Monday, June 22, 2009

back to the future - CICs in the 1980s!!

In 2005 the Community Interest Company was formed as a way to encourage social enterprise through giving it (amongst other things) greater recognition in the marketplace - all such enterprises must include the words 'CIC' or 'Community Interest Company' in their trading name, and are subject to a regulatory body who checks that their governing rules show them to exist primarily to create a social benefit and all assets and profits are restricted for that use.
But this, it turns out, is nothing new, and has existed as a legal option since 1985!

In 1985, the Companies Act was amended to allow any company to submit an application to the regulator to show that they exist for primarily social purposes and all profits and assets are restricted to achieving them - in turn, the regulator can allow those companies to drop the 'limited' part of their public and trading name to show that they exist for more 'noble' purposes that more traditional private companies.
Is the CIC anything really new then if this core feature of their functionallity (how they present themselves, how the regulator agrees their status) has existed for more than 20 years already?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

why you must change your chairs

a recent story highlights a charity that's has the same Chairperson for 35 years - (that's longer than I've been alive for!), and that following complaints into their management of the charity, there's an investigation being conducted by the Charity Commission about claims of inappropriate and mis-management and their subsequent removal from post.

It illustrates a key danger to the governance of our sector: entrenched board members.

Having a committed, keen and enthusiastic board is vital to the success of any organisation - and its increasingly difficult to find people who'll happily offer their time to do so.
However, having the same person in the same post for too long starts to bring inherent dangers - people can become complacent, stuck in their ways and as a result hostile to change, ("after all, we've always done it this/my way..."), even when those changes are needed because of changes to legislation or expectations and trends amongst our communities. Their being so long in post also deters new blood from coming forward to join the board, as it becomes seen to be a 'closed shop', having the same people in post for so long.

Just as we appraise and review our staff and volunteers performance and conduct, so we should with that of our boards - and if they're found wanting, we should be brave enough to say so and either support them to gain the necessary skills and knowledge, or else ask them to move on.

To put it another way, how well would notions of member participation and democracy be being manifest if a country had the same leader for over 3 decades?