The process of recruiting directors to co-operative boards has very much put the co‑operative sector under the spotlight in recent years.
The role of the board really is critical to the long-term success of a co‑op. Boards need directors with the right mix of experience, expertise and democratic connection to the membership, and who are willing to challenge, scrutinise and lead.
Research commissioned by the Co‑operative Governance Expert Reference Panel found that is not uncommon for co‑op boards to be made up of like-minded individuals with similar interests, experiences and backgrounds. Whilst this might mean having a board that works well together, it in fact increases the risk of a “homogenous” board – one where a lack of diversity of thought can result in insufficient constructive challenge.
Ideally, a board would have directors generating effective discussion and debate around the co‑op’s focus, potential risks and proposed developments. In order to achieve this, a range of relevant skills, competencies and perspectives is required.
Co‑ops are encouraged to consider these new guidelines as part of developing an effective and sustainable board.
If you’re interested in reading the detailed report on the research commissioned by the Co‑operative Governance Expert Reference Panel, 'Board democracy in co‑operatives – A briefing paper', you can download via our resources page.