12 Five S’s of Governance: Wearing your Stewardship Hat?

Many years ago, Julia Unwin (Joseph Rowntree Foundation) did a talk at which she introduced her “5 S’s of Governance”. These are five ways or ‘modes’ in which boards/committees or even individual trustees can act or behave.  I’ve started calling them the five ‘hats’ – you can put on a different ‘hat’ each time you want to operate in a different mode.

Here is her description of all 5 S’s (as a .pdf).

It’s worth thinking about each of the 5 S’s in depth.  You might find your board tends to function in a limited number of these ‘behaviours’ and ignores others. Or maybe a particular trustee is strong in one way of thinking but not others.

My suggested technique is to learn about all five and then ensure that each board meeting ‘chooses’ a ‘hat’ to wear for a part of that meeting.  The questions and discussions that arise whilst ‘wearing that hat’ may help you to learn or uncover something or other.  Or perhaps assess your own skills and approach against the 5 S’s.


The description (from Julia):

Boards in stewardship mode guard the assets of the organisation. They are concerned to protect
the money, the good name, the long term functioning of the organisation. As good stewards they know that they need to protect and conserve, and if they are charities, they need to preserve assets for beneficiaries tomorrow as well as today. Boards which are carrying out their stewardship role say:
But will the money be here in five years time?
Are we giving away our intellectual property too easily?
Is reputational risk too great if we do this?

More comment and information coming soon…


This guide is just an introduction to Stewardship at this stage. The guide will be updated with more relevant information over time and it’s an opportunity for you to suggest your ideas or ask questions to help us grow this knowledge bank.

But for now, put the Stewardship ‘hat’ on regularly to ensure you operate in the right ‘mode’.