Inclusive Governance: Interview with a lived experience trustee

Through the Social Practice Academy, we support women with lived experience of the criminal justice system onto charity boards. In this Insights interview, one of our lived experience trustee training programme graduates shares with us her experience of being an academic, charity sector worker and trustee of two national charities.


Why did you want to be a trustee?

I'm an advocate for social justice, intersectional feminism and racial equality, particularly surrounding offending, and criminal justice policies. My lived experience of the criminal justice system pivoted me into the voluntary sector 11 years ago. I became a trustee because of my interactions with the voluntary sector working for several charities over the last 10 years. Realising there was significant room for improvement in the way services are delivered, which in turn can impact negatively on beneficiaries. Many times this is due to governance issues. This new focus contributed to my desire to effect change on a policy level and have greater input into the way charities function strategically. I therefore decided to study towards a BA degree in Sociology and Politics to help me affect meaningful change in the lives of marginalised people who share similar experiences to me.

I believe people with lived experience and those from other marginalised communities must have a say in the way charities are run and the way policies are implemented. A top-down approach has not worked thus far, and we need more nuanced approaches to governance fostered by a diverse board that is representative of the society we live in.

Building confidence and resilience?

I would describe myself as a confident person however I acknowledge that there are levels of confidence – my strength lies in my interactions with others and in my great communication skills. I have been pushed to come out of my comfort zone by speaking and taking up space in new environments with people from different social-economic strata’s.

Knowing that I have something of value to offer irrespective of my lived experience (as an academic and professional) and because of it (as it gives me a unique perspective that's not theoretical but actual). This makes me an expert – even if that thought gives me imposter syndrome, it doesn't stop it from being true. I have realised that most of our confidence comes from our mindset, you can’t be confident whilst having a limiting beliefs mindset. You need to put the negative self-talk to bed and speak to yourself kindly.

What challenges have you been through?

My biggest challenge apart from the obvious (having lived experience of the CJS) is learning to not be discouraged by my personal circumstances being a single mum to a child with additional needs, having a chaotic family life and lack of social capital. It’s easy to think that because of your journey you can’t be who you want to be; professionally or personally but that is only true if you internalise it. I am not saying that we don't face tangible challenges, but our job is to be savvy enough to navigate them, be willing to take alternative routes and be open to pivoting in different directions rather than sticking with something that's not working.

What advice would I give to other black women?

My advice to Black women with similar backgrounds to me or those who want to be trustees is, go for it! Ask people, start talking about your aspirations, do your research and don't be afraid to reach out to people who you think can give you help and advice. Lastly, keep going it may take a while but if you are focused and persistent you will find the right opportunity. That is how I found out about the Beyond Suffrage Lived Experience Trustee Training. After I completed the training I applied for two trustee roles at national charities, and I was successful becoming a Trustee at both charities which was much more than I expected.

Learn more about our Beyond Suffrage trustee training programmes.