Runners jog past MNDA banner

The Motor Neurone Disease Association is a membership (and campaigning) organisation with over 10,000 members forming a powerful national and local network that funds and promotes research, provides information and support for people living with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and their families. MNDA has 7,000 active volunteers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and around 180 paid staff, all dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by MND, and the Association has an income or c£18.6 million.  

The Board is made up of 16 trustees, and the Association has 186 employees. With a base in Northampton, the Association provides care – in the form of volunteer visitors, support to families, advice, and financial support (grants for care), campaigns to governments, and funds research into MND.   

The Association has local branches in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These local branches are very active and quite independent. The branches and groups raise funds for the MND association, galvanise volunteers and perform a vital function for local people suffering from MND and their families. The Association benefits from a strong membership base and community which is very loyal. The Association has very robust governance in place with an operationally strong directors team.  

The Trustee Board comprises a mixture of elected, and co-opted Trustees, many of whom bring a deep experience of losing a loved one to MND. The Association engaged Oxford HR to find a Chair-Elect, who would succeed the current Chair in 2022 The ideal individual would bring to the Board energy,  progressive approaches, dynamic leadership skills while ensuring the strengths and values of the association remain intact. Representing their members, the incoming Chair-Elect was required to build relationships, not just with the Board, Executive, partner organisations, networks but also with the regional groups and branches – the Chairs and volunteers who lead these groups.  

Whilst the appointed individual may not have direct experience of MND, they would be required to show they can represent those who are living with a diagnosis of MND, their families and support groups, with credibility and thoughtful compassion. 

This project was taking place during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the associated challenges. To support the search Oxford HR devised a robust cohort of briefing meetings, speaking with a wide range of stakeholders, Board members, staff and Branch Chairs.  

We have traditionally recruited our Chair-Elect from within our existing membership and supporters. This has served us well in the past, but as we plan for a new ambitious strategy, to capitalise on digital breakthroughs that may help people living with MND, seek to involve our members even more in developing our Association, and as we near closer and closer to potential treatments for MND; we wanted to bring new skills and perspectives into our strategic thinking. The role of the Chair will be pivotal in our future development, so we sought the help of OxfordHR to widen our reach to potential candidates outside as well as within our existing networks. 

The team was able to not only reach new potential candidates, but also brought their experience to bear in briefing those interested in our Association and longlisting the candidates. There is a lot of work involved in coordinating such a process, if we are to provide a thorough analysis of each candidate’s strengths, and Sarah and team helped do much of that heavy lifting. However, she kept our team closely engaged and informed throughout so that it always felt like a collaborative initiative rather than a service provided to us. 

We gained a very strong short-list of candidates, beyond that which we could have attained internally, and ultimately have found an excellent Chair Elect for the next stage in our future development.”

Motor Neurone Disease Association’s Chair Richard Coleman, and CEO, Sally Light

Oxford HR was careful to offer an inclusive process, adapting the process for candidates who required more support, and offering advice and guidance to support the Appointing Panel in the decision making process. Four diverse, high calibre professionals were interviewed at the final stage, with two candidates ultimately considered for the role of Chair-Elect.  

We were delighted to support the Association in the appointment of the Chair-Elect, who is a governance expert, senior advisor to FIPRA International and experienced Chair (previous Chair of Turning Point); serving on the Board of a North London NHS Trust for many years, and leading the European Health Management Association, and European Patients Forum in his executive career.  

From the first approach call onwards I found Oxford HR to have provided a very clear picture of the opportunity and the application process. It was credit to Sarah that she supported the candidates and the MNDA through some quite challenging moments and ultimately saw the process through to a successful conclusion. She was positive, balanced and very clear. I valued her overview of the process and also her counsel at important junctures.Usman Khan, Chair Elect, MNDA