Good corporate governance is always important. But now, as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever. Decisions must be made quickly, with an eye to public health, stakeholder wellbeing and organisations’ long-term viability.
Schools are at the epicentre of these decisions. Complex entities at the best of times, they are managing a raft of different expectations around service provision, staff and student safety, and the virus’s short- and medium-term impacts on public health and the economy.
As the Australian Institute of Company Directors notes, “School boards require thorough and diligent leadership to engage students, parents and teachers. Good governance means:
- Advanced strategies and plans
- Improved stakeholder engagement and communication
- Enhanced operational effectiveness
Your governance education will better your students’ outcomes.”
Schools must always act with transparency, keep their information secure and make good decisions based on the best information available. With the federal government providing funds to help schools improve their governance, there is pressure to act quickly in securing results.
Adopting a digital governance platform is one solution. Not only can it provide the upgraded governance capabilities required, but it can also be of direct assistance during the current situation – and its aftermath.
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Why does governance matter?
Governance is ultimately about trust. Boards of directors meet and act primarily so the public and other stakeholders can trust that their organisation is acting properly – that is, with good intentions, good ethics and good management.
A time of crisis magnifies these requirements. As noted, schools are complex organisations with various statutory requirements relating to child welfare and educational outcomes. They typically have highly involved stakeholder groups and must produce good results – for their students, their parents and their operators – every year, without fail.
Presently, school boards are making decisions with far-reaching, even life-changing impacts in compressed timeframes and an uncertain educational and financial environment. The ability to securely share information, discuss and vote on proposals, and generally manage their business remotely and on a range of devices is paramount.
The schools that manage themselves through this time will no doubt prosper. Those that fail will find their poor governance exposes them to an uncertain future.
Governance in times of crisis
Now is the time for all school boards to step up and ensure they are performing to the highest standard. Crisis governance is a topic we’ve addressed before, but in summary, you should:
- Consider the crisis’ impacts from all angles and on all stakeholders (with public health and safety the overriding concern)
- Communicate with each stakeholder group directly (and separately, if necessary)
- Err on the side of over- not under-communication
- Take decisive action swiftly and with empathy
Practical governance tools help boards meet these challenges with speed and confidence.
Why go digital?
A unified digital governance platform will provide all the capabilities you need to weather any crisis. As a ‘bedrock’ capability, they are highly secure, with encrypted communications and data storage to keep your information and deliberations safe.
They also make it easy to share information and collaborate with other board members, thanks to online document storage and collaboration tools. On-platform note-taking and minuting all but eliminate the risk of such information leaking.
And a raft of other tools, such as voting, skills matrices, news feeds and more, make project and committee management, diversity planning, succession planning and other functions easy.
Digital tools in action
How can digital tools assist in the current situation? With schools closing, pivoting to remote teaching and trying to maintain pastoral care for their students and staff, boards will have to meet more often than usual, and the decisions they make will have significant consequences.
Adopting a state-of-the-art digital governance platform gives you the tools you need to help your board to:
- Maximise information availability for board members and senior managers
- Communicate and collaborate on projects and workflows
- Prepare for remote working
- Protect sensitive information by using a secure platform
Diligent’s suite of board software products provides all these capabilities and more. Schools are among our most important public institutions – and we’d love to help yours to survive and thrive.
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