Tag Archives: Governance

Improving the wellbeing of future generations in a resource-rich cash-poor Wales

Prof Tony Bovaird is Director of Governance International, a nonprofit which works throughout Europe on outcome-based public policy and citizen co-production, and Emeritus Professor of Public Management and Governance at Birmingham University.  In his contribution to the The Future of Governance Seminars in July,  Tony shared his strong beliefs on the need for public bodies to get real about the weak state of collaboration in public service commissioning and delivery, the lack of commitment to clear outcomes and the highly variable performance in engagement citizens in co-commissioning, co-design, co-deliveyr and co-assessment – and how the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act could help on all these front. In this blog he picks up one aspect of co-production – how Wales can make better use of its hugely valuable resources, even in a period when budgets are severely constrained. 

A photo of Tony Bovaird of Governance InternationalThe Governance workshops in July, hosted by the Wales Audit Office and the Good Practice Exchange, provided an opportunity to reflect on the key issues which will determine how the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act can be implemented effectively in Wales. A key issue which was raised at different junctures during the discussions was how resources have become much scarcer in the aftermath of the sharp economic recession after 2008 and the continuing financial austerity budgets of the UK government since 2010.

People

However, I argued at the end of both workshops that this fixation on budgets is misplaced. Yes, cash is scarce in public services. However, this is not the whole of the story –  cash in our budgets represents only one resource.

In particular, Wales is not short of the key resources of capable people, valuable buildings and equipment, or state-of-the-art ICT. However, these are not being used to maximum effect.

Let’s look at the fantastic people resource in Wales. The most common headline statistic is the unemployment rate but the real resource waste is NOT commonly headlined each month – the number of fit, active and willing people who are not registered as being in the workforce.  In 2016, this amounts to just short of a million people in Wales, about half of whom are between 16 – 64 years of age, and the other half are 65+.

The most talked about group amongst these million adults in Wales who are not ‘economically active’ is the over-65 group. We do not, however, talk about the fact that they are the largest group of experienced, educated and, for the most part, fit and healthy people that Wales has ever had on tap, as a ‘reserve army of the under-appreciated’ to do socially and economically useful things to improve their own wellbeing and that of their fellow citizens. No, not at all – we tend rather to talk about them as one of the ‘jaws of doom’, threatening to swallow up all our public sector resources, as they grow older, unhealthier and more needy. Are we actively seeking to help them to maximize their quality of life outcomes, and the way they help others to improve their quality of life? After all, research shows that people who are active, whether seeking the improvement of their own wellbeing or that of others, tend to have far more positive quality of life outcomes. The lack of a co-ordinated approach to this challenge is perhaps the biggest waste of resources in our modern resource-rich, ideas-poor society.

Buildings

We don’t just underuse our resource of people. Our housing is one third under-occupied (and a high proportion of these homes have only one resident, often lonely and isolated, quite often depressed).

Over 20% of our shops are empty, the floors above shops are very often empty, and our public buildings are often only partly occupied. Our leisure centres are largely empty in the mornings, our community centres are often empty in the afternoons and most of our schools are empty in the evenings, at weekends and during the holiday weeks. Our cars tend to empty all day (parked at work) and our public transport is largely empty most evenings.

Isn’t this inevitable? Aren’t these assets generally owned by someone who sees no reason to make them available to those who would most benefit from using them? Well, let’s start with the public sector – is there really any excuse for under-use of public assets when others are desperately looking for venues for events, rooms for meetings, addresses out of which to run their voluntary organisations, facilities for small scale printing jobs, etc? Let’s shift our gaze to the third sector – is there any justification for giving public grants or contracts to an organization which isn’t prepared to share its underused facilities (and volunteers) with others who are doing similar activities? And in the private sector, why not give tax relief to firms which can show a record of sharing staff and facilities with public or third sector organisations?

