[From Tanya Stevens, Principal Consultant & Head of the Not-For-Profit Practice at Society]

Today marks the start of #iwillweek, featuring the #iwill campaigns’ Power of Youth Festival. This is a digital celebration of the positive role that children and young people play in society, and a wider call to action for creating opportunities for youth social action.

The work of #iwill has long time been close to my heart; Charlotte Hill’s CEO appointment at Step Up to Serve was one of my first assignments after joining Society. I have young children and encourage them to take up social action, leading to my daughter co-founding her school’s eco-club. I also have over ten years experience recruiting across the youth sector, and see the value that youth voice brings to charity mission and activity matches the development opportunities acquired by young people through their engagement. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

One of the Power of Youth themes this week is challenge, so today I’d like to challenge the charity sector to appoint more under 30s to their trustee boards. When I look at the wider sector outside of the youth arena, I see far fewer young people with a seat at the table. This needs to change. Here’s why:

  1. Board diversity helps organizations overcome strategic blind spots. Whether your work is anti-poverty, or sustainability, Gen Z and up and coming Generation Alphas will offer fresh and important ideas and perspective to your work. And you need their engagement to sustain your future.
  2. Modern trustee boards need to horizon scan. Is your board set up to foster constructive challenge, and genuinely open to new ideas? Or does your collective feel too comfortable, or reinforce institutional or structural norms? Young trustees can offer different ways of thinking that bring boards out of their comfort zone in a good way.
  3. Young trustees bring a growth mindset and this bring benefits on many levels. Organisationally, this is critical to healthy board discussion and balanced decision-making. For the individual, trusteeship is an opportunity to grow perspective and networks, and to take on development opportunities that will augment their professional practice. These benefits then have a positive knock on effect for their workplaces too.
  4. Intersectional thinking leads to stronger governance, and charity boards should reflect the communities that they serve. Young trustees often offer a vital intersectional lens, which needs to be in the boardroom. The time is now to deconstruct power and privilege across the social sector and get more voices to the table that reflect multicultural, neurodiverse, disabled and LGBT voices in our society. They are a key part of a creating a robust, balanced board collective.
  5. Young trustees can fulfil needs identified by your skills and diversity audit. Society often delivers these audits for our clients; organisational needs evolve over time so it’s important to make this assessment every few years for effective governance. Priorities may be technical professional skills like finance or organizational development as well as particular types of lived experience. While it’s unlikely a young graduate will be recruited as your Chair of Finance and Audit, you may find someone with relevant cause-based volunteering experience, or cutting edge data skills that will enhance your organization’s strategic decision-making. By considering young trustees, you also significantly widen your candidate pool.
  6. Invest in future leaders. Young trustees are our socially engaged leaders of tomorrow. Creating pathways for elevating their voices and investing in their growth is essential to creating society’s future leaders. We can’t afford not to nurture this talent pool.

My colleagues and I love running non-executive searches at Society. We give our clients’ mission and board a voice, and allow recruitment to extend beyond their networks. But when it comes to creating pathways for young trustees, I recommend checking out the work of initiatives like the Young Trustees Movement, which is building pathways for ambitious young people to take up charity board opportunities. Trustee appointments are a serious business with legal responsibilities, so (as always) an excellent induction is required and Mita and the Young Trustees Movement team can help you think about further considerations relevant to young trustees in particular.

I hope that you will make the time to support their work, to sustain the legacy of the #iwill campaign, and to consider investing in a young trustee for your board.