This piece is part of our series, Walking the Talk, which explores the diversity of the UK’s charities and foundations, with perspectives from both in and outside the sector. Find the full collection here.
A board can make or break a charity, but too many are run by cliques, drawn from a small set of networks perpetuated by a lack of open recruitment. That’s why I joined Trustees Unlimited as its first Managing Director last year; because I care about good governance and was excited about being able to strengthen charities by recruiting great candidates to their boards.
Breaking out of ‘group think’ and asking challenging questions requires different voices around the table. And not just a token different voice – a multiplicity, from a range of backgrounds, experiences, characteristics and places. It should be reflective of the beneficiaries the charity currently serves and those it would like to serve.
This is hard. We all know how changing your own mindset can be tough enough (sticking to new year’s resolutions past January, anyone?!) let alone other peoples’, especially those who are probably a bit unsettled and perhaps threatened by the prospect of change.
But, just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. There’s some great work already being done and the point of the Walking the Talk project is to open up a conversation about what has worked in different settings, sectors, charities and organisations and to think about how it could be applied elsewhere.
Trustees Unlimited has funded this work, but we’ve also been involved in the whole process, from suggesting great examples, to making connections with great emerging organisations like Girl Dreamer. It has been a privilege to work with the NPC team and the wider partnership from brap, Community Links and Chware Teg (I was particularly delighted to read about Chware Teg’s work helping Joe’s Ice Cream whose amazing ice cream I consumed a lot of as a child growing up in Swansea.). I have learned a lot and it has inspired me to do more.
Trustees Unlimited turns ten later this year. We were set up to disrupt the market by providing affordable options for charities to openly recruit to their board. There’s arguably an even greater need now for us (and our competitors) to be providing these services, but we also need to be part of helping to persuade people to recruit outside their networks and to fully include new trustees once they’re appointed.
Walking the Talk is one part of our contribution to that work, but we need to do more. What I have learned in this job, and in others before it, is that it’s not people like me who know what we need to do. I was particularly struck by the quote included in Roger Harding’s blog that ‘privilege makes you stupid.’
The examples we’re broadcasting through this project are a start, but as a sector, as organisations, and personally, we need to be open to suggestions and ideas from new, different and challenging places. So I am looking forward to the dialogue that I hope will follow and to the role Trustees Unlimited can play in diversifying boards across the country.