Board members of INGOs face a number of challenges in effectively and adequately playing their governance role. Board member of peacebuilding organisations face additional challenges that pertain to the sensitive nature of their organisational work in volatile, unpredictable contexts and the limited availability of core funding for the sector. They are also now faced with calls to decolonize aid and to have their organisation fully reflect internally the values they promote externally, with an increase in both donor and public scrutiny.
Being a board member requires skills and understanding that one can only really learn from other board members who are facing similar challenges. In an action-learning model, theory needs to be experienced before it becomes useful knowledge and governance training, although it has its place, does not support a board member to problem-solve issues as they arise.
Designed to meet the particular needs of board members, a peer-learning structure is a useful mechanism to have higher-level conversations about governance and how it is practiced, while remaining firmly in the realm of practicality and solutions. The process of learning with a group of peers can be a highly rewarding experience that brings about shifts in participants’ practice and provides them access to a broader network and new resources. Beyond directly applicable suggestions on how to deal with their pressing issues, participants develop over time a relationship of trust between one another that makes them more sustainable in their role.
Our peer-learning initiative
As a separate yet complementary initiative to its Organisational Development support, PeaceNexus launched in Q4 of 2021 a board-level peer-learning group. It is facilitated by a peer-learning specialist, not by PeaceNexus staff, and the group developed its own rules, deciding on a cadence of a call every two months. An internal review after the first year, as well as regular attendance, show that this is a much appreciated safe space. It is now an on-going initiative open to PeaceNexus’ current and past international OD partners.