Governance and Organisational Structure Review of Walking SA

In 2013 the Office of Recreation and Sport (ORS) commissioned a review into the governance and organisational structure of Walking SA. The broad intention of this review was to make a series of recommendations regarding the future direction of Walking SA in the context of the current ‘walking’ environment in South Australia.

BDO Summary

Formed in the early 1990s, Walking SA is the peak body representing walking groups in South Australia. Currently, the organisation has 40 member clubs as well as a body of individual members. It is predominantly supported by volunteers, with the addition of 15 hours per week paid employment providing administrative and bookkeeping support. Recently Walking SA approached the Office of Recreation and Sport (ORS) for a grant to pay for a full time Executive Officer. In response, ORS requested that a comprehensive review be carried out to ensure the organisation is functioning effectively and sustainably.

BDO Organisation Development (formerly PKF) was engaged by Walking SA to conduct a comprehensive review into the governance structure and operations of the organisation. The broad intention of this review was to make a series of recommendations regarding the future direction of Walking SA in the context of the current ‘walking’ environment in South Australia.

BOO’s approach to the project has been highly consultative. Information regarding Walking SA was gathered through a range of methods including meetings with the Executive Committee and State Council and interviews with relevant affiliated bodies and stakeholders. Additional information was collected from the broader network through a survey, which garnered 241 responses. Simultaneously, benchmarking was conducted to gather information regarding the operations and governance structures of other national and international walking jurisdictions. The information collected was synthesised to track common themes- and this led to the creation of a number of recommendations for the future governance and operations of Walking SA.

An outline of the key issues and the proposed recommendations are summarised below; placed broadly into low, medium and high priority areas.

In summary, it appears that Walking SA is an organisation with a considerable degree of potential. The recommendations proposed in this report are intended to assist the organisation to clarify and strengthen their purpose and structure – and solidify their role within a state that has recently been deemed as having the highest levels of obesity in the nation. Now more than ever South Australia needs strong advocates to promote easily accessible and affordable forms of exercise and recreation – and Walking SA, adequately resourced, is well placed to assume this role.

Walking SA’s Response

Walking SA has agreed in principle with all the recommendations of the review. The Minister for Recreation and Sport has agreed to provide some additional funds to assist with their implementation.

Key aspects include:

  • Drafting a new constitution and implementing a modern governance structure to support a wider range of walkers and walking interests than has been possible in the past.
  • Better collaboration with local government and like-minded community organisations.
  • Enabling Walking SA to be more adequately resourced to perform these roles.

Full BDO Report

Key Issues and Proposed Recommendations

Key Issues Recommendations Priority
  • Consultation revealed the need for a clearer purpose for Walking SA
  • Lack of clear strategic intent or associated documentation
  • Lack clarity from member clubs regarding the organisation's purpose and strategic direction, as well as Walking SA's governance structure
  • The review identified a lack of structure as well as an absence of any clear job/role description for members of the Executive Committee and State Council
  • Important for Walking SA to take a more public and visible role in the area of recreation
  • There is a need for the organisation to investigate opportunities to engage a younger walking demographic
  • Given that Walking SA relies significantly on volunteers, those involved with the organisation believe strongly that a paid full-time executive officer is required
  • Define purpose of Walking SA, including the extent to which the organisation will have commercial focus
  • Create appropriate structure for Walking SA including subcommittees
  • Develop a strategic plan outlining the direction for Walking SA
  • Rewrite Constitution to reflect updated purpose and structure of the organisation
  • Communicate revised governance structure to all member clubs and individuals
  • Develop job descriptions for all paid and volunteer staff
  • Improve current marketing tools including website - ensure that clearer information is available regarding the value provided by Walking SA
  • Develop job description for potential full time executive officer
  • An increased focus on trail design, retention and planning is needed
  • Some stakeholders perceive a lack of communication and collaboration between Walking SA and other recreation and sporting organisations
  • Walking SA provides a valuable service to the community, but at present does not promote itself actively enough and should involve itself in more in public events
  • There is a perception from some stakeholders that Walking SA needs a clearer value proposition to retain and attract members
  • Establish links with community groups and schools to identify potential opportunities
  • Collaborate with local and state government to adopt a more prominent role in trail development and maintenance
  • Consider additional sources of funding and focus (eg trail maintenance/development, policy creation, training)
  • Greater collaboration with other affiliated organisations (eg Bike SA, Horse SA)
  • Greater involvement in events and more prominent role in promoting walking to the general public
  • Consider more tangible benefits that can be delivered by Walking SA to member clubs and individuals
  • Lack of understanding by member clubs and individuals about the value provided by Walking SA
  • At present there does not appear to be any risk management systems in place for Walking SA
  • Currently a lack of HR processes and KPIs for paid and voluntary staff
  • Communicate value delivered by Walking SA more frequently and clearly to members
  • Formalise risk management strategy and plan
  • Create policies and procedures for Walking SA