WHILE there has been a lot of discussion recently, quite rightly, on encouraging more diversity in the make-up of boards, this conversation needs to be part of a wider focus on good board governance.
Chief executives, whether they’re on a board in the public, private or third sector – which takes in charities and voluntary organisations – will tell you that good governance is essential for success. To date these sectors have had few opportunities to meet and share information, although there is some cross-population going on with many private sector board members also sitting on public boards.
Whatever the sector, shape or size of an organisation, good governance underpins them all, and I believe that by sharing information and experience we can all up our game. We have much to learn from each other in terms of ethos and values. The complexity of third sector governance is often not understood, for example there are a lot of multi-million pound service delivery charities as well as the small local organisations. Some voluntary organisations have a host of different funders and stakeholders whose views need to be taken into consideration as the bottom line can often be much more complex than just making a profit. In the third sector it’s also essential to keep your client group at the centre of what you’re doing in terms of learning and connecting with other communities.
It is encouraging to see a push to get a more diverse spread of people on boards as fresh thinking from people working in other sectors can offer new perspectives and insights. But there is still some way to go as people often don’t realise they have transferable skills. There is also work to be done to create support networks. Many board members can feel isolated because there is little development of peer support networks focused on boards in Scotland. This situation will begin to change as we share knowledge and information at events like the seminar on governance support in Edinburgh today.
• Pat Armstrong is chief executive of the Association of Chief Officers of Scottish Voluntary Organisations and member of the IoD Scotland committee. “Governance Support: Cross-sector development for third sector organisations” takes place in Edinburgh today