Focus: Finance and Governance - Trustee talk - Martin Farrell, chairman, Time Banks UK

Time Banks UK is an umbrella organisation, which means there is a subtle and different level of challenge for the board of trustees. It's more challenging because, in addition to all the normal trustee responsibilities, there are the obligations of being a trustee for a whole movement.

We are not responsible for all the time banks throughout the country, but we are guardians and supporters of the movement, which includes those time banks.

Individual time banks have their own boards and they can also be part of other formal structures - a health authority or prison, for example.

What this means is that we as trustees - and also the staff - have to be very good at listening. We need to listen very carefully to what the movement is telling us.

I became chair of Time Banks UK a year ago. Shortly after that, we launched a discussion called 'Getting into shape'. It was a consultation on how Time Banks UK could best serve individual time banks in order to inform the strategic direction set by the board of trustees. This lasted from April 2006 until the autumn and involved responses to our website and meetings around the UK. This process went better than we anticipated.

The responses all seemed to say similar things: they wanted consistency so that best practice could be spread throughout the UK.

A document from that consultation will form the basis of discussions at an away day in February. We've heard from people what they want, and we want to be sure our strategic direction is providing what the movement is asking us for.

Another message we received was that people wanted more contact with Time Banks UK trustees. So we are going to set up a process whereby trustees can become more familiar with what is happening on the ground.

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