Site Gallery is Sheffield’s leading international contemporary art space, supporting artists specialising in moving image, new media and performance. In July 2014 Site secured major investment to realise ambitious plans to transform Site Gallery, trebling in scale, including much larger galleries, a new education and events space, a new café and bookshop.
Here, Judith reflects on the learning that’s been adopted with Change Creation and along the way…
“Site Gallery’s change journey has been on-going for many years. In the last 8 years we’ve gone through a change management process with staff, reimagined our artistic direction, focussed on our building and the space we provide to our visitors and community, and embarked on an ambitious capital works programme. There have been some incredible successes and a some unexpected challenges.
The work that everyone put in, to make sure we moved into our new gallery space on time was immense. Needless to say the scale of the work involved meant that many other areas of our business were left a little side-lined. The capital programme had never been the end point of Site’s development. Once we’d opened up the doors of Site Gallery, and celebrated our success we let the dust settle (literally) we turned our attention to the next phase.
With the support of Change Creation we’ve focussed on our governance model. We had many long-standing trustees who have given their time and expertise generously for many years. We knew we wanted to maintain that support, whilst attracting new trustees that represented our audiences and communities. Our Memorandum and Articles were out of date and didn’t reflect the organisation we had become or our future aspirations. Our processes around managing trustees were weak. I had a sense of what would work well for Site’s future, and really wanted to create changes whilst crucially, maintaining relationships and support.
With Change Creation, we had access to tools, resources and an intensive workshop focussing on governance. We worked with Sarah Drummond, a Change Creation consultant and there were light bulb moments, left, right and centre. I knew that I have a tendency to take on too much responsibility, to feel like I’ve got to do everything myself… and working with Sarah, it was clear that this process didn’t belong to me exclusively. It needed to belong to, and be driven by the Board.
Sarah facilitated a governance review with the existing trustees. We started off with a lot of questions. What does a healthy Board look like? What role should it play in our organisation? What skills do we need on our Board? What are the organisation’s requirements of the Board now in the future? What is missing from our Board? How do we make it more representative? How should we recruit our trustees? How do we attract and retain trustees? How do we make the most of our relationships when trustees and expertise leave the organisation?
The review process was so positive. The Board identified changes, improvements and together we’ve delivered a reimagined governance. We now have clearly defined roles, an agreement on a fixed term approach for future trustees, time and effort has been invested to formalise an induction process, and several of our long-standing trustees have formed a Nominations Committee to spend their last year on the Board helping us shape, develop and invest in our new and future trustees.
We knew that we wanted young people on our Board. For the first time we recruited externally and widely. We made sure we were explicit in our advertising that “previous experience of working on a Board” was nowhere to be seen. We wanted to attract a broad range of applicants. We committed to developing and inducting trustees so that lack of experience was not a barrier.
We have a Young People’s group at Site Gallery so we worked with their alumni to explore what they would need to become confident to apply. We already have a fabulous network of volunteers, many of them young people. We engaged with them, encouraged them to think about becoming a trustee, now or in the future, and committed to providing them with support, insight and opportunities to help them apply.
We received over 40 applications. The profile of the applicants was really positive and completely different to previous recruitment efforts. By the end of the year we will have seven new, fully inducted Board members, including new young trustees and a clear plan for recruitment over the coming years. We want to retain the expertise, skills and time of our long-standing trustees and are finding new ways for ex-Trustees to volunteer their time at Site Gallery or contribute to strategic programmes.
Volunteers, people who give up their time, skills and effort generously are central to Site Gallery. We couldn’t do our work without them. What I imagined could be a challenging process, has been overwhelmingly collaborative, powerful and positive. With Change Creation’s support, we’ve reshaped our entire approach. We’re committed to bringing the same rigour and care to managing our volunteers that we do to managing and developing our staff and audiences.”