Practice good governance or sing for your supper

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Last month it was reported that the English National Opera (ENO) had been dropped from the Arts Council’s national portfolio of organisations for 2015-18 and placed “under special funding arrangements”.

According to the BBC, Arts Council England said the ENO must improve its governance and business model or face funding cuts. It said it would review the ENO’s finances over the next two years and “set rigorous milestones” for progress. The move came following the January resignations of ENO’s chairman and executive director.

We hope ENO will make good progress and be able to continue on its mission of “presenting award-winning work that is new, exciting and surprising”. However, this shows the importance of all organisations in receipt of public funding securing and keeping the confidence of key funders.

Good Governance

Well-governed organisations are those which have a clear vision, mission and strategy. This makes it easier for funders to see how their activity meets the funding criteria. The boards of well-governed organisations keep a close eye on performance, checking progress against expected outcomes, and spending against budgets. This helps ensure public funding has the expected impact. In addition, good governance involves building effective relationships – among the board and staff, and with customers, suppliers and other key stakeholders. When relationships are good, it’s always easier to deal with problems than when relationships are strained in the first instance.

Boards should seek to constantly strive to improve their governance processes. The only constant is change, and as best practice evolves, boards should work to encompass this into their own operations. It is preferable to improve your governance as part of a process of regular review and development than to be forced to do so when problems arise.

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