How can we trust the heart of our business is sound?

Group of women leaders learn together around a table

A Governance Cheat Sheet

by servane mouazan

Business Governance is not just about the c-suite. All the chiefs, board members, advisors, staff, internal and external stakeholders, have to design and produce outcomes collaboratively. Running a good business is about interconnecting vision, strategy, planning, delivery, measurement and, yes... fun). If one of these areas fail, the rest will crumble too.

Good business governance should be an open and balanced act of shared power, and accountability; where duty of care, sustainability and social impact are not just nice-to-haves.

How can we trust the heart of our business is sound?

Ogunte is 2019 "Best for the world" BCORP GOVERNANCE HONOUREE

As Ogunte proudly received the Bcorp accolade of Best for the World in the category Governance (4th September 2019) for the second year running, we would like to share how social businesses, social enterprise leaders, team members, and individual consultants who work with social impact goals, should develop good governance habits.

To get there, we need to constantly ask ourselves:

  • What is our intention?
  • Who are we serving?
  • Does it work?
  • How do we know?
  • What / who else does it impact on?

Additionally, it is important to

  1. (Re-)Define your values

The UK Corporate Governance Code for listed companies last year set out expectations that companies – and their board - should take action to set and monitor goals around organisational culture and values.

Once well-defined through a process of discovery and co-production with your internal and external stakeholders, your set of organisational culture and values becomes a strategic compass, a decision-making aide, a benchmark for recruitment, code of conduct – and dismissal -, and a myriad of other things.

  1. Re-design the governance “rule book”

At Ogunte, our governance style has evolved, because we mix consultancy, advocacy and campaigning to reach our purpose, which is to support and amplify the community of women in social enterprises. We work with individuals, networks, but also a range of intermediaries that support this community.

Our approach to governance has to be open and fluid. It is fed by our co-production principles and flat power system. We thrive on people’s sense of connectedness, the realisation that their work cannot be conducted in isolation, that there is a political and social context to understand and adapt to and the rule book is morphing constantly.

We can not provide support for women in social businesses or enterprises and ignore the push for better gender equality policies and implementation, the need for behaviour change, the need to overthrow pervasive discriminatory habits, etc.

Therefore, whatever your purpose is, ensure that within your company, talking up is not an issue. Make sure the governance rules adapt with what emerges in and outside your organisation and that your well-crafted business governance guidance is applied for real.

  1. Be challenged

There are times we realise our ignorance is blatant. So we have to acknowledge our failures, learn and change. Learning and improving takes place in partnership with industry colleagues, through training sessions, leadership development groups, social audits with stakeholders, through user research or business mentoring/coaching. As the Bcorp community is open to learning, it proves to be a great resource.

In the UK, many structures exist for future governance team members and leaders at every stage of their development, such as Clore Social Leadership, American Express Leadership Academy, Practical Governance, Power to Change topical programmes for Community businesses, online and face-to-face training sessions organised by Social Enterprise UK and other Social Enterprise support structures throughout the country.We highlight these programmes in our weekly round up of events on our Ogunte Facebook page.

At Ogunte, we also ran various programmes to help women progress from Functional Lead to CEO and supported women in social enterprises to access a board position or an investment committee.

What strikes us is the necessity to invest in and include learning as a strategic and measurable component. When you leave your office, measure your ability to be challenged and to grow. Ask yourself: What did I learn today? How is this different from what i used to do before? What will I now let go of?

  1. Adopt patient and resilient governance

Looking at the pressing needs that the social business sector currently faces, the sector unanimously says patient capital comes pretty much at the top. To attract patient finance (which in turn accelerates our ability to tackle core social and environmental issues), governing teams and staff need to develop listening skills and the ability to make people sit at the table who, on one hand, are coming from different perspectives, but also have different needs and objectives. Clarity and transparency do help.

However, resilient governance is not about saying yes to everything or be the last man standing. It’s about distributing power within a resourceful, open, communicative and nimble team. It’s about removing the threats and being open to consistent and continuous 2-ways learning conversations. It’s about understanding and sharing various stakeholders’ perspectives. Resilient governance is what gives you patient and resilient leadership.

Amy Carter-James, the founder of Guludo Beach Lodge and the Nema Foundation, works with communities in Mozambique to relieve poverty and protect the environment:

We help and encourage our partners to monitor their impact more efficiently, and to focus their resources on the areas they want to improve upon. For example, if they are already fantastic at water consumption, but they are not really engaging with the local community or their supply chain needs improving, we’ll look closely at those areas together”.

Achenyo Idachaba founded MitiMeth in 2011 to transform the environmental menace of water hyacinth, into a marketable business venture. Asked about her approach to innovation, she proposes an advice that governance teams can take on board:

"Understand the problem from the perspective of the communities and individuals affected. Propose a solution to the community, explaining their role in the matter and the concrete benefits your idea could bring”.

  1. Use verbs not nouns

We believe there are various ways to do good, and also various ways to do good business.

For Ogunte, joining the B Corp family was essential in order to collaborate, be heard, learn, bring diversity and different “exam questions” to the movement.

As we connect and amplify the work produced in the women-led social enterprise and B Corp community in the UK but also internationally, we realise that values and business governance need to be action verbs. And that has been the key learning around governance.

This year, we will renew our vows with our values, but importantly we will look at how they can be reformulated to gain clarity and to distribute power better.

To get personalised team or 1-to-1 coaching on governance, contact us here for a call back with no obligation.

Company info

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