Development priorities

Governance Leadership

by Hilary Carty

The Cultural Leadership Programme prioritised the issue of governance as a key strand of leadership development, however, whilst sharing best practice and harnessing resources are key to providing useful and practical support across the sector, it was acknowledged that each cultural organisation must take ownership of its own governance, and determine what is ‘right’ for its particular circumstance and mission. 

With this in mind, the CLP avoided a prescriptive approach to addressing governance, and instead aimed to embrace the creative distinctiveness of cultural organisations, whilst still finding routes to strengthen the approaches, structures, systems and interdependencies that lead to effective organisational management.

This essay looks at the CLP’s approach through the topics of research-based provision, sector voice and perspectives, and direct provision to improve performance. In terms of research-based provision, CLP drew on the experience of Graham Devlin Associates and Mission Models Money and attempted to better understand the specific issues of concern to the cultural sector.  This lead to a bespoke response of programmes and provision, including: better signposting to websites and key publications already available in the voluntary sector; the strengthening of organisations’ understanding and knowledge of legal frameworks; and a set of customised opportunities for the boards and senior executives of individual organisations to review the effectiveness of their governance through workshops and seminars, debates and training.

The CLP’s approach to governance enshrined the essential necessity of drawing on existing good practice and working alongside other sectors wherever possible.  At the same time it was important to ensure that the landscape described, and the tools and resources offered, had immediate relevance and could be flexibly implemented. Looking at sector voice and perspectives, the CLP developed and disseminated sector-specific tools and knowledge, and held a major conference in 2009 called ‘Governance Now’, which, with its associated publication, sought deliberately to combine existing transferable knowledge with perspectives and reflections from sector leaders; using their experiences and voices to add resonance to the issues under debate. 


Finally terms of direct provision, the CLP worked with networks of senior leaders to prioritise the issue of governance, and supported the Clore Leadership Programme to deliver a successful Board Development programme with the aim of developing good practice ‘on-the-ground’ with sector organisations.

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