Adrian Ashton gives us his thoughts on why it's vital to have training at all levels of an organisation, including Directors and Boards.

The co-operative difference

One of the key differences between co-ops and traditional private businesses is the opportunity that we, the ordinary members, have to be directly involved in all parts of the governance of the business – from annual general meetings right through to being part of the Board, leading it and ensuring that it’s remaining true to its defining values and principles.

Investing in your Board

Sadly, over the years, I’ve seen many Boards of co-ops and other social enterprise types become increasingly passive, with Directors seeming to see their role as being more of a formality only: attending meetings because they feel they’re expected to, asking questions of management reports they’re presented with where they relate a point of personal interest, but largely not taking the strategic leadership role that they’re supposed to. If Boards aren’t fulfilling the role they’re supposed to, then it can only serve to weaken the governance, and subsequently success and potential, of the wider co-op.

I firmly believe that this isn’t because management are trying to be subversive, or that Directors are being lazy – rather it’s because we don’t invest in our Boards in the way we should.

Inductions for any level

In any organisation we wouldn’t think twice about induction, training, and ongoing appraisals for our staff and volunteers – recognising that they need to know not only how to do their job, but also what’s expected of them, in order for services and activity to run smoothly. Now ask yourself, when was the last time your co-op set a budget for training for its Board, or reviewed the induction processes and materials that all new Directors receive when they take up post?

The Board is where the buck stops if things go wrong, and often our Directors take on the role voluntarily, so isn’t it only equitable that we at least help reassure them (and ourselves) that they know what they’re supposed to be doing, and are able to do it for all our mutual benefit?

Has Adrian's blog inspired you to learn more? We're running our popular Directors Induction course on the 31st May which will equip you with the skills and knowledge to ensure your co-opertive reaches its full potential