“Our vision for the future is a civil society formed on innovation, boldness and challenge. This is the precursor to a positive and healthy society.”
Civil society Futures
In November 2018, the Civil Society Futures report “The story of our times: Shifting power, bridging divides, transforming society” was published. Civil Society Futures was a two-year independent inquiry into the future of civil society in England, the first major inquiry of its kind for over two decades. A range of individuals were engaged in debates about the future of civil society – an extensive engagement process that included hundreds of workshops, meetings, events, blogs and academic research. Over 3,000 people were engaged in the process of re-imaging civil society.
A PACT was developed following the enquiry. The PACT is a “map to guide us all in the future: a set of principles, practices and questions that are designed to help each of us forge our own future”. The PACT focuses on shifting power; an accountability revolution; building deeper closer connections; and, investing in trust – our core currency.
On the 28th of September 2021, Social Practice ENT had the privilege of co-hosting a lived experience event in collaboration with Charity People. We had the opportunity to create space for voices of people with lived experience to be heard. It was an honour and a privilege to facilitate a conversation about practicing shared and distributed models of decision making and control.
The guest speakers at the event took part in a thought-provoking conversation sharing their experiences of recruiting and/ or being recruited into trusteeship with lived experience. The speakers included: Joni Emery, Governance and Executive Manager at Clinks; Leanne Jeffery, a Beyond Suffrage Programme graduate; and, Sana Chaudhry, a Beyond Suffrage Programme graduate and Trustee at Refugee Café. The panel was co-chaired by Glen Manners (Associate Director, Charity People) and Precious Sithole (CEO, Social Practice ENT).
Joni opened the session by sharing the process Clinks went through to recruit trustees with Lived Experience of the criminal justice system. This is outlined further below.
To start with, the board of trustees first reflected on what and who they wanted to represent going forward. They followed this up with a skills audit to find out where the gaps were in the organisation. Following this review, they identified that people with lived experience of the criminal justice system, those from ethnic minority backgrounds and those under thirty were underrepresented on the board.
Clinks then put together an accessible recruitment pack. They advertised a minimum criterion and encouraged all who met it to apply.
They were overwhelmed by the positive response and the number of submissions. As a result, Clinks successfully took on five new trustees and two new board fellows for those under thirty.
The next speaker was Sana – she shared with the attendees her positive experience of applying for a trustee position at Refugee Café. She was not required to submit a CV as part of the application process. All they required was for her to complete a short application form. The interview process was also less formal, which helped to set her at ease. Sana was also given multiple opportunities to ask any questions she had, as well as the opportunity to meet with one of the trustees in advance. Sana shared how helpful it was for her to attend a shadow board meeting beforehand. This allowed her to feel comfortable in her new role and gain a greater understanding of what was to come.
The next speaker was Leanne, who shared generously about how best to recruit and retain trustees who have lived experience of the criminal justice system. She shared five key trauma informed principles for boards to consider, which we have captured below.
Safety – Physical and emotional. Spaces should be welcoming, and privacy respected.
Choice – The individual has choice and control in their work. Trustees are aware of their rights and responsibilities.
Empowerment – Prioritise trustee empowerment and skill building. The atmosphere should allow employees to feel validated and important.
Collaboration- Making decisions with the individual and sharing power. Trustees are given significant roles in planning.
Trustworthiness- Have task clarity, consistency and uphold interpersonal boundaries.
In addition to the principles above, Leanne also recommended that new trustees should be given the space to contribute skills, knowledge and experiences outside of their lived experience. She also emphasised the importance of lived expertise and servicer user voice.
Finally, Sana and Leanne shared actions that charities may need to consider when recruiting a trustee with lived experience. We have listed some of them below:
If unsure, ask for name pronunciation and pronouns at the start of appointment
Be honest about time commitments, as some trustees may have disabilities, demanding jobs or carer responsibilities.
Allow people time to get into the position comfortably. If possible, delay any responsibilities that do not have to be taken on straight away as a new trustee.
Circulate board papers in advance of board meetings to allow trustees to prepare themselves.
Offer mentorship/ buddy schemes for new trustees
Be aware of power dynamics
Avoid over professionalisation as this may inadvertently exclude some people
Encompass the principles of trauma enforced working.
When offering training to a new trustee, extend this to existing board members too.
Look into programmes such as Beyond Suffrage which train people to become trustees and build confidence.
The Civil Society PACT was developed before the global pandemic – now it is more needed than ever. In these plastic hours, as we start to rebuild and re-imagine life post pandemic, we must be guided by the principles of the PACT. If we don’t make progress, we risk falling back into old ways.
Trustees’ week 2021 will be running from the 1st -5th of November where various organisations run events to discuss all aspects of trusteeship, just like this event.
We are signposting a link to events other sector organisations will be hosting during Trustees Week https://trusteesweek.org/events/.