At Work: Law and Governance - Trustee talk - A governance overhaul needs time

Nathalie Thomas interviews Susanna Dawson, chair of the National Childminding Association.

I registered as a childminder 11 years ago. When I registered, I also joined the National Childminding Association and became involved with my local group. After playing a role in my county association and regional committee, I was elected as a trustee of the NCMA on what was then called the national executive committee.

I became chair last year.

Since I took over, the NCMA has had a governance overhaul. This process began two or three years before I came into post, when the national executive committee carried out a large piece of work looking at how the charity was governed, what needed to change and how this could be done.

At the beginning of last year, a governance working group was set up, and I sat on it. This was made up of chairs of the regional committees, a couple of board members, the company secretary and a representative from the NCMA in Wales. We also had staff support. The governance working group didn't receive help from an external consultant, but the national executive had previously sought advice.

We proposed separating the national executive committee into a board, which has responsibility for strategic planning, finance and governance, and a national policy forum made up of members of the NCMA to debate how to react to external policies and various issues affecting the charity.

This proposal was passed at last year's annual general meeting.

Under the old system, every member of the charity NCMA was also a member of NCMA the company. We changed this so that the only members who were also company members were trustees and people on the national policy forum.

We've now had 10 months of moving from the old system to the new. When we passed the resolution to separate the board, we knew where we wanted to get to, but we also knew it wouldn't be possible to do it overnight.

We knew we would need time to recruit the necessary people and set up permanent structures.

From beginning to end, the whole thing has taken more than three years.

I would advise other charities considering doing something similar to be aware that it's not a quick task. One thing I have been very clear about is that I'd rather take a bit longer and get it right than rush and have to repeat some parts of the process.

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