Governance Workshop

The governing body of heritage institutions are required to make key decisions that direct the future of the institution. There are many challenges that a modern governing body must deal with in carrying out their work, including how to improve the organisation, how to improve the collections and how to extend the reach to more users and hence to become more relevant over time. All of this must be conducted in the rapid shift of memory institutions into the digital heritage. This workshop provides a rounded introduction to key governance issues and techniques which will help to improve the governance and management of heritage institutions.

The need for help in governance has been stated to us in our other workshops, and we have responded by researching and developing this new workshop in governance. This workshop is directed at museum managers, curators, archivists, gallery managers, and senior librarians, as well as members of the governing body including chairpersons and other officers.

The workshop includes some of the key topics that must be addressed by the modern governing body arising from changes in the practices of corporate governance. It also looks at the best practices for governance of heritage bodies that are emerging internationally. From these a common set of focus areas has been drawn and introduced into the workshop.

What you will learn

Within this workshop on governance of heritage organisations you will learn about the detailed elements of governance, with examples from both local and international practices and standards. This workshop is conducted in a discussion-led forum in which particular problems are addressed and practical exercises are provided.

What is Corporate Governance

The Imperial War Museum defines corporate governance “…the way in which organisations are directed and controlled.” and they include in this the distribution of powers, responsibilities, the determination of the roles and procedures for decision-making, and the manner in which objectives are set, addressed, and monitored.

We introduce Corporate Governance in the context of existing legislation such as the Companies Act and the Trust Property Act, as well as standard and guidelines such as King III and related standards applicable to NPOs.

Constituting the Governing Body

Each institution requires a governing document (such as a Constitution or Trust Deed) which describes how it is to do its work of governance. We explore a number of constitutions and identify the common elements of good practice in creating a constitution for your institution.

This includes how the governing body is structured and changes, what it does, how it does it, and how the constitution itself is subject to change. It also includes how new board members should be introduced and prepared for their work, with support from a governance document that outlines how the organisation is to be governed and the roles and responsibilities of the board members.

Vision and Direction

We introduce the core question of what the organisation does and who it does it for. In a fast-changing world of the digital heritage, this question needs to be asked again and again as the opportunities and threats force external change.

In particular, we will explore the role that governance plays in increasing the user base of the organisation by factors of 10 to 100 or more.

Funding and Financial Sustainability

All organisations need funds, and it is a core role of the governing body to provide oversight on the usage of the existing funds, and also to attract new funds. This applies no matter whether the funds are provided by government, international sponsors and donors, or private individuals and trusts. This also applies to internally generated funds such as sales of items and entrance fees/donations.

The workshop outlines how funding and financial sustainability are dealt with in terms of governance decisions and what information is needed to ensure that such decisions are effective.

Threats and Opportunities : Adapting to a Changing World

One of the core functions of a governing body is to adapt to change and to ensure that all risks are managed (where risks are a form of threat to the sustainability of the organisation).

The workshop explores the range of opportunities and threats and how the organisation must deal with these effectively. In essence, there is no other body who will come along and deal with these external issues, it is the board’s and the board’s alone responsibility to address these. The workshop will explore how the governing body must include these as an integral element of forward planning to ensure sustainability).

Strengths and Weaknesses : Controlling what can be controlled

The budget of the organisation will be approved, generally annually, by the governing body. This will include how the resources will be supplemented to enable the organisation to carry out its functions, and these resources will include facilities and premises, equipment, storage and exhibition structures, the collections themselves, and the staff.

The identification of the strengths and weaknesses is an ongoing responsibility of management, and the plans to adapt to these must be included into the strategy.

This workshop explores the role of the governing body and top management in addressing these issues and in controlling what can be controlled.


The governing body is required to approve the various strategies of the organisation, which are developed by senior management, perhaps with help of external bodies and experts.

Rather than being a “rubber-stamping” exercise, it is important that the governing body is able to make an informed decision on the strategy and this workshop examines how these strategies should be structured and explained to governing bodies, and how the board members should then comment on these and be able to contribute meaningfully and effectively.


Policy is used to guide actions taking place within the organisation, and it is essential to have a workable policy structure in place which allows the staff and users of the organisations to understand what they can do, what they cannot do, and what they should and should not do, and more importantly to understand why.

As an example, the Collections Development Policy will deal with the nature of the collections and what should be included into the collections and what not, which can then guide the decisions concerning donations of collections, as well as the disposals of items from collections.

The workshop introduces the range of policies required and the role of the governing body in approving these policies. The question addressed is what the governing body are required to know and understand in order to decide whether to approve changes to the policies.

Ethics and Leadership

There are a range of ethical issues which concern both the governance and management of the institution, as well as how the organisation is required to deal with ethical issues.


The governing body is required to ensure that the organisation complies with a range of general and specific laws, rules, standards and codes.

The workshop introduces the issues of compliance and how these can be addressed by both information, knowledge and action. As an example, compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which applies to every type of organisation, is required in terms of the nature of the collections which may be harmful, as well as in the movement of heavy items, as well as for the protection of the visitors to exhibitions.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

There is no doubt that ICT plays an increasing role in heritage institutions, with particular relevance to the digitisation of collections, the automation of processes and the creation of digital access by users. The King III report on corporate governance has included a new section on the governance of ICT within all organisations.

The workshop provides an introduction to the governance of ICTs and what the organisation is required to do to ensure that it is moving ahead and developing its ICTs most effectively and efficiently.

Communications and Reporting

The workshop examines the range of communications both within the organisation and between the organisation and the outside world. This includes the formal reporting such as Annual Reports, and Strategies.

This part of the workshop also deals with stakeholder relations, and how these are managed to ensure protection of the reputation and the brand of the organisation.

Opening, Closing, and Merging Heritage Organisations

New organisations are opening all of the time, and especially in the museum space. We are aware of at least four new museums which are starting this year. Organisations will also close, and their assets and collections needs to be disposed of, and some organisations will merge their operations to consolidate their offerings, and to provide a more cost-effective delivery.

This workshop explores these situations in the light of governance, and issues relevant to making these changes more successful.

Pricing and Booking Process

Please check out the Pricing and Booking Process Page for further information.


Comment from a Governance Workshop participant:

“Crisp and consice! And not boring!” — Charl Malan (National English Literary Museum)

“The workshops were very informative and [I] would like exposure to other museums to see how they are run” – Thandeka Khanyile (Durban Local History Museum)