Case study: a virtual board at the RNIB

Nathalie Thomas describes how staff at the blindness charity can 'meet' trustees on the web

The blindness charity hopes trustee profiles on its website will improve internal relationships.

THE CHALLENGE

The RNIB wanted to close the gap between its staff and trustees by making employees more aware of who the trustees are, what role they play and how the organisation's governance structure works.

"We'd become increasingly aware that lots of people involved in the RNIB don't know who our trustees are or what the governance structures are," says Lucie Dutton, governance support manager at the RNIB. "We wanted to create an atmosphere in which people don't see the board as an impersonal and slightly scary body."

THE PROCESS

In September the internal communications team and the governance support unit at the RNIB launched a joint project to raise awareness of its trustees and assembly members among staff.

They asked each of the charity's 23 trustees to write brief 150-word profiles. These will be posted with photographs on a special trustee page on the RNIB's intranet and external website.

Trustees were asked to provide information about how long they had been at the RNIB, why they joined and what role they play on the board. They were also given the option of including more personal details such as their home towns, information about their families and their interests.

"We thought that if people knew who the trustees are as individuals it would help to break down communication barriers," Dutton says.

THE OUTCOME

The trustee intranet and internet pages will go live this month. According to Dutton, the idea has already had a positive response from trustees and staff.

Dutton and Naomi Saunderson, internal communications manager at the charity, are planning the next stage of the project, which will involve a series of short interviews with trustees that will be published in the staff magazine.

"We're planning to interview trustees with a mixture of formal and more fun questions," Dutton says.

She and Saunderson are also hoping to extend the project to the RNIB's 90-strong assembly, which advises the trustee board.

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