Assets

However, such approaches are only the tip of the iceberg of what could be done. More important than this organizational sharing is the potential for matching of citizens’ capabilities to potential users in the community. This is the dream ‘app’. For the moment, we only record the ‘needs’ which citizens bring to the public sector – not the capabilities they have and the strengths and resources they are willing to share. This is the greatest challenge facing public bodies as they address the issue of improving wellbeing in Wales.  Of course, co-production with citizens needs co-ordination by public bodies – this will need some spending, but it promises to liberate hugely more resource that it uses up.

In summary, the Wellbeing of Future Generations in Wales depends critically on getting the most out of our existing resources, and ensuring their future development and expansion. A resource-rich country where most of the resources are underused and decent people are wasting huge amounts of time in scrambling over small (and declining) cash budgets and grants is a sign of wrong government priorities. A fundamental rethink of how to match our abundant resources to the needs of the citizens of Wales is an urgent priority.

How Swansea Council undertook a scrutiny inquiry into their culture

Logo of the future of governance: Effective decision making for current and future generations

The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act requires organisations to go beyond tinkering at the edge of services into wider cultural change. Dyfrig Williams looks at what can we learn from the City and County of Swansea’s Scrutiny Inquiry into their corporate culture.

Culture is one of those intractable topics. When a problem is cultural, it means there’s no quick fix, no one process to tweak that will automatically help organisations to improve their work.

The good side of this is that it means that organisations tend to go beyond tick box solutions when they identify cultural issues in order to deliver real and lasting change. The bad side of it is that sometimes cultural change is seen as being so difficult that it doesn’t get done at all – the problem is too big to get to grips with.

So when I heard about the City and County of Swansea’s Scrutiny Inquiry into their Corporate Culture, I was immediately interested.

So why did they set up the inquiry?

Councillor Andrew Jones, the Convener of Corporate Culture Scrutiny Inquiry Panel said that:

‘The topic was chosen because, as a Council our corporate culture underpins everything we do, from how we engage with our citizens and provide services to how we treat our staff and grow and develop as an organisation. The challenges faced by the reductions to council budgets pose a threat to that notion of a shared culture. We therefore as Councillors, management and staff have a shared responsibility to respond to these challenges by developing a can do culture that ensures the citizens of Swansea continue to receive the best Council service possible.’

Getting things right at the start

So what can we learn from the pro-active steps that the council have taken to identify ways of improving their culture?

When I spoke to Michelle Roberts from the City and County of Swansea’s Scrutiny team, she emphasised the importance of getting the parameters of the inquiry right at the outset in order to focus on the right areas. The rationale of the review was to ensure that:

  • The council has the right corporate culture to tackle the challenges it faces
  • They create a can do culture to help turn the city around
  • Staff culture is focused on empowerment, personal responsibility, innovation and collaboration.

It’s great to see how the council have ensured that the inquiry has an ongoing legacy by linking it to the work of Leanne Cutts, who’s their Innovation Co-ordinator. As the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act requires, they’ve looked at their long term goals, whilst also identifying quick wins and medium term objectives.

There are some eye-catching proposals that focus on the organisation’s people. They cover the whole staff journey from corporate inductions, mainstreaming innovation into appraisals and developing personal skills to avoid buying in expertise.

Failure

We’ve done a fair bit of work around failure over the last couple of years through our Manager Chris Bolton. This work has underpinned a lot of our information sharing and our focus on improvement. So it’s great to see that the council are looking at how they can move away from a blame culture, whilst recognising the external issues that make it difficult (I’ve previously blogged on complex environments and failure). If we’re going to meet the expectations of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, we have to be able to take well managed risks and build upon the lessons from failure, as Huw Vaughan Thomas, the Auditor General for Wales, discusses in the video below.

Where to start?

If you want to examine the culture of your organisation, it’s well worth taking a look at this Culture Mapping Tool that’s been developed by Dave Gray, and which The Satori Lab have been using in their work. The stated and unstated levers of the tool are really useful in terms of thinking about what drives the behaviour of public service staff and organisations.

