Why we need a young trustees movement | In conversation with Jo Wells

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The Young Trustees Movement brings together a number of organisations with the aim of doubling the number of young people serving on charity sector boards over the next five years.

In our recent podcast, Mita Desai, Young Trustees Movement programme manager, caught up with Jo Wells, director of the Blagrave Trust and founding funder of the movement.

Why do we need this movement?

There are less than 2% of young people serving on boards [under 25 and less than 3% under 30], and an astonishing amount of trustees are white, male, and over 65. This is a systemic issue across the entire sector. The charity sector is missing out on a huge amount of skill and knowledge that is crucial to some of the big challenges that we face at the moment. If you look at social justice issues, young people are often at the forefront of thinking about those things. We’re missing out on a lot if we’re not including young people in charity governance.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a local charity running services for old people or you’re a national charity in international development or you’re a medical research charity. There’s no reason why any of those boards shouldn’t be thinking about young people. It could be young people who are up and coming in that particular sector or young people that are bringing a specific skill a board needs across the board.

There needs to be a change in attitude to young people and what young people can bring because of the extent to which adults make assumptions about how much young people know. There is something about the energy, drive and the ability of young people to imagine the world differently. Organisations should try and harness some of that passion and energy by recruiting more young people on boards.

What are some of the aims of the Young Trustees Movement?

The movement aims to challenge assumptions in the sector about why young people aren’t serving on boards. To provide useful tools to organisations that want to bring young people onto their boards.  To create the momentum for change across the sector and to signpost opportunities for young people.

Boards need to think carefully about how the culture of the board kind of enables people to participate and contribute in a way that they feel confident and comfortable doing. There are small things that make a significant difference to the culture of the board. For example, changing the location of board meetings from big formal kind of boardroom in an investment company, which is where we used to have them, to a slightly more informal setting.

Why The Social Change Agency?

We chose The Social Change Agency to do this piece of work for a few reasons. One of the reasons is that they’re not youth-focused. If you’re trying to influence people from outside of the sector it felt quite important that this wasn’t being championed by an organisation that almost had a vested interest. The Social Change Agency has a track record of building a movement across different groups and also thinking about systems and this is a system-wide change and issue.

Whether you’re a young person, a board, or somebody who is interested in the Young Trustees Movement, we want you to get involved. For more information about how to get involved head over to the Young Trustees Website.

Listen to the full podcast

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