CCA 2023 ACE Board Chairs Development

Background to this Project

CCA has received funding from the NSW Department of Education to strengthen the NSW adult and community education (ACE) sector by providing leadership, governance support and guidance to the Chairs of its members’ Boards of Directors.

Corporate governance and executive leadership are top priority areas for proper strategic and operational functioning of NSW ACE providers. CCA’s long experience shows that proper governance – including leadership from the Chair of the member Board of Directors – is second only to funding in relation to ACE provider success. This project directly addresses this priority, building on previous CCA projects and ongoing research.

The Importance and the role of the Chair: The Chair of a not-for-profit organisation “is uniquely placed to contribute to the strategic direction of an organisation that does important work…. The organisational buck always stops with the Chair. The Chair is the person who has to balance the difficult issues, manage strained relationships, monitor unsatisfactory performance, and put in place strategies to resolve complaints. These issues can be difficult to juggle… The Chair is one of the most important officers in any not-for-profit organisation. In short, the primary function of the Chair is to ensure that the board operates in a manner that is conducive to the achievement of the strategic outcomes and purposes of the organisation. This requires the Chair to play an active role in promoting a positive board culture… to communicate, both internally and externally, the culture and philosophy of the organisation,” and provide supervision to the Chief Executive Officer. (Source: JFM Law)

Risks to ACE providers: CCA believes lack of professional development for its member Boards of Directors is a significant risk to the long-term functioning of the ACE sector, because if/when an ACE provider’s Board of Directors “self-destructs” through lack of leadership (generally through the Chair), the whole organisation is at significant risk of failure. If the situation gets that far, there is little CCA or governments can do to “save” it from collapse. But just avoiding catastrophic situations is not enough: leadership of an independent ACE provider involves hundreds of decisions monthly, and a style of governance and leadership that is accurate, timely, communicative and alert to best practice. As most ACE providers are small to medium sized, very few of them have the resources to invest in professional development for their Chairs and Boards of Directors. This project intends to start to meet that need, as well as to indicate future directions for ACE provider board professional development activities.

Previous CCA projects include:

In summary, this project intends to strengthen, upskill and broaden the capabilities of ACE provider Chairs of Boards of Directors, so that they can undertake their leadership roles with best practice, professionalism, ethics, authority, strategic intent, and ensure their respective CEOs are supported and led in the best possible manner, and their Boards led appropriately.

Board Chair Project Objectives

The purpose and aims of this Board Chair project are to:

  1. Provide a depth of information and knowledge to CCA and the NSW Department of Education about the operations, attitudes, backgrounds, approaches and level of expertise of NSW ACE member Boards of Directors and especially member Chairs.
  2. Build skills for the Chairs of NSW ACE Boards of Directors and other senior Directors, so that they understand their roles, understand NSW ACE and VET sector context, take a strategic view of their organisations, communicate effectively, have the skills to relate to their respective CEOs and other staff.
  3. Strengthen relationships between ACE CEOs and their respective organisational Chairs, by clarifying the roles and responsibilities of both CEOs and Chairs, improving communication and establishing shared understandings of their organisations.
  4. Enhance and empower the functions and management of ACE Boards of Directors, assisting NSW ACE Board Chairs to do their jobs well, to understand their roles, supporting them to operate strategically, respond to new business challenges, communicate effectively and lead their organisations.
  5. Strengthen the foresight and financial health of ACE providers, enabling them to deal with change and new opportunities as they arise.

Ultimately, the project intends to ensure NSW ACE organisations become sustainable and resilient organisations by strengthening Board leadership and strategic capability.


Project Components

This project has six complementary and inter-connecting components:

  1. Formation of a steering/advisory committee, which will help guide the project, provide advice on best means to engage with member Boards and Board chairs, and assist with appropriate survey questions and professional development.
  2. Conduct a survey of NSW ACE Chairs, undertaken in suitable format/s (including some interviews online or in person), to determine the respective ACE provider governance structures and the governance challenges.
  3. Report based on the survey, which will identify professional development needs for ACE provider Chairs as well as other findings that impact sector governance.
  4. Establish an online CCA Chair “community network” using the CCA Hub, CCA’s collaboration and learning portal.
  5. Conduct 2 x group training sessions for Chairs that highlight key attributes – in person in September and a second one during the CCA in-person October Sydney Conference.
  6. Produce a final project report that includes recommendations for future areas of focus and training, and the best means to achieve success in reaching/training NSW ACE chairs.

CCA has contracted with an experienced governance consultant to undertake steps 2 through 6 above. The project will finish by mid-October 2023.

Participation in this project is only open to CCA members. There will be no cost to member organisation Chair or Director participation in the training activities, although we will ask them to make a commitment to continue with the program and participate fully in evaluation.

Further information, contact CCA via email.