At the Wales Audit Office, we’re working on our approach to auditing the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. For us as an audit body and for public services generally, it means that we have to change. If organisations try to deliver the seven wellbeing goals through the five ways of working without changing what they do, they’re likely to fail.

The Act gives us the chance to do things a bit differently in Wales. In a time of austerity, we can’t deliver the aspirations of the act whilst tinkering around the edges and adapting what we currently do. For the people of Wales to get the public services that they deserve, we need wholesale cultural change.

The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and Behaviour Change

A photo of a dog being pulled on a leadBehaviour Change of both the public and public services was a recurring theme in discussions at our event on The Future of Governance: Effective decision making for current and future generations. In this post, Chris Bolton looks at the challenges ahead and how we can get to grips with them.

“The real problem isn’t creating the vision for the future, it’s leaving where we are now…”

I’m not sure who said that, it might be a combination of several things I’ve read and heard over the last few months, in which case, I’m happy to claim it.

Key to the success (and the biggest problem) of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (WFG) Act are the very carefully thought Five Ways of Working (long term; integration; collaboration; involvement; and preventative). They all describe something that most people with a disposition towards a civilised society would find hard to disagree with. They are logical, sensible and most will agree with them. Possibly the best way to start a mass movement for change, find something that everyone can agree on.

The problematic part rests with human behaviour. As I see it there are broadly two things working against the Act; The System and People.

  • The public services ‘system’ is a complex beast that will respond in unpredictable ways to the behaviours of the people operating within it.
  • The changes in behaviour required by the Act are a seismic shift for many. The current behaviours have been developed over many years and are reinforced by organisational hierarchies and professional status.

It’s a huge challenge (and topic to discuss in a 1000 words) so I’ll try and illustrate my points under three headings:

  1. Correlation is not causation (it’s complicated and complex),
  2. It’s always been about behaviour, and
  3. We need to ‘Nudge not Yank’.

Correlation is not causation

If I could wish for one behaviour change around WFG Act it would be for decision makers to recognise that not all situations are straightforward with obvious answers. A few specific situations are, but many of the challenges we face around the WFG Act are complex (diabetes, multigenerational economic inactivity etc.).

Often the type of analysis used to supports decision making falls into the trap of mistaking correlation for causation when seeking ‘quick-wins’. For example, a successful economy will have a proportion of manufacturing businesses that typically operate out of industrial units. A fact.

It does not follow however that by creating lots of ‘industry ready’ buildings, manufacturing businesses will automatically appear in those buildings and create a successful economy. My colleague, Mark Jeffs, wrote an interesting article about ‘correlation not being causation’ which is sometimes called ‘cargo cult’.

The complex challenges of the WFG Act require decision making behaviours that; recognise complexity, accept uncertainty, the willingness to test different solutions, fail, learn the lessons from failure (out in the open), learn the lessons and move on. For decision makers who are ‘driven to deliver’ and ‘meet performance targets’ this can be a significant behavioural challenge.

It’s always been about behaviour

A phrase for you to ponder on, Hyperbolic Discounting (I can say what I like now, most people will have switched off).

Basically this is a human behaviour where people have a tendency to prefer more immediate payoffs rather than things that happen later on. This is to the extent that our future selves would probably have not made that decision, given the same information. This is also referred to as current moment bias or present bias.

This behaviour hasn’t just been invented to cause problems for the first of the WFG Act Five Ways of Working, Long Term Thinking. It’s been part of the human condition for thousands of years. If you are a prehistoric hunter gather with a lifespan of 30 years, long-term thinking probably isn’t high on your list of decision making behaviours / life skills.

There is frequently a tendency to ‘blame’ the political cycle of elections for short term thinking in public services. This might however be something deeper in human behaviour, a cognitive bias towards the short term. You can learn more about Hyperbolic Discounting in the 1997 paper by David Laibson in the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

We need to ‘Nudge not Yank’

Thanks to Professor Dave Snowden from the Cynefin Centre in Bangor University for developing the thinking around this.

