Over the last year, we have been asking what more we need to do to become a truly diverse, inclusive organisation that reflects the community of the young people we are here to serve. Board diversity felt like the place to start – as the group of people ultimately responsible for the charity and with the power to determine strategy and direction.
Not only did improving board diversity feel important in terms of our values as an organisation, but the evidence is clear that diversity improves the effectiveness of boards and that a diversity of perspectives lead to better scrutiny and decision making. Ultimately, we know that a diverse board is key to the effective delivery of our mission.
In our strategy, we had set out that we wanted half our board to be care-experienced by 2021. But we also recognised that we needed to address diversity in a wider sense – and in particular to improve the racial and age diversity of our board. So we set another target - that a minimum of between a quarter and a third of our board should be from Black, Asian or Minoritised Ethnic backgrounds. We also committed to recruiting younger trustees.
We're delighted that we have just recruited 4 brilliant new trustees – who bring a huge wealth of skills and personal and professional experience and come from diverse backgrounds. This will mean that at least half of our board is care-experienced, over a third are from a Black, Asian or Minoritised Ethnic background and we have younger trustees on board.
We definitely didn’t get everything right but here are some of the steps we took that worked for us:
Advertising and applications
We had a very clear focus on recruiting to improve the diversity of the board. We were explicit about this in the application pack and throughout the process returned to this. We also had targets on diversity. While we also wanted to address some skills gaps on the board, this was always secondary to the primary focus of achieving a more diverse board.
We were clear that this meant we were open to applications from people without previous board experience and that support would be provided to first-time trustees including buddying them up with more experienced board members. We thought carefully about the wording of the advert and provided as much information in advance as we could, which included an offer of a conversation with our Chair or CEO.
We advertised in a range of places, largely free sites, and via a broad range of networks. We also heavily promoted the vacancies on our own channels. We encouraged some of the young people we worked with to apply to be trustees – and offered support if they wanted it. An oversight was not consistently asking candidates where they heard about the role but, from what we can tell, our own channels and word of mouth seemed particularly effective. It helped that trustee recruitment came not long after a successful social media campaign which expanded our social media following and connected us to a broader care-experienced audience.
In the end, we had 60 applicants – and were overwhelmed by the strength of the applications we received. There were some really tough decisions to make about who to interview. We ended up with a shortlist of 10 – the majority of whom were care-experienced and/or from BAME communities. We could easily have interviewed double this number or more.
The interview process
We purposefully kept the panel small with half of the panel being care-experienced. We drew from existing board members but also involved a young person we worked with (which is standard practice at Become).
In advance of the interviews, we shared the topics we would be asking about. This undoubtedly helped candidates prepare more thoughtful answers and gave us better information about them.
We’re so thrilled to have attracted the new trustees that we have and beyond grateful to all those that showed an interest.
Meet our new Trustees
- Pip Uden is our youngest Trustee, is care-experienced, and a very impressive young woman with high academic achievements and significant social change activities whilst at university. She’s at an early stage of her marketing career and recently started a new job in the charity sector.
- Ony Chima, as a senior digital strategist with over 16 years' experience in the corporate world, recognises the challenges he’s overcome to get where he is – allowing him to empathise with the children and care leavers we are supporting.
- Meera Mistry describes herself as "a proud (old) Care Leaver from the BAME community who also happens to be a successful NHS senior Director. I should add that I am now an even prouder mum to two teenagers. I have reached a point in my life where I have done enough and empowered enough to give something more meaningful back to my care-experienced Community.”
- Tom Willets spent the first year of his life in a foster home in south London before being adopted and growing up in Birmingham, where he had more than 40 foster siblings over the years. He was also the first from his inner-city state school to win a place at Oxford University. This transformed his life: he wants as many young people as possible to be able to reach their potential and lead fulfilling lives.
Continuing our journey to improve diversity
Our next challenge is to improve the diversity of our staff team and there are definitely lessons we can learn from this process. We know we have a long way to go to truly be an anti-racist organisation that puts equity, diversity and inclusion at its heart and are very much starting out on that journey.