What to do when conflict arises
Not many of us are good at handling conflict. However, is conflict always a bad thing in the context of charity governance? Or can it assist boards in making good decisions which further their charitable objectives and act as a catalyst for positive change?
The answer depends on a number of factors. Not least being the root cause of the conflict, how long it lasts and what form it takes.
For example, as the Oxfam story unfolded, the charity lost thousands of its regular donors. At its height, the issue even appeared to threaten the UK government’s commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on foreign aid.
Managing conflict is almost always time-consuming. It can be demoralising and is often damaging to key relationships. It can also, as in the case of Oxfam, be costly.
Charities are accountable to their beneficiaries and stakeholders and should listen to and value feedback, even if at times it’s uncomfortable to hear. Challenges stemming from stakeholders expressing different opinions, if effectively managed, can be a driver of improvement.
Outright conflict frequently stems from those seeking greater influence, is distracting from the mission and can be costly. However constructive challenge has its origins in creativity; it respectively questions conventional wisdom, is values-driven, and is focused on the mission.
Being an effective trustee
Being an effective trustee is not easy, in part because you’re dependent on others for information about what’s going on across the organisation. In order to be effective, trustees need to be as well informed as possible, engage with stakeholders, and be prepared to constructively challenge the executive. In short, to create some respectful conflict of their own.Read more on Managing Conflict