In essence, lots of Public Services have ‘done’ behaviour change to service users over many years. Things like programmes to reduce smoking, wearing seatbelts in cars or even 5p plastic bag charges are ‘done’ to people.

Whilst many of these behaviour change initiates have had huge success, there are a different set of issues around may of the WFG Act challenges, for example the growth in Type 2 Diabetes. The approaches need to be more subtle and based more upon understanding were people are ‘disposed to change’. If people aren’t ‘disposed to change’, any initiative to change behaviour can run into full resistance or things like malicious compliance with unintended consequences. (I’ve written about this previously).

I would argue that to achieve the sustainable behaviour changes required by the WFG Act it is better to facilitate and nudge people in areas where they are ‘disposed to change’, rather than ‘shove’ or ‘yank’ them in areas where they aren’t.

That also represents a behaviour change for many people who will be involved in the delivery of the WFG Act.

Are we doomed?

Probably not, but there are some significant behaviour changes required to successfully deliver the WFG Act and we shouldn’t underestimate what is required.

Here are my Top 3 Tips for anyone involved in decision making and governance associated with the WFG Act:

  1. Accept that lots of situations will be complex and will require a ‘probe, test, fail, learn’ type approach before deciding on a solution.
  2. Surround yourself with people who have a different point of view and different experiences, and listen to them. It might help overcome Hyperbolic Discounting and a number of other cognitive biases (have a look at my post on The Ladder of Inference) for more on this.
  3. When trying to influence behaviour change look for areas where there is a ‘disposition to change’ and nudge there rather than trying to ‘shove’ or ‘yank’ people in the direction you think is best for them.

Telling the WE Story

In this blogpost Dr Rachel Hughes, Head of Insight at Sport Wales, looks at why she thinks telling the WE story is important for Wales’ wellbeing.

I’ve had the privilege to work alongside some great people in helping to shape the forthcoming shared learning seminar on The Future of Governance: effective decision making for current and future generations. Many of us in the Group have not worked together before. We came together for a shared purpose, looked at things through different lenses, and have developed a seminar, which we hope, is creative and stretching. Central to the seminar, as Alan Morris articulated in his recent blog, is understanding and developing behaviours that unlock our resources in far more creative and sustainable ways.

Through OUR work, WE have listened and looked for the emerging entity. WE have asked ourselves, what do WE want to happen here? What’s best for US, all of US? What’s OUR next step? WE have consciously tried to help seminar participants look for the unseen threads that connect US all. To tell the WE story; the story of possibility.

The cover of The Art of Possibility: transforming professional and personal life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin ZanderIf any of you have read The Art of Possibility: transforming professional and personal life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander then it’s likely that you know what I mean by telling the WE story. If you haven’t, I highly recommend reading it. This book sparked my thinking about where we’re at as a leadership team in Sport Wales – our behaviours, our connections, our development, our possibilities – and the unfolding of these in the context of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.

Typically when we work in an organisation, we naturally view the world from the inside looking out. The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act encourages us to also have an outside-in perspective. To see things through the eyes of others – of (potential) collaborators, of service-users, of citizens, and most importantly of future citizens – and to look at what is possible. In order to do this, we need to shift our operating system; the matrix that guides our behaviour.

In Sport Wales we are trying to do this in two interconnected ways.

The first is about understanding and measuring our impact, and telling the compelling story (of sport). We’re using theory of change to help us with this. Through workshops over the coming months, we’re looking to draw out the theories of change that link our key activities to key outcomes for both sport, and Wales’ wellbeing.

In doing this, we recognise that there could be a tendency for us to slip into process-mode and not consider that whilst results are the outcome, people (our behaviours) are the source.

