30 guests recently gathered in The Green Room in The Black Box for a relaxed post-work event to launch the popular Arts & Business NI Young Professionals on Arts Boards programme, which places the best up-and-coming NI business talent on to the boards of leading local arts charities.
Now in its 12th year the Young Professionals on Arts Boards programme is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and provides training and support to ensure young professionals in the early stages of their careers (aged 21-35 years) truly benefit from this practical, hands-on strategic leadership experience.
First up Jess Pearson, Investment Manager with Cunningham Coates Stockbrokers who was placed on to the Board of Queen Street Studios (QSS) outlined her challenging experience of discovering the morning after her first board meeting that core funding had been 100% cut. Jessica opted to remain on the Board in the knowledge that she had full support from the team at A&B NI.
QSS successfully appealed the funding decision and 100% of core funding was reinstated. Since then Jess has been involved in redrafting the organisation’s business plan and has advised on new social media initiatives. Jess commented: “I really cannot emphasise enough how much I have gotten out of this process - my confidence in my own capabilities has increased tenfold, and this is something that I find has helped my own professional performance considerably, too. Along with the personal and professional development benefits, it’s a great way of bringing together people from all industries to give back to the community.”
Wayne Nickels, partner at Cunningham Coates then detailed the benefits of the Young Professionals programme from a business perspective. Wayne outlined that Cunningham Coates has a strong people focus, wanting to recruit - and more importantly retain - the best talent for the future “Arts & Business NI Board Matching programmes benefit the future of the Firm as well as empowering our employees with additional skills and knowledge. It also allows the business to give back to the Arts community.” To date Cunningham Coates have put 4 employees though the Young Professionals programme.
Margaret Henry, Chief Executive, thrive and Aaron Roddy, Assistant Solicitor at Carson McDowell who was placed on to the Board of thrive, spoke about the Young Professionals programme from an Arts perspective. According to Margaret, “thrive has been involved for 10 years in A&B NI’s Young Professionals as it’s a great source of new and fresh voices to add to the balance across the board. We know we will always get a high calibre of board members who are well trained, so they are clear about their role and responsibilities when joining the board. It also helps that the A&BNI team know thrive and our ethos as an organisation so they can match up with young professionals that fit, which is great.”
Margaret continues “It is a privilege to be involved in someone starting their Board journey and we take that seriously in thrive with a full induction process. We encourage all and especially new board members to come and see us delivering events and get a feel for what we do. We provide information about the wider sector context we work in and we look to organisations such as A&BNI for ongoing board training.”
It was positive word of mouth from the many Carson McDowell past participants that made Aaron Roddy decide to take part in the Young Professionals programme. He wanted to further his own professional development by utilising his legal skills in a different context, commenting “The key to finding my voice on the board of thrive was to not rush the process but let it grow organically alongside my confidence in my position and role on the board, and I feel like this has been of benefit in the long run. I’ve also realised that my voice needn’t be constrained to my particular professional skill set.
“From a professional perspective” Aaron continued, “I have further developed many skills which are complimentary to a career in legal practice. For example, the strategic and critical thinking which is required on a board carries over to the advice which I provide to my clients in private practice. I have also grown in confidence from stepping out of my comfort zone and continuing my own professional development. Finally, from a personal perspective, I enjoyed the training and the friendships I formed with my fellow Young Professionals, and hope that those relationships will continue throughout my career. “
The final speaker, Noyona Chundur Head of Campaigns & Digital Solutions at Invest Northern Ireland was placed on to the Board of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in 2013 via the A&B NI Board Bank programme for middle to senior managers. Noyona loved her job, and didn’t want to leave it; however she wanted to find a fresh challenge. She wanted to be seen as a leader, both inside and outside the organisation, so decided to combine formal learning on the Institute of Directors Company Direction Programme, with practical experience via the Arts & Business NI Board Bank. As a passionate lover of the arts Noyona felt that experience on an arts Board would not only build her leadership skills but would help her make a positive contribution to the sector.
Now Chair of CQAF, Noyona observed “Being on the CQAF Board hasn’t been without challenge. Arts organisations have big ambitions but typically are small operations that run a tight ship, with income and funding secured annually leaving little room for strategic planning. You get to meet incredibly talented, passionate and creative people, who know their craft inside out, but who have also had to deal with some hard knocks along the way given the backdrop of diminishing funding for the arts. CQAF was no exception, so early on I decided my focus would be to help build long-term sustainability by improving strategic direction, governance, resilience and succession planning.”
Noyona continued “There is no doubt that the Arts & Business NI Board Bank helped to hone my leadership skills and augment my track record. But I was also able to use my experiences at CQAF to get appointed to the Board of the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland, where I am now Chair of its Audit and Risk Assurance Committee. Invest NI has also seen benefits; as a member of their Senior Leadership Team, I lead cross-cutting strategies for the Northern Ireland economy, deliver against both Programme for Government and corporate scorecard targets, and develop resources and capability to drive business transformation.”
Tania Carlisle, Development Manager at Arts & Business NI brought the inspirational event to an end: “At A&B NI everything we do aims towards getting the arts and business sectors to work together. Our Board matching programmes, Board Bank and Young Professionals on Arts Boards, help business individuals develop personally and professionally by using their skills on the voluntary Board of an arts charity.
At the same time, their skilled input helps strengthen our arts sector to deliver quality artistic, cultural, social and economic impacts. These partnerships are a classic case of win-win, and a perfect example of pragmatic idealism in practice”.
Arts & Business NI ‘s Young Professionals on Arts Boards programme 2019-20 still has a limited number of spaces available; applications close on Friday 28 June 2019. https://www.artsandbusinessni.org.uk/business/our-talent-development-programmes
If you would like to find more about their Board Matching programmes please speak to Tania Carlisle on 028 90735150 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arts & Business is generously supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.