Great engagement with NFGWS workshops on good governance

The now annual NFGWS winter workshop series has recently concluded, with this year’s theme focusing on group water scheme governance.

NFGWS staff hosted some 13 workshops at various locations around the country throughout November and early December. The workshops utilised the NFGWS county federation network structures where possible.

Some 350 GWS personnel, representing 159 group water schemes were in attendance, and availed of the opportunity to engage in excellent discussion with other GWSs around all things governance.

GWS board roles

The workshop included a pre-recorded presentation from former Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) chief executive officer, Séamus O’Donohoe, which focused on best governance practices and the development and implementation of individual GWS business plans.

Along with highlighting their importance, Seamus gave detailed advice on how to create such plans, including what components should be prioritised, how a plan’s goals could be broken down and why consistent appraisal is so vital to achieving its aims.

The NFGWS also developed a sample business plan for GWSs, which was distributed to those in attendance.

The sample plans provided guidance on completing a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis, as well as the development of a mission statement, vision, goals, and corresponding objectives for an individual GWS.

Séamus’ presentation high-lighted two other key roles of GWS boards. The first being its responsibility to act as the guardian of the co-op and to ensure that the co-op is compliant with all relevant legislation and regulation. While Séamus advised that a board does not need to know everything about all regulatory or legislative requirements, it is expected to ask relevant experts to verify compliance.

The second further role is to ensure that the co-operative is communicating effectively with its own membership and with key stakeholders in the sector.

Governance scenarios

Each workshop was presented with a range of possible real-life governance scenarios that could potentially crop up on a group water schemes. These scenarios included topics such as group water scheme employment, board confidentiality and conflicts of interest.

Six scenarios were dis-cussed. Tables partook in detailed discussions around their assigned scenarios before broadening deliberation to all in attendance. The process provided a great opportunity for in-depth debate, with many intricacies talked about.

Take-home material

Along with sample business plans, attendees were pro-vided with a folder of take-home NFGWS material, including documents on the functions of a GWS board and advice on the creation of induction packs for new GWS board members.

The challenges of recruiting new board members was a key discussion point at every workshop and the creation of such induction packs could be a way to ease any reservations for prospective directors.

These information packs are also digitally available for any GWS board members that were unable to attend recent workshops. Those interested can contact their local development officer for more details.

This article originally featured in the most recent edition of the Rural Water News magazine. To read the full edition and to sign up to our magazine mailing list, click here.