to be using a discussion that involves other people to make a point and blog about the issue, but in another, the fact is twitter is a public environment and anyone wanting to speak privately to people can do so using private connections. The twitter discussion shown here is self explanatory. I confess that like Steven Herd I have had a great deal of respect for Shelter over many years, but unlike him nothing has changed as a result of these tweets, indeed my concern is now how his business works and indeed that of another tweeter, called Henry Pryor who tweeted “Important positions but not ones perhaps that should be aimed at particular sections of society?”

Just to clarify those whose tweets are shown and quoted, their twitter biographical notes are below.

The fact is that in general businesses have a great deal to learn from Charities and Charities including Shelter have a great deal they can learn from Businesses. I spent nearly 15 years working in the charitable sector and have been a Trustee for charities over nearly 35 years, working with small charities whose income is well below the £5,000 Charity Commission threshold and one whose income well exceeds £5m which is the upper threshold of the segmentation on the Charity Commission website. I have seen charities expand and grow and was asked at one stage to oversee the winding up of a charity that had become insolvent, which employed many people. I have also sat on numerous boards that cross sectors bringing together diverse elements of society in an attempt to solve intractable challenges. Throughout this time I have seen businesses that have chosen to ignore suggestions from charities and charities that have suggested that they have nothing to learn from the business community which they despise. However I have also seen some very constructive and effective transference of skills and understanding that has enabled both sectors to be strengthened.

The fact is that all charities are called upon by the Charity Commission to ensure their boards reflect the communities they work with and support. This is not an easy demand, having worked for a decade on a Board of a large youth charity, such a call is tough as Charity Boards like businesses spend a great deal of time looking at financial and governance documentation which can make watching paint dry seem exciting. On the other hand to set the direction of a charity and determine where to focus energy and time and money can be discussed in many creative ways and does not need to happen around a conventional board room table. The constant challenge to find board members who come from under represented groups is not as Steven Herd implies, a failure to address merit, it is simply that ensuring the charity or business is well placed to understand the needs and concerns of the very people who it is seeking to help. With businesses, unless they display the arrogance implied in these tweets, the value of listening to clients, customers and indeed prospective customers can save a great deal of time and money. One of the strengths of ensuring that there is a mix of ethnic, gender and other equality strands in a board is that the ideas and creativity which most businesses and charities need to succeed is available in the board itself, and can be released by listening to the views around the table. Any group that relies on one set of views or ideas or background experiences is at best very narrow in its focus, and more likely is oblivious to the wider world around it. I hope that Polly Neate is successful in her appeal and hope that as the New Year unfolds people like Steven and Henry realise that doing things like they have always done, simple denies them new areas of business growth and personal satisfaction.

Polly Neate: Love my fantastic girls, friends, feminism, writing, cycling, trainers, disco music, many other things. Chief Exec @Shelter (tweets are my own views/thoughts)


Steven Herd: Founder of award winning central London estate and letting agents MyLondonHome based in Westminster & Canary Wharf. Property industry since 1987.

London, UK  ·

Henry Pryor: Objective housing data, market comment & trivia from “the BBC’s favourite property expert” 🏡 Buying agent. ‘Property Commentator of the Year 2017’. RT ≠ endorse

London, United Kingdom  ·

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
This entry was posted in Charities, Economics, Youth Issues and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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