Governance: An effective board

A Board with the appropriate balance of skills, experience, independence and knowledge of the co-operative is key to the success of a growing co-operative. 

Collectively responsible for the long-term success of a co-operative, a Board is a necessary component of all co-operatives, but an effective Board is a key component of a successful co-operative. This section gives an overview of the key elements to having an effective board.

Resources for an effective board

  • Make up of the board: A short film and guidance notes to help co-ops consider the different routes open to them when recruiting directors to a board. View resources.
  • Directors Toolkit: A comprehensive series of resources for inducting directors onto a co-operative board.
  • Board behaviours in co-operatives: A practical guide to help your co-op understand boardroom behaviours and access five top tips for working with your board to improve its dynamic.

    Composition and recruitment

    A understanding of the role of the Board is a vital step when considering the optimum size of the Board and the skills and experience required on the Board in order to meet the needs of the co-operative.  It can also help a co-operative to develop its recruitment processes for new directors and identify how to develop the skills of its existing directors. Having a balanced Board comprised of elected members and, in many cases, independent non-executive directors can contribute the development of an effective Board.

    Dynamics and behaviour

    Having the correct mix of skills and experience on a co-operative Board must go hand in hand with enabling directors to develop appropriate behaviours when carrying out their role whether this is when participating in a Board meeting or when reporting to members and other stakeholders on co-operative performance. A growing co-operative must develop the softer skills of its directors in order to develop a healthy Board culture.

    Succession planning

    Developing a pipeline of suitably experienced and skilled directors ready to serve on a co-operative's Board can be challenging.  However, it is important for the long term success of a co-operative to align succession planning with the co-operative's business planning and strategy, identify appropriate mechanisms to source experienced directors and adopt a continual process of Board assessment and evaluation to ensure an effective Board.


    Having a good understanding of the role of the Board and how this aligns with a co-operative's business planning and strategy will assist a co-operative to identify and celebrate the contribution of existing directors but also understand where skills gaps are. This understanding will help underpin the personal development of existing directors but will also assist with the evaluation of the Board as a whole.


    Evaluating the Board's performance and that of individual directors provide a valuable insight into how well the Board is working collectively as well as examining the individual input of individual directors. Evaluation forms part of the wider development of an effective Board as done regularly it can be a useful tool to identify the positive contributions of directors, skills gaps and assist succession planning.

    Also in this section

    The key elements of governance • The purpose of a co-operative • Operations and processes • Performance and roles • Members and participation

    Governance training

    We have a number of one-day training courses, including for co-op chairs, directors and secretaries. There is also the option for in-house training – find out more.

    The Co-operative Governance Expert Reference Panel 

    The Co-operative Governance Expert Reference Panel was established and co-ordinated by Co-operatives UK in response to a need for an independent and authoritative voice in the co-op sector for best practice in governance. It will continue to contribute best practice and resources to The Hive for for free as and when they become available. Read more about the Panel...

    Updated: 26/03/2019