Swim Wales Snapshot - Fergus Feeney CEO Swim Wales

"The impact the Governance and Leadership Framework has had on our business has been hugely positive for a number of reasons. When I took over the role as CEO of Swim Wales a few years ago, I put in a new role called Head of Governance and to my knowledge we are still the only governing body in Wales that has a formal role called Head of Governance.

"The clue is in the name - we are a national governing body and if governance is not at your heart then I think there is something wrong. What the framework gives us is the truth and it is something that we can all hang our hat on and refer to.

"To have those rules of the road and to have that guidance for the new governance refresh within our organisation has been hugely helpful and beneficial. I think it also gives an organisation credibility, so when we are talking outside of our organisation about governance then we can refer back to this framework which has been nationally endorsed by Sport Wales.

"The two principles that we at Swim Wales have focused on are principle three and four with the first one being vision and strategy related, which is hugely important. From the start I pulled all the staff together and we had an away day, which I will never forget, around three years ago. We asked ourselves 'what do we want to be as an organisation?' and it started with the staff because they were the people who were delivering day to day for us.

"I asked the staff first and then the board second, which was an interesting approach, because we only have 40 people in the organisation full-time and around 3,000 volunteers on a daily/weekly basis working around clubs, so the vision has to be shared and owned by a lot of people meaning it cannot just be the board's vision.

"So, it was important to set out that vision and we got full buy in from the organisation before setting out a strategy of where we want to be in five- or 10-years' time, which was a hard question to answer. But we had to do some soul searching and ask ourselves what we wanted the organisation to look like, what we wanted it to be, do we want more or less board members, do we want different types of members and what does that demographic look like.

"These strategies and questions we were asking ourselves made the organisation a very attractive proposition for board members. I want Swim Wales to be a great place to work, attractive to an employer and be a great place for people to come and work for free because none of our board members are being paid. As I've said we have 3,000 volunteers and it is important that they see that we are fit for purpose with a clear vision strategy and sense of direction.

"I remember having a conversation with Sarah Powell and she asked me what my new board would look like and my answer was that it would reflect our society and our membership. With a population of 3.2 million people, Wales is not a huge country, but I am very proud that we have 51% female and 49% male participation both in school swimming, across our clubs, our membership and across the general public as a whole.

"We have 400,000 adults participating in swimming at least once a week in this country according to the recent adult survey from the Welsh Government and Sport Wales, which is a fantastic number. The gender balance is 50/50 across our membership and our participation, so why wouldn't that be reflected in our board? Then if we want to get our arms around as many Welsh people as possible being aquatically active then that's Swim Wales' contribution for the greater cause of getting Wales active and that includes everyone of all shapes, sizes, religions and walks of life.

"We needed to be an inclusive organisation and we must have our arms open and create opportunities for everyone. In the past we haven't been able to do that, and we have been exclusive with swimming and swimming lesson being expensive, which alienates straight away from a pricing point of view and that is something that we currently haven't cracked and is something we are trying to address. But the fact we now have an inclusive board, people can look at the organisation and can see what we are trying to be. We have set the stall out from the very top of organisation right down across our staff and volunteers and hopefully in the end our participation will evolve".

"In terms of challenges ahead for our sport and what Swim Wales have been focusing on over the next sort of four years, I think one is something that a lot of AGB'S are struggling with and that's around investment, you can't do things without money. Now when we say money, we have got to be careful because I'm not talking about Sport Wales or Welsh Government money as they are forms of investment that are available to other national governing bodies and organisations that operate in the sector. I am just talking about investment full stop and that can be self-generated, it can be autonomous investment like we have at Swim Wales, we have seven or eight different business streams of revenue where we get money from other sources other than Sport Wales.

"Where the framework can help is that if you stay committed to it, it's going to help you drive that vision strategy that's going to help you prioritise and focus on the things that are important. It is almost like a guiding light and it can help you prioritise your work. The other area we focused on is to have a bit more of a people focused approach, so areas like welfare and safeguarding are going to be paramount because a well-governed organisation will have that aspect boxed off. I don't think that we actually do this in sport, so we have put a heavy emphasis on that at Swim Wales because we have so many children and adults involved in our sport and we are on a journey.

"As a sector, a bit more focus on behaviours, values and our approach to governance has to be about people, sport is about people and the people are at the heart of it. The other aspect is when it comes to volunteering and you must be better on your behaviours, better on your values and better on the more ethical side of sport because if we lose those volunteers then we are going to have a problem. Overall I think we need a little less of the technical and a little more of the people side as it will help the framework going forward."