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Governance Forum – 3rd September 2012

Last Monday the Centre hosted the Governance to Strategy Forum, which provided an opportunity for CEOs, Board members and senior executives to come together and discuss how our sector can respond to challenges raised in the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry, and adapt to our changing landscape.
The forum was facilitated by Steven Bowman – Managing Director of Conscious Governance – who is recognised for having transformed the application of governance and strategy.
The keynote address was delivered by Chris Hall – Churchill Fellow and CEO of Mercy Care WA – who began by providing a summary of many challenges facing the sector. Chris went on to detail factors that drive mergers and common barriers within community sector organisations, and listed common success factors among these mergers, and opportunities for improvement. Chris also described the importance of prioritising the best interests of those we serve, and need to avoid becoming distracted by organisational, industrial and sectoral matters.

Jacqui Reed, CEO of CREATE Foundation, opened the second session of speakers, highlighting the challenge raised through the uncertainty of NFP funding models, and describing measures her organisation has taken to enhance their sustainability. She also described how CREATE has benefited from embedding their mission to “create a better life for children and young people in care” in all operational and day-to-day activities.

Luke Rumbold, CEO of Upper Murray Family Care, conveyed the importance of community ownership, independence and accountability for community service organisations. He described the importance of being deeply connected to the community, in a changing landscape where power imbalances are increasingly evident, and sustainability is reliant on a growing need for accountability and reporting. Luke stated that “governance and operations are easy at the extremes, but blurry in the middle… you need constant review and dialogue to continue to build trust”. Luke also suggested that “we drown in data but don’t necessarily drown in analysis.
David Pugh, CEO of St Luke’s Bendigo, spoke about bringing vision to our work, using Barcelona’s, Sagrada Familia cathedral as an example of incredible long-term vision. David suggested that most recent discourse around governance is focused on regulation and compliance, where it is important to also consider structure, process and relationships.
Gill Callister, Secretary of the Department of Human Services, spoke of developing Service Connect, where clients have multiple points of entry, one case file and are given greater opportunity to define their desired outcomes. She mentioned the importance of leadership within the sector, and maintaining a broad vision that sees beyond our own organisations. Gill described the sector as being on the cusp of significant reform, and questioned how well prepared community service organisations are for this. During the presentation, Gill also welcomed dialogue between Boards and government on the reforms.

These four speakers then assembled on stage and fielded questions from the audience.

Kim Visek-Johnson, acting CEO of GordonCare launched the next session, speaking about their transition to a Venture Philanthropy Foundation, and how it will revolutionise the way they offer support to those in need. Kim described this process as changing the organisation from a “doing charity” into an “enabling foundation”, providing strategic funding, hands-on management support and specialist expertise.
Micaela Cronin, CEO of MacKillop Family Services, described their process for selecting and implementing the Sanctuary Model, which provides an organisational framework for change, based on Trauma Attachment Theory. Micaela also reinforced the importance of providing a shared focus and vision, and creating a shared language.
Sandie de Wolf, CEO of Berry Street, spoke on legacy considerations during mergers, detailing their approach to the merge with Lisa Lodge. Key messages Sandie mentioned were the requirement for client needs to be prioritised over any perceived organisational needs, and the importance of preserving history.
Shane Murphy and Mike Kelly co-presented the details of a memorandum of understanding developed to underpin a formal partnership between Barwon Youth and Time for Youth, who had operated independently for 55 years. Mike also explained how this had developed into a significant partnership with Swinburn University.
These speakers then formed the second panel of the day, and took questions from the audience.
Steve guided a lively discussion across the final session of the forum, led by participant’s responses to the question “What is the greatest challenge or priority your Board will face over the next three years? A number of priorities and recommended actions emerged. These will be taken up as part of the Centre’s strategic response to service reforms in the coming year.
The challenges identified were:
  1. Funding and sustainability
  2. Strategy development and innovation
  3. Sector reforms
  4. Diversity of programs
  5. Assessing and communicating impacts and outcomes
  6. Compliance/Reporting
  7. Workforce
  8. Risk management
  9. Governance
The Centre would like to thank everybody who attended, and acknowledge the presenters for their valuable contributions.

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