So built into this work is the opportunity for us to both pause and reflect on what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. And to develop a new lens through which we will be looking at things. One that incorporates the wellbeing goals, the ways of working, and for us, the DNA of sport (the things that need to be considered in order for someone to be hooked on sport – motivation, confidence, opportunity and resources, awareness, and the experience). This lens should have citizens at the centre, and will help us have an outside-in perspective.

The second is concerned with developing our leadership team. We know that our (leadership) behaviours determine results, and we are giving this increased focus. Importantly, not as individuals, but as a team. This is where I have found the WE story most helpful.

The WE story “points to a relationship rather than to individuals, to communication patterns, gestures and movements rather than to discrete objects and identities. It attests to the in-between. Like the particle-and-wave nature of light, the WE is both a living entity and a long line of development unfolding.” And in essence, this is what we’re moving to as a leadership team.

WE need to practice being US. US as a leadership team in Sport Wales, but also US, all of US in Wales, for the wellbeing of future generations.

By telling the WE story, each of us becomes a conduit for this inclusive entity. It points the way to a kind of leadership that is based on the courage to speak on behalf of people and for the long line of human possibility.

We’re at the start of this journey, one that will be in constant motion! I hope that by sharing our current thinking and approaches that this it will provide opportunities for debate, openness, further learning and sharing, and a narrative around US.

Here are some steps to help US practice :

  1. Tell the WE story – the story of the unseen threads that connect us all, the story of possibility
  2. Listen and look for the emerging entity
  3. Ask: what do WE want to happen here? What’s best for US, all of US? What’s OUR next step?

2016: The year of possibility

sunrise in North Wales

North Wales

What does good governance look like in the context of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act? Alan Morris looks at what the act means for Welsh public services and how the Good Practice Exchange’s seminar can help.

Wales is beginning to demonstrate its ability as a nation to work with what it’s got in a far more creative and sustainable way. Transition Towns, Fair trade, organ donation and the Well-being of the Future Generations Act are just a few examples.  We are beginning to figure what works for us as a nation, and often it isn’t what we have done before. Change, creativity and new ways of working also call for us to review our approaches to decision making, governance and assurance.

The WFG Act sets the bar high in its ambitious aspirations and, if those aspirations are to be delivered, there is a need for us all to fundamentally change the way we do business.  The Act will transform the way we make decisions and will require us to consider the implications of those decisions on future generations. This means re-thinking our approach to governance.

Public services have finite resources.  The word resources is often taken to mean money and when people talk about limited or diminishing resources what they mean is ‘less cash’. But the WFG Act asks us to think about resources much more broadly, including:

  • staff, including their skills, experiences and motivation;
  • buildings, plant and equipment;
  • knowledge and information;
  • the environment and ecosystems;
  • community resources, including families, volunteers and local organisations; and
  • less tangible ‘social capital’ such as good will and reputation.

But it’s in our gift to make the most of the way we work with all of these resources. The WFG Act gives us the ability to use these resources in a far more creative and sustainable way. And one of the keys to unlocking these resources is changing behaviour.

If we in the public services continue to look at things from the same perspective, then we run the risk of continuing to deliver the same outcomes. The Act provides an opportunity to look at things differently, do things differently and deliver better outcomes.

The WFG Act places a duty, and a challenge, on public audit too. We must understand and embrace the challenges and seize the opportunities the Act offers if we are to play our part in improving public services for the people of Wales.

The Wales Audit Office is currently considering the encouragingly high level of response by public bodies to the Auditor General’s recent consultation on how he should reshape his audit approach in response to the WFG Act. The Auditor General will be holding an event in the autumn, in conjunction with the Future Generations Commissioner, to share his views on what the results of the consultation mean for his audit approach. Both the AGW and the FG Commissioner will also take the opportunity to set out how they intend to work together.  More details of that event will follow in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, we are already beginning to work in different ways. For example, we are holding a shared learning seminar that will provide an opportunity for public bodies to explore the implications of the WFG Act, in terms of decision making behaviours and governance. The seminar will involve key decision makers from the 44 public bodies who come under the act in a very practical day on 6th July in Cardiff and 14 July in North Wales. We are working in collaboration with the WLGA, Welsh NHS Confederation, FG Commissioner’s Office, Centre for Public Scrutiny and the Welsh Government to hold an event that is different from, but also builds upon, the well-established shared learning seminars run by the Wales Audit Office’s Good Practice Team.

