Transform Governance


Transforming Governance:
an all-sector challenge

From RBS to BHS, from Kids Company to Carillion, from Rotherham to Rochdale, from Volkswagen to V-inspired, there is a common yet often unstated theme: an apparent failure of governance.

Governance failures arise in a number of ways: negligence, fraud, ill-judged financial decision-making, the wrong skill-mix in the boardroom, a meddlesome board. Sometimes the failures appear to be the result of singular acts or ‘rogue traders’, although this is rarely the full story. Mostly, errors are manifestly multiple and sometimes profoundly tragic, with results ranging from the farce of last year’s Oscar Best Movie mix-up to the still unfolding tragedy of Grenfell Tower.

Meanwhile, there are many examples of high-quality, professional and committed governance that remain locked within sector-specific communities, and therefore largely unacknowledged and unknown.

We want this space – the Transform Governance space – to be open to all who share our concerns about poor governance and our aspirations for great governance. Please respond to the regular postings and follow us on twitter @BetterGovCom.

Much of our work, and that of our partners, in recent months has been taken up with building on the #R29 campaign, the nature and origins of which we outline below, with the intention of establishing an all-sector Better Governance Commission. We believe that we have much to learn by coming out of our silos and sharing our lessons of great governance, and that genuine thought diversity is likely to grow through these exchanges. Let the discussions begin!

Should you feel that you can support, or if you would like to contribute to, any aspect of our Transform Governance project, including our all-sector Better Governance Commission in any way, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Recommendation 29

Recommendation 29 originates in Tony Breslin’s well-received report, Who Governs Our Schools? Trends, Tensions and Opportunities (RSA, 2017), and calls for the sharing of knowledge and insights across tradition sector boundaries. It reads:

Agencies across the governance landscape need to work together to establish a cross-sector working group or commission on governance.

This would enable those in education, the wider public sector, the voluntary and community sector and industry to learn from each other, and might be composed of an alliance of “voice-of-the-sector” bodies from each field. It might enable us to share learning and build a common core of governance literacy that we can share beyond our boardrooms and across sectors, and it might produce the sort of thought diversity that provides the strongest counter to group think.

The #R29 Campaign

Just as Recommendation 29 originates from an RSA commissioned report, in the true spirit of the RSA Fellowship, the idea for a campaign to deliver the recommendation, the #R29 campaign, originated in a coffee bar discussion at the RSA between Tony Breslin of Breslin Social Impact, Su Turner of Shaping Governance and Ann Reeder of Frontline Consulting. Su Turner had served on the Expert Group for Tony Breslin’s RSA report and is a long standing colleague of Ann Reeder’s through their shared interest in public sector governance.

The campaign is being delivered through a series of ten sector focused roundtable discussions hosted by a wide range of voice-of-the-sector partners including ICSA, the Institute of Directors, NCVO, the National Governance Association, the Non-Executive Academy and Campbell Tickell. The first, at Parliament in March 2018 was hosted by the Non-Executive Academy and facilitated by Frontline Consulting, who have continued to be key supporters of the programme.

Each roundtable has explored four questions:

  1. To what extent can those involved in governance across the sectors, particularly as non-executive directors and trustees, learn from each other?
  2. What benefits might accrue from such learning and how might we facilitate this sharing of insight and experience?
  3. Can we identify a set of sector-agnostic key principles that should inform governance, scrutiny and accountability, whatever the sector, organizational type and focus of activity and, if so, how might we go about this task?
  4. Is there greater potential for the transferability of board skills across sectors?

The roundtables have stimulated rich discussion – while acknowledging the distinctiveness of governance in each setting, they have strongly endorsed both the belief that there are shared commonalities and the case for an all-sector Better Governance Commission.

Outcomes from the roundtables are beginning to emerge in articles in a variety of influential journals and will be summarized on this site in due course.

A Better Governance Commission

Encouraged by the success of the roundtables and the diverse range of blue-chip partners who are already expressing interest in our work, we are securing support (funding, organizational, media and political) to establish an all-sector Better Governance Commission and an associated research programmme during the course of 2019.   The Commission’s objectives are threefold:

  1. To facilitate cross-sector learning within the boardroom, such that we build an understanding of the common principles that underpin good governance, whatever the setting;
  2. To build governance literacy beyond the Boardroom, such that our stakeholders – in this sector, our beneficiaries, staff, volunteers, donors, and funding partners – understand what governance is, how it works and why it is important;
  3. To enhance boardroom thought diversity across all sectors, such that we counter the tendency towards group think (or perhaps sector think) while widening participation, whatever the setting.

The work on the Commission is being taken forward through the partnership behind the wider Transform Governance initiative – Breslin Social Impact and Permuto Consulting.

News and Views

Governance during lockdown: can we go governance-light without going governance-free?

In the second of his COVID-19 Blogs, Tony Breslin explores the nature of school governance during the lockdown and poses the question "Can we go Governance-light without going Governance-free?" He also speculates on how governance, and schooling itself, might change as a result of the virus, and calls on governors to play their part in these changes.

We need to extend governance literacy beyond the boardroom if we want to build diversity within it.

In a feature article for the February 2019 issue ICSA journal, Governance and Compliance, Tony Breslin and Cosette Reczek outline the thinking behind their plans for an all-sector Better Governance Commission.

Governance beyond Silos

Tony Breslin and Cosette Reczek extend their appeal for participation in an all-sector Better Governance Commission to the voluntary and community sector through a paper in the January 2019 edition of Governance and Leadership.

Sober Breslin raises £10,000 for Macmillan in five years

Tony Breslin has thanked his many sponsors after completing his fifth successive Go Sober for October for Macmillan Cancer Support, raising £2,003.50 (plus Gift Aid) this year, and a total of approximately £10,000 (including Gift Aid) over the past five years.

The Broken Promise of Autonomy

Tony Breslin's debut piece in Schools Week explores the changing nature of school-based headship in multi-school settings and ponders whether the emergence of Trusts and Federations amounts to 'a broken promise of autonomy' for school-based leaders.

Breslin Social Impact links up with Permuto Consulting to launch new Transform Governance web presence

As work towards the establishment of an all-sector Better Governance Commission ramps up, Breslin Social Impact and Permuto Consulting have teamed up to complement the recently established Transform Governance twitter page @BetterGovCom, which already has close to 200 followers, with a new dedicated web presence, accessible from the websites of both consultancies, at

Breslin launches Transform Governance twitter page @BetterGovCom

New dedicated transformgovernance space debuts on Twitter.

New Modern Governor Module on Strategic Leadership written by Tony Breslin

Modern Governor publishes new module on the strategic role of governing boards, written by Tony Breslin.

Lessons From Lockdown
This book will help us to achieve the educational outcomes that we all hope for - if acted on, its recommendations have the power to create a new culture of schooling
Ross Dean
Victorian Educational Leadership Consortium, Australian Education Union