Building a stronger bond

Brandon Trust

“Everyone was very excited at the away day. We got very positive feedback. David Saint did a really good job of getting the balance just right. It feels like the start of a really exciting journey, an important moment in Brandon’s history.”

Sue Porto, Chief Executive, Brandon Trust

Brandon Trust enables children, young people and adults with learning disabilities and autism to live life in the way they choose, by providing high-quality, individualised support that focuses on enabling people to achieve their dreams and truly live free.

When new chair Jamie Pike joined in June 2020, following a period of some change, a lot of the board had served over and above their expected term and it was the natural time to bring in fresh energy and perspective, without losing what had been done before. To complicate matters, the pandemic had prevented anyone from meeting in person, meaning seven of the 12 trustees had never had the chance to meet and bond face-to-face.

The charity decided it needed an independent governance review and went out to tender. Action Planning bid for the work, citing our depth of experience in this field and the added value of our partnership with Digi-Board, whose online evaluation tool has proven a very useful asset in helping to gather and compare candid insights from trustees and executive team members.

Brandon’s Chief Executive Sue Porto explains why our bid was successful. “David Saint had clearly done his homework about Brandon and he seemed a good fit. He got our values. We really liked the Digi-Board approach too. It’s about individual personalities.”

To carry out a review of Brandon Trust’s governance and help build the new team while socially distanced.

David Saint conducted the review, beginning with a survey of the Board and Senior Leadership Team using the Digi-Board tool, followed up with one-to-one interviews. Once all the data and feedback had been collated, David arranged an online workshop to present the findings.

Digi-Board produces the survey results in a highly visual, colour-coded graphic form, which makes it easy to spot where the strengths and weaknesses lie. Problem areas are flagged in red. This enabled David to steer the workshop in the right direction to cover the most pertinent topics in limited time.

He also talked through the results of the separate diversity and skills audits, which proved particularly useful in highlighting skills gaps, including some fairly fundamental functions.

“Digi-Board was good,” said Sue. “It was really objective. It prompted you to think in a different way.”

Following sign-off of the governance review, David was engaged to run a trustees away day. This would not only be an opportunity to start to work through some of the recommendations and matters arising from the review, but also a first chance for the new Board and ELT members to meet face to face.

“It was fundamentally about getting to know each other better,” said Sue, “and it really served that purpose, especially for new trustees.”

The governance review was signed off in March 2021 and the away day took place in April. The main benefits, according to Sue Porto, were gaining more clarity regarding roles and trustee recruitment. There are now a lot of new faces on the Board, bringing fresh impetus, which fed into the away day.“We’ve now got a plan,” said Sue.

Consultant’s insight:
Like so many other organisations, Brandon Trust had gone through a testing time during the pandemic, having to cope with multiple challenges and changes, both internally and externally. But with strong and determined leadership and a clear focus on the needs of the people they support, Brandon Trust was able to work through those issues and emerge much stronger as a result.

The away day was an unusual one to facilitate – although the room was large enough for us not to have to wear masks, we did have to maintain social distancing, which is tricky when you are trying to get a new group to ‘bond’! And whereas it is usually necessary to cram as much as possible into an away day to make the best use of the time, in this case it was important to keep the programme quite light, with plenty of opportunity for informal interaction, to enable relationships between brand new and existing trustees to start to form. So we had a lot of fun as well!

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