The seminar will give delegates the opportunity to share and learn from each other in a, safe workshop environment. Instead of providing expert speakers or presenting case studies, the focus will be on enabling participants to share each other’s experience and expertise.  We will ask them to work through what decision making behaviours might help and what might hinder, as they seek to maximise their contribution to the well-being goals by applying the sustainable development principle.  We will also ensure that we capture ideas, suggestions and examples on the day and share this information widely online.

In years to come, wouldn’t it be great to look back at the year 2016 as the year when Wales took another important step along its journey to be an even more sustainable, joined up country. A key factor will be decision making that seeks to ensure that the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, by taking account of the sustainable development principle.

The WFG Act is ambitious and raises high expectations. However, our football team has shown us that if we combine our talents in a team effort with effective leadership – we can perform beyond expectations. As Chris Coleman said after the game against Russia, geographically we may be a small nation, but if you judge us on our passion I think you could say we were a continent…’

Tweet

Twitter – Gareth Bale

We also intend to use social media to encourage discussion and awareness within the WFG Act community before, during and after the conference from across Wales. The hashtag for use in connection with any tweets sent is #WAOGov

There will be a series of blogs from the seminar partners over the next few weeks. Please get involved and share your ideas and views on developing effective governance for the future public services in Wales.

National Theatre Wales: Living the dream…. and their values

Public service employees in all sectors want to improve their communities. But what can we learn from how the National Theatre Wales is adding value to the arts community? Dyfrig Williams visited Devinda De Silva to find out.

Since starting my working life in the voluntary sector, it’s been clear to me that there’s no shortage of people with public service values providing services. When I facilitated cross-sector networks at Participation Cymru it was abundantly clear that these values aren’t confined to the voluntary sector, and that was reinforced when I attended GovCampCymru, an unconference where people pitch discussion sessions on how technology, new thinking and public services can improve society.

It was through chatting with Kevin Davies of the National Assembly for Wales, who I met at GovCampCymru and who has shared good scrutiny practice with us, that I heard about how the National Theatre Wales (who developed the Big Democracy Project) are embedding their values in their governance and their staff’s job descriptions.

Just visting the National Theatre’s Office is enough to persuade you that the organisation’s approach to community is a little different. Instead of a large theatre, they have a small office in Castle Arcade – right in the heart of the city.

Governance and outreach

Governance isn’t a particularly sexy subject, but the Theatre are managing to make it quite exciting through their work with their TEAM panel. The panel is 10 people from various communities who voluntarily give their time to the Theatre and who have a say in how the organisation is run at every level.

The model is now 6 years old. In the first year they did 13 shows in 13 different locations, where they did intense outreach work. Subsequently people in these areas got involved through the shows. And by looking at theatre in the widest sense, the Theatre managed to involve people who would not have traditionally gone to see a show. For instance theatre wasn’t a big interest in Cardiff’s Somali community, but by sponsoring a small football team, they have a way in to run small workshops with people and to get their feedback on productions.

A few years down the line and the panel is actively shaping the organisation’s strategic direction. Two TEAM panel members attend every board meeting and one permanently sits on the Board, which means that every strategic decision the organisation makes involves people from the community. The panel also feeds into the organisation’s Strategic Plan.

