EDITORIAL: RNID board must be transparent to silence critics

LUCY MAGGS

Chief executive of the RNID James Strachan announced recently that he is to resign from his position and become chairman of the organisation.

The move has been met by a rush of criticism, particularly from people within the deaf community.

The main concern seems to be that after such a long stint with the organisation - Strachan was a trustee before becoming chief executive - he may find it hard to take a back seat and let the new head get on with his job.

Strachan has a reputation for being a strong and charismatic leader and has revolutionised the organisation in many ways. But he is also known to have strong views on the chairman's role being detached from the day-to-day running of the organisation. It will be interesting to see how successfully he puts this into practice.

It's a strange scenario for the sector - a chief executive moving to become chairman - and perhaps it's the unfamiliarity that is creating such concern.

But just because it's a new scenario doesn't mean it won't work. It could be beneficial that someone who has made such an impact on the organisation wants to continue to contribute to it.

This kind of thing happens in other sectors all the time and is quite familiar to someone with Strachan's private-sector background. There are different issues at stake in voluntary-sector governance, of course. The independence of voluntary organisations needs to be protected so the organisation can't be used to drive forward individual agendas. But the most effective way of guarding this is to ensure the transparency of the board's workings and to give the necessary induction and training.

Provided this is up to standard and all involved know what they are taking on, there is no reason the transition from chief executive to chairman can't be successful. One thing is for certain, all eyes will be on the RNID.

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