The Reach TrusteeWorks team had an eventful start to the year. We met with governance experts, trustees, aspiring trustees and charity organisations at two interactive and inspiring events, giving us the opportunity to create awareness on trusteeship, and encourage people to get involved at board level.
We started on the 13th January with the Cabinet Office who invited us to be a part of a small market place event to encourage their staff who have a wide array of skills and expertise to become trustees. The event took place at 1 Horse Guards Road and was organised by Thomas Leftwich, Head of Sector Sustainability projects. We helped line up charities that would benefit from the skills and expertise and the event was well represented by Mentor UK, Population Matters, Probono Consulting, Interclimate Connected Network, Education Media Centre and Getting on Board. Reach showcased its services and opportunities, especially its new digital presence which kick-started focussed discussions on trusteeship, opportunities, our services and resulted in a few on-the-spot registrations.
The charities that participated met with very interesting and potentially useful connections and took advantage of the opportunity to recruit new trustees and skilled volunteers from the highly skilled workforce of the Cabinet Office.
Our participation in the Guardian’s Q&A event in 2014 led to an invitation from Community Impact Bucks to participate in their 2016 Trustee Forum on the 18th January. It was called ‘Future-Proofing’ and attracts over 100 trustees and management committee members every year.
The event is essentially a half day conference with a series of workshops, trustee networking opportunities, street displays targeting volunteers from the business sector. Katharine Woods, Chair, Community Impact Bucks kick-started the conference with an introduction and a warm welcome followed by a keynote presentation by Clore Social Fellow, Emily Geoghiou on ‘Strategic planning for trustees’. The workshops began after a quick round of introductions from the facilitators. Here’s a quick recap on the workshops that were delivered by the facilitators:
We delivered a 90 minute interactive workshop and shared best-practice recruitment tips and engaged the delegates with interactive case studies focussing on emerging issues concerning board-level recruitment. The delegates present were primarily trustees and were looking to recruit new board members as well as to share their insights and solutions to recruiting trustees, all of which made our problem-solving activities a unique and useful experience.
As Trustee recruiters, we too had an insight into recruitment practices and strategies from a charity’s perspective and it helped us to further appreciate each others’ efforts in board level recruitment as well as to highlight some of the unique issues faced by trustees today.
Overall it was a month of inspiration from some of the UK’s leading governance experts, trustee boards and from people looking to become trustees.
It may not be as well known as some business disciplines, but operational research (OR) is a powerful approach for applying analytical methods to improve decision-making. With Reach’s survey showing voluntary organisations grappling with a range of serious strategic challenges, the application of OR techniques may never have been more relevant to the sector.
Now Reach is teaming up with the discipline’s professional body, the OR Society, to offer a small number of charities an opportunity to receive expert help to tackle their strategic challenges.
“We have lots of different options for the future but it’s impossible to decide which to choose in such uncertain times.”
“It’s hard to stay objective when we’re faced with such emotionally charged decisions.”
“We’re under huge pressure to do more with less, and we don’t know how we’re going to do it.”
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, it’s likely that you could benefit from the application of operational research techniques. Jane Parkin of the OR Society explains how:
‘OR is about finding ways to apply analytical methods to make better decisions. Charities face extremely complex decisions about the direction they should take and how to allocate scarce resources. Without the tools to model different scenarios and understand the consequences, it isn’t surprising that many organisations (and certainly not just charities!) tend to rely on gut feelings.
‘An OR practitioner comes armed with an array of analytical tools plus the skills and experience to identify the critical factors and issues, explore the different options and explain the impact of them in real terms.’
‘We were aware that we needed a risk management policy to prepare for everything from commercial risks to environmental threats like foot and mouth,’ recalls Hill Holt’s CEO Karen Lowthrop. ‘But we want all our policies to mean something; we don’t want to write documents that just sit on the shelf. And we were able to achieve this very effectively in terms of our risk management by applying an OR approach to the problem. Furthermore, it equipped us with the tools we needed to do the job of risk management ourselves.’
Holt Wood’s OR consultant used a number of procedures and processes, such as the use of flow charts, to identify key indicators, grade risks and introduce stringent monitoring. Karen Lowthrop says that, during a recent visit to Hill Holt, Ofsted inspectors were extremely impressed with the due diligence work the organisation had done on risk management. But the positive impact which OR has had for the organisation goes beyond the issue of risk.
‘The work we did with our OR consultant affected the management culture of Hill Holt Wood, more particularly the relationship between the Board of Trustees and our staff,’ explains Karen. ‘Our risk management work made us acutely aware of the fact that responsibility for key issues must be spread throughout the organisation. Working with an OR consultant helped break down barriers between trustees and staff and integrate the two.’
With funding the biggest challenge facing the voluntary sector, OR has much to offer in the area of financial management. It can be used to model and forecast resource requirements, appraise financial options, design performance measures and create systems for managing grants and loan schemes.
Jane Parkin sums up the benefits of OR:
‘It won’t make the decisions for you, but it provides some of the head to your charity’s heart and, when you combine the two, you are more likely to act in the interests of your organisation and its beneficiaries.’
The OR Society is a charity itself and wants to help at least five charities in 2011 by identifying pro bono projects for some of its 2500 members to work on. If your charity is facing a significant strategic or operational challenge please email (firstname.lastname@example.org), describing your challenge in 100 words and letting us have your contact information. Please also let us know if there are good days/times of the week to get in touch, as we will pass your details on to an OR practitioner who will contact you to arrange a phone consultation and discuss whether OR can help.
You can find out more about Operational Research at www.theorsociety.com