AIM Higher – Brunel Museum

The start of a major capital project was the impetus to review the governance of Brunel Museum. The museum’s Director, Katherine McAlpine, explains how support via AIM Higher has helped strengthen the working relationship between staff and trustees. 

What’s the background to your AIM Higher application? 

Following the Brunel Museum’s successful Round 2 submission to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the redevelopment of the Museum site – The Brunel Museum Reinvented Project – it was important for the Director and the Board to have a shared understanding of the priorities for the duration of the capital project, and good communication to facilitate that.

An unsuccessful round of recruitment had exposed vulnerabilities in the governance structure, and confusion around some areas of delegated responsibility.

How did support from the consultant help?

We worked with Mairead O’Rourke who facilitated a workshop for our Board of Trustees annual Away Day. Between applying for the funding and the Away Day, the Board’s Chair took the personal decision to step down due to an upcoming move to France. After an intense few years with Covid-19 pandemic, the bid for the capital project and the cost of living crisis, a priority for the workshop was to take stock.

The Away Day was an opportunity therefore both to look back to what had been achieved under her tenure, as well as begin mapping out a path to the future, especially with regards the capital project.

It also enabled us all to reflect on effective communication for the capital project, and refresh everyone’s understanding of delegated responsibility.

What have the outcomes been?

The workshop began the process of creating a shared strategic vision for the Museum and the capital project.

The notes from strategy workshop were compiled following the meeting, alongside a trustee survey. This document is incredibly helpful in understanding the motivations and areas of expertise of the Brunel Museum.

As the Board looks to appoint new trustees, this has allowed for reflection on the skills needed to further strengthen the Board.

What happens next?

The Museum has just appointed a new Chair, and the workshop has provided a good grounding for an effective relationship between the Director and the new Chair. The Project Steering Committee is working together more effectively with a new recruitment round underway.

Have you got any advice or top tips you’d share with other AIM members?

Honesty is the best policy. Understand honestly where the weaknesses in your governance lie, and try to work with AIM/your consultant to find a solution in a non-judgemental way.

Katherine McAlpine, Director, Brunel Museum

Read AIM’s resources for Trustees>>