Who was the client and what were their challenges?

Toynbee Hall are based in the East End of London and give some of the UK’s most deprived communities a voice, providing access to free advice and support and working together to tackle social injustice.

The board was going through a significant period of transition; a new chair had recently begun and they wanted to ensure that the relationship between the board and executive team was as clear and productive as it could be. This included helping improve the clarity of board and executive roles and responsibilities, decision making and strengthening working relationships built on trust.

did we help?

We spoke privately to each member of the board and executive team, enabling them to express their version of the challenges and opportunities ahead for Toynbee Hall. This allowed a level of honesty about some of the issues that had previously caused friction on the board and a feeling that this ‘baggage’ could be left behind. Following a very productive away day we put together a report including suggested areas for action, divided into those for immediate review and some more long term briefs. A particular area of priority was the relationships firstly between the board members themselves, and secondly between the board and senior executive team.


What impact has this had?

We were able to help deal with issues that were widely known, but had not been fully addressed previously. We helped the board to work through how it conducted its business in a more strategic manner and work more productively together and with the executive team. Following the away day, a new chief executive was appointed and our report is being used as a source document for identifying priority governance questions.


Without Practical Governance’s intervention and process we wouldn’t be at the point we are at now. Going back to the stage before we engaged with Practical Governance, the board at Toynbee was going through a significant period of transition and there was a lot of baggage that needed to be moved on.

We felt a degree of nervousness about the away day and about how it would work, but we didn’t need to because it was managed in such a way that it was an incredibly powerful day which has served us in good stead. Our board is conducting its strategic business in a much more thoughtful way, and working to a much more strategic level. We have a clear set of actions that we are fully behind as a board and executive team.

David Warner, Trustee & Chair of Finance Committee, Toynbee Hall

What did we learn

Our work with Toynbee Hall has underlined the importance of trust and clarity in board and executive roles, and the importance of confidential one to one sessions before away days like this. It has also made us think about when and how we provide ongoing support to our clients. In the case of Toynbee Hall only a limited follow up was required, however we know that many of our clients need regular follow-up conversations and further sessions. The need for and type of follow up work is as unique as each client is and something we will now discuss with all clients at the start of every project, as well as at the end. 

How long did it take?

We held one to one conversations with each member of the board and executive team during January 2017 and followed this up with an away day in March. Our final report was presented to the board in April 2017. The work was carried out over a total of 10 days and was overseen by Bob Thust and Sarah O’Grady.