As a small organisation, the TEAM members give a big boost to the capacity of the organisation. Although they only directly employ 18 people, the 10 panel members are trusted to attend events on the organisations behalf and represent them. This has also helped panel members to progress their own careers, and some have got jobs with other arts organisations, got on to a college course or started their own companies. It’s a self-supporting network, where panel members support each other in their projects.

Staff recruitment

The TEAM Panel is also involved in the recruitment of staff, as a panel members sits on the panel of each interview. This helps to make sure that the staff that they employ really buy into the community focused culture of the organisation and its values. The National Theatre Wales’ approach echoes some of what Richard Branson has said about recruiting for values instead of skills.

I’ve already mentioned how the Theatre’s outreach work is built in to their governance, but their outreach and engagement is also a core part of every staff member’s role. Their staff, including the Artistic Director and office staff in Communications and Finance are all expected to work with the community, for example by running surgeries with community groups and freelancers in their areas of expertise. They offer support throughout the year, and their partners are also encouraged to work this way by incorporating a more community-focused approach to their practice when they work with the National Theatre Wales.

Open working, open feedback

And if all that wasn’t enough to show the open nature of National Theatre Wales, they also open up the last dress rehearsal to a specially invited audience from the local community before shows like Candylion go public. They encourage people to give their feedback on social media, as it gives them ideas on how to improve the show and also helps to generate a buzz around it.

Public service organisations are beginning to work in the open, with the Bromford Lab using it as an opportunity to hear about people’s ideas, reduce duplication and to share learning from failure. Leeds Data Mill’s Dashboard also shares what’s happening in Leeds in real time. We’d love to hear from public services in Wales about how you’re working openly, and like the National Theatre Wales, living your values.

Have you got the right people on your board?

Governance

It’s been a busy couple of months for us here at the Good Practice Exchange. Far from winding down to the festive period, we’ve run events looking at issues for trustees and in governance. We’re now in the process of collating all the outputs together and making sure we get them sent out to attendees and shared through social media.

As a team we try and ensure that our events reach as many different sectors as possible, as we believe that there’s a lot that we can learn from each other. It’s a point that the Auditor General for Wales made in the opening session at the Trustees seminar – that governance issues aren’t confined to either big or small public service organisations.

Governance

It was fascinating to see common issues crop up at both the Trustees event, where the audience was predominantly from charity and community groups, and the Governance event, where people were mainly board members and staff from the public sector.

At the governance events I facilitated Grant Thornton’s session on ‘Approaches to governance from further afield’. In the discussion following the presentation we heard from delegates on issues of ensuring that the right people are on the board.

There are lots of resources on our Trustees Pinterest Board that relate to this. In 2013 Norma Jarboe’s presentation on Balanced Boards dealt with the topic head-on, and following up from that event we recorded a short podcast with Ray Singh from Velindre NHS Trust discussing their skills based boards.

At this year’s event Anna Bezodis from Wales Council for Voluntary Action and Alex Swallow of Young Charity Trustees ran a workshop specifically on having the right people on your board and succession planning.  There are some great points in the presentation on thinking about the skills available on your board. Vicky Holberry of Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham helpfully shared a training-needs-analysis, which can be used by organisations to identify skills gaps.

As ever, we can accomplish a lot by sharing and working together. We always share the delegate list with everyone who attended the seminar with a list of ideas people are sharing and things they’d like to learn. Hopefully the cross-organisational and cross-sector learning will continue, and we will of course share any good practice that we unearth along the way.

Dyfrig

Protecting your charity

Trustees Shared Learning Seminar

Our Trustees seminars are inspiring affairs. There’s nothing like working in a room full of people who are giving their time and expertise for free to make you realise there is a lot of good in the world we live in. Having worked in the voluntary sector for eight years before starting work at the Wales Audit Office, I’ve got a bit of an emotional investment in the sector too.

In the opening session of both days we heard from Mike Palmer and Chris Bolton talk about the Wales Audit Office’s public interest reports. As an organisation we really want to avoid the kind of circumstances where we need to produce them, so these seminars are our way of trying to prevent or reduce the likelihood of this happening in the future.

