Current Affairs

Building Agile Governance for Associations

10th May 2021

Cecile Koch, managing director and founding partner of Boardroom, reports on the latest ESAE webinar.

In this ever-changing environment in which we are living and working – and certainly not because of COVID-19 only – it was only natural for ESAE to run a webinar on ‘Building Agile Governance Models for Associations’. Agility is the red thread guiding all of ESAE’s activities this year, and invited to the panel were Peter van der Mark, Secretary General of ESTA, the European Smoking Tobacco Association, Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General of Eurochild, Errol Cohen of Le Play, a French law firm, and Ingrid Lieten, Director of VERSO, the Flemish Federation of Employers in Social Entrepreneurship.

Errol Cohen kickstarted the session by explaining how the management of companies must take social and environmental issues into consideration. In this regard, private companies are also encouraged to incorporate social objectives into their corporate purpose. 

Ingrid Lieten shared how they started their strategy based on the 2011 European Business Initiative. In the course of its existence, the latter incorporated the UN SDGs which allowed to implement ecological initiatives. This proved to be a good guide to redefine the mission and strategies of member companies, while helping to give a wider view to those stakeholders who looked only into their own benefits.

Peter van der Mark explained that his association reviewed its by-laws in 2016.  The pressure from society gave an additional push to adjust the organisation’s purpose.  A clear and defined role of the board was then set, as well as the role of the secretary general.  He firmly believes that “Without proper guidance and good preparation of the board session by the secretariat, decisions at board level can’t be made and actions can’t be undertaken.”

Jana Hainsworth’s position echoed van der Mark’s opinion in a way: so-called“good chewed over” issues well prepared and made by subcommittees can deliver good results in board meetings. The setting up of subcommittees has proven its value. Eurochild is now looking into how the children themselves can play a more active role within the association, even as board member voting is a path that is taken into account. For the association, a ‘Code of Ethics’ is part of its overall mission and helps adopt and “live our values” as Hainsworth put it.

Altogether, ESAE delivered an interesting overview of how different organizations and associations are being agile and how they have changed their structures and visions according to new views, new insights and the changes happening in society.

The next online ESAE webinar is themed ‘Trade Associations and EU competition Law: What you need to know’. It will take place June 3. Register here.

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