Impact Evaluation of Awaydays
December 2009 Evaluation of the long-term impact of Board Awaydays
"The day delivered everything and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. It was a turning point in our understanding of how robust governance arrangements need to be put in place. We felt much closer and clear about the way forward"
"It provided the time together as a board/senior management team at a critical point where honest dialogue was essential"
Evaluation of the long-term impact of Board Awaydays: Report by Nicola Thorold
Since November 2007, the Clore Leadership Programme, funded by the Cultural Leadership Programme, has run a programme of Board Awaydays aimed at whole boards, including trustees and senior executives, of arts organisations. The objective of the course is to improve good governance. To date 22 cultural organisations have taken part in a Clore Board Awayday. These have all been constituted as charities (or not for profit) and included both large and small companies, a number of art-forms and a range of experience and backgrounds among the participants. It is a unique programme in the cultural sector, offering bespoke training to the entire board and senior management team of a single organisation at a time.
This report evaluates the long term impact of the programme based on responses from representatives from over 80% of the organisations who took part before June 2009. It finds that good governance is considered essential by all participants, who have all found value to the day. Almost all Awaydays kick-started or speeded up a positive process of change in governance for the participating organisations.
At its most successful participation in the programme has led to:
- A shared purpose between board and staff members by improving understanding and communication and creating the space for dialogue
- Better use of board members' expertise as a result of improvements to the processes of governance
- The refreshment, motivation and/or regeneration of the board.
Important outcomes include boards moving from taking an operational role to a more appropriate strategic role, executive team members becoming less defensive and more open with trustees and the expertise of board members being better used for the benefit of the company, including in business planning.
The most successful days have been for those companies that were clear what they wanted to achieve, used the day to jointly discuss issues and thereby established a shared agenda between the board and staff for future action - and subsequently pursued this. This has often required the chair and chief executive to play a very active role in following up the action points from the day. This commitment is essential if the impact of the day is not to be dissipated in the long term.
The Clore Board Awayday programme is unique and offers a significant development opportunity to participating organisations. It makes a very valuable contribution to good governance and can help beneficiaries tackle the most challenging issue facing the governance of charities: the relationship between board members and senior staff. I include a small number of recommendations for the programme going forward that should help all participating organisations get the maximum benefit from future days. These are:
- Clore can now give greater clarity about the potential outcomes from the Away-day; this will allow companies to judge whether they are at an appropriate point in their board development to take the greatest advantage of this opportunity
- Clore should ascertain the commitment of chair as well as chief executive to acting on the outcomes of the Awayday as part of the application process
- Some adjustments can be made to the content of the day; notably the balance between technical sessions and discussion could be further tailored to the individual circumstances of participating organisations
- Clore should consider offering a facilitated follow-up session to review action points agreed at the Awayday.
2. Findings from the Evaluation
The value of good governance
Governance is seen as essential to the health of arts organisations by all participants. As one chair said "the company would have made no progress without strong governance".
A number of those participating in the Programme had been through significant changes in their governance; for instance moving out of local authority control, completing a capital project that had transformed the operation of the company or a change in the mission of the company.
Long Term Impact of the Awaydays
Responses were received from representatives of 13 of the 16 organisations that participated in the programme before June 2009. All reported value to the day with 80% finding it very helpful, or helpful, in strengthening the governance of their organisation.
The main long term benefits of the Programme are:
- Almost all respondents report improved team working between board members or improved communication between board members and executive. In over 60% of organisations both outcomes are experienced
- Nearly all organisations report that the day led to changes in the processes used for governing the organisation - such as reviewing terms of office for board members, establishing sub-committees or amending the format of board business
- Many respondents report a better understanding of the role of the board
- Over half of the organisations report increased motivation for board members
- Nearly half report a strengthened strategic direction for the organisation
- A quarter of respondents report that the day has encouraged further professional development for board members.
Through detailed discussion with 13 people representing 8 organisations (40% board and 60% executive) I have further concluded that, at its most successful, a Clore Board Awayday can lead to:
- a. A shared purpose between board and staff members by improving understanding and communication and creating the space for dialogue
- b. Better use of board members' expertise as a result of improvements to the processes of governance
- c. The refreshment, motivation and/or regeneration of the board
- d. In some cases, the Awayday has also laid the foundations for the chair and/or chief executive to tackle a specific challenging issue that was undermining the good governance of the organisation.