Blog entry

Balance of a Trustee Body

Adrian Coy's picture

During my relatively recent time on Council I was involved in both the Orr and Hewlett governance reviews, and in debating a further governance report commissioned from consultants.  I also served on the Executive Board as both an elected general member of council and as a Vice President.  I acted as scrutineer for last years ballot.

Council now meets only three times a year, plus the ASM.  This is too infrequent for Council to respond to important issues that arise.  Last year there were a number of high profile incidents affecting UK charities that ICE may have had difficulty responding to if it were dependent on calling emergency meetings of the full council.  I am therefore in favour of a smaller Trustee Board able to respond to issues and protect ICEs charitable commitments in a timely and agile way. It is important though that this body is constituted in a way that represents all members.

The Executive Board, now the Trustee Body, has in recent years been dominated by ‘Captains of Industry.’   Some within the presidential team bring a top-down view of the industry that makes them excellent ambassadors for ICE in its interface with Goverment and other key decision makers, but doesn't make them an expert in the needs and expectations of ICE members.  Not all of those selected for presidential office in recent years have had an understanding of ICE prior to taking up office, nor the time, commitment or inclination to learn once elected.

It is quite intimidating for a general member of council elected to the Executive Board to challenge a presidential team dominated by company CEOs or leaders of major infrastructure projects.  It is not only about a balance of numbers, but the influence that the authoritative and persuasive voice of an industry figurehead can carry.

I am not conviced that the President and all Vice-Presidents need to be on the Trustee Body.  Recent Presidents have been expert in Boardroom Politics and executive decision making.  Council has sometimes frustrated them and its views have been managed rather than accepted.  ICE is a membership organisation and so all of its constituents (grades/geographies) need a role in ensuring the ICE as a Charitable Body continues to make decisions in the best interest of its members, AND society.

I once presented to UKRAC, and submitted to the Hewlett review, an organogram of the ICE that had ordinary members at the top, supported at a second-tier by regional and international committees, ICE Committes on a third-tier, Council at fourth-tier , with the Exec Board and President supporting the whole membership from the bottom.  I will refrain, therefore, by calling for a bottom-up approach to Governance.  Ordinary members are the most important constituent of any effective governance model.


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