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Case Study: Shaping Governance -SMART Cheshire Innovation Programme


Joined SMART Cheshire Digital 2021

Established in 2017, Shaping Governance (initially set up as Insight to Impact Consulting Ltd) is a specialist governance improvement company, working primarily with schools, charities and councils.

Su Turner is the founder and CEO and set up Shaping Governance to help those people that volunteer their time as governors in schools and other public sector organisations. In England, there are approximately 250,000 school governors, and these hard-working volunteers, rarely invest in their own development, but the benefits of them doing so are massive.

Shaping Governance offers a number of products to help those that govern to learn, share and improve their practice as a team, ultimately leading to better education and outcomes for children and communities. We offer including improvement support, training, clerking, coaching and governor recruitment services.

Su is currently the only employee and undertakes all of the tasks associated with running a company. She has recently commissioned two Governance Associates who now carry out work for her, as a steppingstone to recruiting employees.

What challenges did you face before joining SMART Cheshire Digital?

Prior to attending the Smart Cheshire Digital Programme, Shaping Governance was one of hundreds of companies in the school governance improvement space. We needed to ensure that we were different in our offer and impact, to set us apart from the rest. Su has always been a fan of appreciative approaches. She’s a glass half full sort of person and knew that this could be the angle that was needed. After all governors give their time as volunteers and Su wanted to grow the good.

Su used the Smart Cheshire Launchpad to develop a new product – Shaping Governance in Multi Academy Trusts, which launched in September 2021; but Su’s product changed during the programme. Initially she attended to create an advanced version of Shaping Governance, but a government announcement created a different opportunity, and as those that run small businesses do, Su flexed.

But her biggest challenge was how to get across the value that Shaping Governance brings to governance and governors, and what set them apart from others. Attending Smart Cheshire Digital helped Su to do this.

Su said” The best bit was the challenge and support to refine Shaping Governance’s value proposition; so that customers could instantly recognise that they needed our support. It was hard to do, but colleagues and mentors provided the help needed to articulate this’.

Tell us about your idea and innovation

Shaping Governance for Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) was created in response to the Department for Education saying that MATs should undertake external reviews of governance. MAT’s are run similar to companies – they have Members (shareholders), Directors (named on Companies House, who drive the company) and local school boards (a bit like sub committees).

There can often be a disconnect between the different layers of governance, particularly in local schools not feeling associated with the MAT, whereas it should be ‘one’ organisation.

Much of the accountability sits with the Directors and Members, with very little at school level – but we know the very important role that they have. Traditionally, external reviews are not holistic, and do not take account of local school boards. We created a version of Shaping Governance that instead of excluding local boards, it brings them front and centre, and helps to improve information flow, governance and communication across all layers of the trust.

How has the innovation impacted your business?

The innovation has helped us to develop a competitive edge when it comes to governance reviews. Take up has been steady, which has allowed us to learn from the Multi Academy Trusts that we have worked with. The best bit is that our offer is spreading and importantly by word of mouth.

When reflecting on our support, one trust said “It feels like some of the barriers between the individual governing bodies have melted. They now see themselves as part of one organisation’.

‘Su is incredibly professional. The process has exceeded our expectations.”

How has the programme helped you progress your innovation?

Attendance of the programme helped us to slow down the process of creation. Usually, Su will jump right in with the product; and whilst she is usually right in what is needed, the messaging can go a bit wrong. The tools and techniques offered, alongside the challenge of peers was invaluable.

Can you talk about one sparkling point or key takeaway?

All of it – sorry. The chance to develop and help others develop their innovation was a really great angle.

What was your key takeaway from the whole programme?

Understand the value that you provide and what sets you apart.

Finally, describe your programme experience in 3 words

Thought provoking challenge.

Find out more about Shaping Governance

Find out more about SMART Cheshire