|  Uncategorized   |  Navigating the storms – governance, leadership and ethical decision making.

Navigating the storms – governance, leadership and ethical decision making.

Alternatively – it’s raining indoors again. Over the years every single pipe in our house has burst at some point – there was a period when I thought Dave the plumber (and erstwhile Elvis impersonator) had moved in with us and I had the insurance company on speed dial. So having had all of the pipework replaced obviously it was time for the Velux windows to start leaking. Free life tip: when your life partner tells you that they were woken up in the middle of the night with water dripping on their head – laughter is neither expected nor welcomed.

Chaired the Trustee Board meeting of local Brighton charity The Trust for Developing Communities who I have had the privilege of supporting as chair for the last 3 years or so. As ever we read and heard real stories of how the organisation makes life changing contributions to our City on a daily basis – through neighbourhood based community development, a range of youth work interventions and initiatives that support those from racially minoritised / global majority communities. We exist to try and reduce health and social inequalities through services designed and lead by the commmunities we live, serve and work within.

Like many / most organisations within the sector inflationary pressure, the cost of living and macro-economic factors are all impacting on the organisation. Largely dependent on Local Authority funding (who themselves are trying to balance a budget that requires circa £30m of savings) we as a Board have been wrestling through what next years budget might look like. Planning assumptions being modelled on different scenarios ranging from ‘bad’ to ‘dreadful’. Given that the income of the organisation is spent overwhelmingly on staff costs – or passed to partners who spend it on staff costs – every scenrio we plan for has real life impacts on the people working for us. Every decision is therefore heavy. I am always grateful for the support, challenge and different perspectives of fellow trustees alongside the stability and longer term views we have taken over the years.

Being driven by a sense of purpose we have also over the years sought to maintain a reasonable cash reserves position. At times this itself has been challenging – why would a charity have money in reserve that could be spent on beneficiaries? The answer of course is that at times like these having a strong financial position can assist in governance and ethical decision making. So we have decided that rather than respond in a knee-jerk way to the announced cuts to budgets by both Local Authority and Health colleagues we will use our reserves to essentially set a deficit budget for Quarter 1 – to preserve as much employment as we can, make a pay award to staff whilst we work through the different funding scenarios and (hopefully) reap the benefits of what has been some frenetic fundraising activity over the last 3 months.

I’ve worked with numerous organisations over the years where decision making has been drivien by short term crisis, blind optimism or ‘performance’ and a desire to be seen to be doing something. Similarly I’ve watched many organisations fall by the wayside as they literally run out of cash.

So in these tough times I am grateful to my colleagues for their input and for the fact that we’ve been on a journey as a Board and with our leadership team – one that has been challenging at times but where transparent and ethical decisions can be made. Even when we don’t always (or ever) get everything what we want.

There’s loads of consultant buzz words I could use about horizon scanning, scenario planning, delegation frameworks, transformation, right-sizing etc etc.

But sometimes you just have to do the right thing – even when it’s uncomfortable – and never forget the human impact of the decisions you’re making but whose impact you are detached from.

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