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Hijinx & James Downes, Companies House

The Challenge

The Arts Organisation

Hijinx is one of Europe’s leading inclusive theatre companies. It strives for equality by making outstanding art with learning disabled and/or autistic actors on stage, on screen, on the street and in the workplace. The company works locally, nationally and internationally for Wales and the world.

The Development Need

To broaden the Board’s expertise to include Digital at a time of rapid expansion.

The Adviser

James Downes, Head of Product at Companies House

The Development Need

James wished to join the Board of an arts organisation in order to gain governance experience in the
non-profit sector, expose himself to different ways of working and contribute to the arts sector.

The Results

For Hijinx:

• Expert advice and support during a digital overhaul, brokering the relationship with digital providers and ensuring the new technologies were value for money and fit for purpose
• Helped introduce streamlined, safer ways of working, a new CRM system and a digital strategy;
• Helped navigate GDPR requirements and establish a new management structure
• As Chair, James managed the recruitment and induction of a new CEO, offering support and mentoring to enable a smooth transition
• Provided support to the CEO throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to make strategic and operational decisions
• Worked closely with the Executive team to develop ambitious plans and ideas for the next phase of Hijinx, ahead of the ACW Investment Review

For James:

• Huge amounts of enjoyment and the opportunity to play a part in something truly meaningful
• Exposure to new professional challenges, enocuraging a change in thinking and approach
• New perspective on what can be achieved by a committed group of people with limited finances
• Increased knowledge about the inner workings of a different sector
• A deeper understanding of the importance of inclusion and diversity

The Endorsement

Initially I felt it would be a ‘good thing to do’. I also hoped that becoming board member of an organisation quite different from my day job would bring new perspectives, meet interesting people and gain some self-actualisation from actively helping out. These aims were met immediately, but became less relevant as time went on. I no longer feel that I am working with Hijinx – I am a part of Hijinx and it is a part of me. The benefits are immeasurable, and I’ve enjoyed the company of some of the most creative, passionate and inspiring people I’ve ever met. I have a better understanding of why inclusion and diversity isn’t important because it’s the right thing to do – it’s important because better things happen for everyone when everyone is included. The intellectual challenges in supporting such a unique organisation require me to change my thinking and approach. Working with Hijinx has given me totally new experiences and perspectives – it has been invaluable in my personal and professional life.

James Downes, Head of Product, Companies House

James continues to be increadibly generous with his time and advice. He balances ambition for the organisation with a genuine care for the staff, always mindful of ensuring the health and well-being of the team. He offers excellent insight, providing healthy challenge and interrogation of new ideas to enable them to build and flourish. He gives a refreshing non-arts perspective that helps to ensure that the organisation’s thinking remains agile and broad.

Sarah Horner, CEO, Hijinx