Friday, June 17, 2011

Putting values into practice

I have been working lately with a few quite small organisations. They want to grow or are just growing naturally as they get more members and they need to prove to themselves and to others that they are working with integrity. I am reminded by some of the conversations that I am having how people feel that they need to show to others that things are being done properly. They appreciate that others are happy with things as they are and that they trust them but there is something that is niggling them about making everything open and transparent.

Whilst we often do things in the charity world to show external bodies that we are doing things properly it is often our own concerns which drive us. I am the chair of an organisation which rents out units in an historic building to local businesses and charities. We then use the surplus to make grants and to maintain the building. We have a couple of units to rent out and have decided as a board on the new rent figure - our agent thinks that we can get more and is in negotiation with a prospective tenant. Of course getting more fits well with our charitable objectives but whilst I want to get this sorted quickly I also want to ensure that all the trustees are on board with the new rent figures and that they feel that their input is important. I could just decide with the vice-chair and the treasurer to expedite matters and agree a way forward with the agent. But I don't want to.

Sometimes it's that feeling of, 'I don't want to', which alerts us to an issue. I can feel a bit of concern from the agent that we are slowing things down but if all the trustees are to accept their responsibilities then they really do need to feel that their opinions matter and that they are indeed governing - not just observing others doing it.

Whilst governance is essentially a rational pursuit we do well to listen to our gut or that small voice in our head - to ensure that we behave in ways that are congruent with our values. Some actions may seem very small but they may actually be very big as they represent the triumph of values over expediency. Ultimately it is all about values.

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