Chair, Members and Expert Advisors wanted – Ministerial Advisory Group for Architecture and the Built Environment

The Ministerial Advisory Group (MAG) for advises on the implementation and development of the Architecture and the Built Environment Policy, as well as promoting the highest quality of places for all those involved in using and shaping them. This is a unique opportunity for individuals to help influence government policy and change the design of places across Northern Ireland.

Applications for the Chair, Member and Expert Advisor positions are welcome from across the community, voluntary, business or public sectors particularly from women, people with a disability, people from minority ethnic groups and young people. A Guaranteed Interview Scheme is in place for those applicants with a disability.  Continue reading

Board Members wanted for Eirgrid

Applications are invited from members of the public who consider they possess the skills and experience necessary to join the Board of Eirgrid . Appointments may be made with regard to ensuring that there are at least two members on the Board with the relevant experience who are normally resident in Northern Ireland.

Applicants may apply under one or more of the following headings:

  • Accounting/Finance Expertise
  • Strategy/Policy Development in the Energy Sector
  • Local Government Experience
  • Stakeholder Engagement/Marketing/PR
  • Regulation
  • Technology

Continue reading

Governance is FUN

fun

Strictly Boardroom has seen the huge increase in interest in governance in recent times. This has been caused by various scandals and public disquiet over the way banks are run, public services are delivered and the behaviour of public representatives (such as the Westminster MPs expenses scandal and now questions about MLAs in the Northern Ireland Assembly).

The role of Non-Executive Directors as the guarantor of the public interest has assumed great importance. Much of the discussion has focused on governance structures that allow for formal roles of Audit Committees, risk management, senior independent directors, conflicts of interest etc etc etc …. Such formal roles are business like, professional and detached. However, we think it should also be fun.

In the peerless BBC Comedy series, Yes Minister, Private Secretary Bernard Wooley suggests an advertising campaign to promote the value of administration. He thinks a suitable slogan would be ‘Administration saves the nation –Red tape is fun!’

We are not advocating a similar campaign for governance. Good governance means that Boards should operate according to best practice to ensure that the interest of shareholders and/or the public interest is protected. There should be integrity, safeguards against conflicts of interest and strict rules. We feel, however, that there is an element missing from all of this debate, FUN. Let’s assume that you have been appointed to the Board of a private company, a public body or a charity. A key part of your role is governance, of course, but surely there is more.

Boards and their members should be active participants that enable the organisation to be successful. While this is a very responsible role you shouldn’t fail to see the wood for the trees. Good governance is about helping the organisation to meet its objectives and you are more likely to do this if you are committed to the purpose of the organisation. Such commitment will mean the experience is fulfilling and enjoyable.

On a Board you should have a collegiate relationship with colleagues; you can help shape a successful organisation and make a real difference for customers, service users or citizens. You still have to be objective, be prepared to challenge staff and board colleagues and, at times, criticise. However, all board members should remember why they are involved in a particular board –whether they are paid for it or not. If it is not enjoyable, fun or helping give a sense of fulfilment why are you doing it?  You always have the choice to be involved in something else.

Alan Hanna – Associate, Strictly Boardroom

Leadership and Governance

Leadership

I think it was Harold Wilson who introduced the term ‘governance’ into modern parlance, after his voluntary retirement as Prime Minister in 1976.

‘The Governance of Britain’ 1976, was his post-leadership memoir, in which Wilson deployed the term to mean something beyond ‘government’, the institutions of the state. He drew the discourse more broadly to encompass the values behind it, the modalities of doing it, and the outcomes from having done it. Over the subsequent decades governance has become the generic term by which we describe the how and why of what organisations achieve, not just their decisions or technical compliance with rules and regulations.

Now, turning homewards, what can we say about the governance of N. Ireland?

I left my job as Director of NICVA to commit to securing a YES vote in the Belfast Agreement Referendum in May 1998, only six weeks after that snowy, exciting and pregnant moment on Good Friday when agreement was reached between the NI participating parties, the two governments and soon, the people in polls on each side of the border, acting as the third element of what PM John Major had described as the reassuring ‘triple lock’ for the cautious citizens who feared possible sell-out over their heads.

But what form of governance has it ushered in? At Stratagem, the political consultancy I helped set up after the referendum, we often explain that the checks and balances, the vetoes and petitions of concern threaded throughout the complex arrangements, legislated for by the NI Act of 1998, are ‘good for the peace process, but rotten for good governance’. It served us well for 15 years, binding everyone in, marginalising dissenters on both sides and offering a beacon around the world of what can be achieved after conflict.

Is it really a surprise that radioactive issues like the Maze-Long Kesh prison site, reforming local councils, planning, land use, contested housing, use of the Irish language, abortion rights, gay marriage, ‘gay blood’, National Crime Agency, the Police College, reforming education, shared schooling, dismantling peace walls and so many more have been bridges too far for the five-party coalition?

One could argue that the checks and balances have worked brilliantly, only collapsing the structures for a single extended period (2002-2007). Just look at Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Sri Lanka or Pakistan to glimpse a vision of the dystopia to which we might have plummeted?

Meanwhile the police have been reformed to world class standards, roads have been built, schools repaired and health demands met; tourism has even reached a high point, inward investment is enjoying a spurt and our creative industries are flourishing.

Mark Durkan, when deputy First Minister, famously described ‘the ugly scaffolding’ around the architecture of the institutions, and asked when it might be dismantled? Well, now is certainly the time.

In a hundred years we will look back on this interim moment between war and peace; it feels grindingly slow as we live through it, but in the scale of things, it hardly registers! We have settled key issues of consent, power-sharing, devolution, policing and justice, cross-border bodies and east-west arrangements. We must now complete the residual matters of flags, parades and the past, alongside current matters of welfare reform, budgets, election of a Speaker and other irritants that have been thrown into the steaming agenda pot!

But, as to governance in its richer sense, we have indeed reached the end of a cul-de-sac, as we stumble backwards into the future; the way in which decisions are made leaves much to be desired; transparency is opaque; openness seems shuttered; accountability undeliverable; confidence is weakened; hope is dimmed.

So, what is to be done?

First, a Talks process that involves more than just the politicians, however talented – and I believe they are uniquely so. Second, a more intense and meaningful process of participatory democracy, deploying the skills and interests of society; third, an engagement process that looks to the future, not the past; and fourth, a vision for a better, shared, prosperous and inclusive place that draws people back, rather than pushing them away.

What makes good governance, asked Harold Wilson? He suggested good leadership – of which we have enjoyed much, as we have moved from conflict to an accommodation of sorts. But Wilson’s last act of governance was to resign in 1976, in full health and without political pressure from opposition or internally in the Labour Party, incidentally, the first leader so to do, since Diocletian resigned as Emperor of Rome in 305 AD; he also introduced the ‘tetrarchy’, rule by four partners.

So, who is to lead us as the new political architects of our future? And what real difference is there in running a small jurisdiction from running a small business or voluntary organisation? The principles are transferable, no?

QUINTIN OLIVER, runs www.stratagem-ni.com and www.StratagemInt.com after a career in the third sector; he supports the www.MakeitWork.Today project and is an Associate in www.strictlyboardroom.com