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Challenges in contemporary governance: Looking through a shared lens

New Centre for Charity Effectiveness report reveals insights into the important role between Charity Chairs and Chief Executives

by Hamish Armstrong (Senior Communications Officer)

A new series of reports from the Centre for Charity Effectiveness at the Business School (formerly Cass) sheds light on how charity and non-profit boards are addressing and responding to challenges in contemporary governance.

The project aims to promote fresh and clearer thinking on major issues affecting governance in the sector, by convening discussions between pairs of Chairs and Chief Executives.

The report provides five explorations on subjects which pose a challenge to the charity and non-profit sector:

  • Relationships between large and small non-profits – how can large, formally governed organisations work effectively and respectfully with more informal, grassroots organisations to create common purpose and drive shared objectives?
  • Partnerships and Collaboration – how can not-for-profit organisations of different sizes work collaboratively to recognise their dependence on each other and achieve mutual goals?
  • Organisation Change and Culture - how to build and embed the culture needed to support the delivery of a radical new organisational strategy.
  • Strategic Leadership – what are the key skillsets and experience required to lead not-for-profit organisations?
  • Leading in Turmoil – how has the balance between scrutiny and support changed during the pandemic, and what lessons can be learnt about risk and opportunity in the future?

The report concludes with themes and rare insights from conversations and poses a number of emerging questions.

Alex Skailes, Director at the Centre for Charity Effectiveness, said the report demonstrated the value of conversation between organisational leaders coming together as pairs of Chairs and CEOs, particularly during a time of such uncertainty.

“Convening conversations and bringing together the pairs has enabled us to learn more about the vital relationship between Chairs and Chief Executives,” Ms Skailes said.

“Charity Chairs and CEOs will often have allegiances, experience and skills forged in different sectors. This difference is a strength – there can be real diversity of thought - but there is also a danger that, if not acknowledged openly, each will view such fundamentals such as vision, mission, values and behaviours through a very different prism.”

“During the pandemic it was more important than ever to highlight this difference as it had the potential to lead to disparate assumptions about organisational agility, risk and even the role of the Board.”

Professor Lynne Berry, Visiting Professor at the Business School and project Chair, said the pandemic had only heightened the value of such work during a testing time for the sector.

“At the time of the projects’ launch, no-one could have predicted how much the strength of the Chair and CEO relationship would need to come into play,” Professor Berry said.

“The demands of the pandemic have stretched leadership and continue to do so.

"The Chair and CEO relationship not only enables organisations to have the most effective response to opportunities and challenges during periods of both calm and crisis, but also acts as the bedrock for the levels of agility required during these uncertain times.

“At a time when resilience is needed more than ever, it is vital for organisations to recognise strength in unity and establish clarity of purpose as we embrace these harsh economic times.”

Read the full report Challenges in Contemporary Governance: Looking through a shared lens.

Listen to the Good Charity Bad Charity podcast series, produced in partnership with the Centre for Charity Effectiveness.

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