Trustees Seminar - Seminar Ymddiriedolwyr

I attended the Charity Commission’s workshops at both events, where it was clear that the best way to protect your charity is to have the right processes in place at the start. It sounds like an obvious message, but many people said that their focus was very much on the work of the charity, and very often the process tended to be forgotten about.

It was interesting to hear about the steps that organisations are taking to ensure that they manage risks. One trustee mentioned ‘the press test’ – how would their actions be viewed if they were covered in detail by the press? It’s a simple approach that encourages trustees to reflect on their decisions and to avoid making decisions in haste. The bottom line is that everything they do has to be in the best interest of the charity.

There was also discussion about inductions and training. Do trustees have a clear idea of what is expected of them? Have they been given the right information to enable them to get to grips with their roles effectively?

We had some fascinating discussions about what to do if something does go wrong. At the Cardiff seminar Rosie Stokes from the Charity Commission confirmed that using charitable funds for legal purposes is a valid use of charitable funds. It’s important that charities deal with issues effectively and rigorously if they want to protect their charity.

You can hear Rosie discuss the workshop in the above video, and the slides from the Charity Commission workshop are also online. It’s worth having a look at both so you can think about the messages within them and contrast them with what your organisation is doing. One of the key messages that came out of the event is that governing documents set out the aims and objectives of your charity. And if you’re working to those aims and objectives, then you’re far more likely to be delivering the effective services that your beneficiaries need.

Dyfrig

Balanced Boards

Trustees Shared Learning Seminar

The recent Trustee Shared Learning Seminars resulted in a rich seam of approaches shared by delegates in Norma Jarboe’s workshop on Balanced Boards. Norma shared some current thinking around the importance of having a balanced board and some very thought provoking stats which reinforced some of her key messages, which you can see below.

During the workshop, delegates also shared some of their approaches with their workshop attendees. Following the workshop, I caught up with a few of the delegates to capture their comments.

I would like to thank Bernadette Fuge, Chair of Age Cymru, Ray Singh, Independent Member (Legal) of Velindre NHS Trust Board and Joanne Moore, HR and Governance Manager for Learning Disability Wales for giving up their time freely to enable us to share their knowledge as wide as possible.

Bernadette Fuge

Bernadette Fuge, shared Age Cymru’s approach in how they obtained a board with the necessary skill sets that reflected the direction of their organisation. Ray Singh also shared Velindre NHS Trust Board’s approach. Joanne Moore from Learning Disability Wales, shared the changes they have recently undertaken to widen the diversity of their board. In particular, how they recruited their new trustees and the different type of media they used to access hard to reach groups. At this point, several workshops attendees were busily scribbling down some of Joanne’s suggestions. Here comments are captured in this podcast.

Trustee Co-option seems to be a popular solution for some boards to bridge certain skill gaps.

Ray Singh of Velindre NHS Trust / Ray Singh o Ymddiriedolaeth GIG Velindre

Some delegates were struggling with the need to limit the time members served on their boards; some delegates shared situations where some board members had been members for more than 17 years. Ray Singh, Velindre NHS Trust Board’s Independent Board Member shared their approach to this matter. Bernadette Fuge also shared Age Cymru’s approach.

One of the very interesting approaches Age Cymru have adopted in recent years is annual appraisals for their Board Trustees. Bernadette provides more details in this podcast.

Several of the workshop delegates shared their inability to access hard to reach groups. Joanne Moore, HR and Governance Manager for Learning Disability Wales to share some of their approaches. Several workshops delegates were busily writing down what Jo had to say. So if you weren’t at this workshop, here is what she had to say.

Learning Disability Wales / Anabledd Dysgu Cymru

Hopefully, this blog has given you a bit of a flavour of the useful sharing of information that went on the Balanced Boards workshop. We have further information to share with you from our North Wales seminar so what this space!

Ena