Centre growth triggers new governance trial

The London Shambhala Centre is pleased to announce a new trial in its governance.  For the next 6 months, the Centre Director will be paid to work two days a week.  Lee Howson, the current Centre Director, will focus on strategic development: the growth of the Centre, further expansion of its activities and connection with other organisations. The trial has been designed with specific outcomes to assess the initiative’s viability and will be reviewed in 3 months.

The Centre has never been so active.  Last year more people completed the Way of Shambhala – Level 1 than in any other year, more programmes were offered. Programmes such as Qigong and Maitri rapidly become fully booked and our Everday Life Courses are becoming increasingly popular.  This increase in activity makes it challenging to run the organisation around other commitments. In the Centre Director’s role decisions about current challenges and future opportunities warrant time and attention.  This trial will explore if providing that time makes a significant difference to the Centre’s health.

The Centre is run by the Leadership Council.  This makes strategic and operational decisions.  It also has a board of Trustees that is responsible for ensuring the organisation is well-run from the perspective of the Charities Commission.  The Trustees have oversight of the Centre Director and the Council. Merlin Cox, a trustee explained the background to the decision, which was endorsed by the Trustees of the London Shambhala Charity last November.

“The trial has been under consideration by the leadership team for a number of years.  We recognise that the demands of the Centre Director role are often considerable.  This trial will show us if the Centre benefits from paying for the Director’s time.  We’ll then review the initiative and decide how to move forward.”

Today’s announcement follows the example of Jez Taylor, Centre Manager.  Five years ago he became the Centre’s only paid member of staff.  His part-time role allowed him to ensure the Centre was well administered. It also allowed Jez to organise the Centre’s many valuable volunteers. Investing in the Centre Manager’s time allows the vast number of volunteers to achieve a great deal of meritorious action.

Further afield, in North America, the larger Shambhala centre’s also pay their Centre Directors for their time.  They too first paid a Centre Manager to organise administration and operations, and have now begun paying a Centre Director as well.  Like the London trial, Centre Directors develop the Centre’s on strategy, vision and overall direction.

Lee Howson, Centre Director commented on the trial:

“This is an exciting and important step for the Centre.  We have a clear view of what I need to work on and achieve in the coming months.  We are already learning from the trial and making changes – like the morning and day time sitting sessions which have recently begun. This is a sign of the Centre’s health and I want to show that this development is a further boost for the Centre. So far I have been able to focus on creating manuals for our evening courses, developing the website to make it more accessible and more SEO friendly, general marketing of the centre and it’s activities and increasing the use of the centre generally – both for meditation practice and other activities. Going forward I will be establishing meditation classes in central London, and investigating the possibility of establishing another centre or group in the city.”

If you are interested in discussing this trial or other ideas you might have for the Centre, please contact Lee at [email protected] 

Elliott is the Director for Societal Health and Wellbeing at the London Shambhala Meditation Centre. He recently returned from a Dathün, or month-long retreat, at Karme Chöling in Vermont.

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