Leading Social review

While management in the charity sector has changed significantly in the past few decades, a reluctance to invest in governance has led to a stagnation of board structure and a lack of diversity, according to Dame Mary Marsh’s review of skills and leadership in the social sector.

Despite a plethora of resources to encourage better governance and the publication of the Code of Good Governance, supported by many of the sector’s umbrella bodies, charities themselves are not investing in their boards, Leading Social, which can be accessed at http://leadingsocial.org.uk, states that many organisations in the sector are unwilling to invest in a significant way in their boards, whether that be recruiting new and more diverse trustees, training/inducting trustees, carrying out board performance reviews or individual appraisals.

It advices that as a result of this, tools/support in this area are often free, or relatively inexpensive, and sometimes limited as a result. Demand for support upskilling or recruiting to boards is relatively weak, and supply reflects that. There are examples of brilliance, including using agencies in trustee recruitment, but the funds to roll it out across the sector rarely exist.

Charities should be nudge’ into investing more in their governance and into using the resources already available to them, the report states and in order to do so it recommends an ‘Investors in Governance’ kitemark that would function as an indicator of best practice to funders and auditors. It also recommends that funders should be encouraged to consider building complementary support to improve governance in their funding packages.

A change in law to allow trustees of charities the same rights as school governors or magistrates to reasonable time out of work to undertake their trustee duties could also be undertaken, the review advises.

Dame Mary Marsh led a working group of representatives from across the sector for six months to produce the review, after her appointment to the task by minister for civil society Nick Hurd last year. The resulting report highlights eight main issues in social sector leadership ranging from a lack of enterprise to missed opportunities for collaboration. But one of the key issues highlighted was the inward-looking approach to recruitment both on boards and as staff.

The official report also points to a lack of apprenticeships, clear entry points for prospective managers and a preference for experience over attitude for preventing young recruits. It states that this latter barrier is getting worse with an increased emphasis on project and contract funding, which is increasing a tendency for employers to look to bring in short-term experienced project managers, rather than investing in developing skills over a longer term.

To create a fertile ground in which to develop a career in the sector, the report recommends implementing an equivalent of the Teach First graduate development programme in the sector; collaboration between employers on training and mentoring, and increasing the number of apprenticeships and traineeships for 16 to 19-year-olds.

Skills Third Sector will manage the Leading Social website, which aims to facilitate further knowledge sharing, going forward.

The working group is comprised of Dame Mary Marsh, Ralph Michell, Pamela Ball, Cliff Prior, Keith Mogford, Rachel Whale, Bill Freeman, Richard Tyrie, Alex Swallow, Karl Wilding, Stephen Hammersley, Steven Leach, Gareth Matthews and Andrew Barnett.