14 Five S’s of Governance: Wearing your Stretch 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):

Equally there are times when the board needs to stretch the organisation. It needs to challenge and
improve what is put to it. Boards that are stretching say:
Can’t we do any better than that? Can we create a strategic alliance for this?
Have you thought of doing it differently?
Couldn’t we develop a social enterprise to do this?
Surely we can improve by more than five per cent?

More comment and information coming soon…


This guide is just an introduction to Stretch 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 Stretch ‘hat’ on regularly to ensure you operate in the right ‘mode’.