Key points from our Cultural Governance Conference

12 Jun 2019

Key points from our Cultural Governance Conference

Navigating the New Normal means - Purpose-pushing Boards

Our annual governance conference focused on the real challenge cultural Boards face every day - balancing conformance (i.e. that vital compliance and regulation that underpins every organisation) and performance (delivering on purpose efficiently and effectively). For those who weren’t able to attend - here are some of the key points from the day…

 Good Boards ask the important questions

Our keynote speaker, and A&B NI Board Member, Sophie Hayles discussed how an active commitment positively affects performance – Compliance is vital but Spirit is the deal-breaker. Board members can add extra value by listening actively, and by asking ‘explain’ not ‘describe’ questions. And definitely don’t nod at a Board meeting if you don’t mean it! Honestly and fearlessly sharing your knowledge gaps will help everyone else raise their game.” Another very practical tip from Sophie was to take ten minutes at the start of a Board meeting to freely and messily discuss together a context question such as ‘What is our business model?’, ‘How would we respond to a sudden and major cut in funding?’, ‘What is the most exciting change our work makes?’.

Good Boards get the reporting and regulations right

Frances McCandless, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission for NI shared the shocking statistic that 60% of charities are not reporting to the commission correctly. They are building a bank of excellent resources on the CCNI website and there are even YouTube walkthroughs available! Frances also suggested Boards consider registering with the Fundraising Regulator, now active in NI. She singled out safeguarding as a particular area for Boards to ensure they are getting right, and was clear that in terms of governance everyone around the table is a decision maker – all are accountable, no-one is a passenger.  

Good Boards Share the Leadership

Noyona Chundur, Chair of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival followed up on this theme, articulating clearly her personal processes as a leader in the arts and at her day job at Invest NI (blog piece from Noyona will follow here soon). Zelda Baveystock, Partnerships and Engagement Manager at Clore Leadership gave a presentation on how their research led to the development of the Cultural Governance Alliance. The Alliance aims to build a wide and active collective cultural membership focusing on sharing and embedding good practice governance in the arts, and registration is free!

Good Boards Embrace the Digital

Anne Orr (Chair of Source and Board Member of Dumbworld and Maiden Voyage Dance) from Greenlight Consulting suggested we invest time in looking at purpose-led risk management as an income generation development tool. She stressed the need to adopt digital technology within our internal business functions, content creation and audience development and suggested Boards check out Digital Catapult and go to the event they are holding with thrive later this year; Ulster University’s Creative Industries Institute; the funding available via the cross-sector creative partnership Future Screens NI; Immerse  theAudience of the Future Immersive Technology Investment Accelerator; the inspirational work of local company Boomclap; and of course Digital Arts Studios.

Practical Perspectives from the Breakout Sessions

Our Arts Manager Brona Whittaker led a practical breakout session on Asset Management, helping participants develop a fresh perspective on the assets their organisation holds and how they might derive the most value from them. Taking the time to look objectively at our own properties and resources can be most surprising!

Helen McKenna, Lecturer at the Business Institute, Ulster University looked at how the Boards of non-profit-distributing organisations should think about making surplus from a balance of income streams across the income spectrum to reinvest into their organisation’s work – from commercial sales to public funding to gifts and donations.

Margaret Henry, Chief Executive at thrive presented on ‘Capturing your Impact, Showing your Value’ by shared her own organisation’s journey through the Theory of Change model which informed their successful rebrand.

Simon Whittaker from Vertical Structure talked about ‘10 Practical Things a Board could do around Data Security’ – and we’ll be following up with more on this topic in the autumn.  

Get involved in ‘A City Imagining’

Belfast City Council’s draft ten year cultural strategy, ‘A City Imagining’ is currently out for consultation and Christine O’Toole from BCC shared their exciting vision for the future. The more individual voices who respond the better, so as organisations who communicate with different audiences we should not just respond ourselves but also should be encouraging all our networks to get involved too – making as big a noise as possible about how important the arts are to them and what they’d like to see more of.

And finally, stay engaged with A&B NI through your membership to help you in all aspects of your Board work. You can find a list of our Board Matching programmes, training and other governance support here

See you next year!

Tania Carlisle, Development Manager, A&B NI

Thank you to our sponsor Forde Cambell LLC.

Our Funders & Partners

Arts & Business NI is generously supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.