Joni Emery is Clinks’ Governance and Executive Manager. She explains Clinks’ recent process of recruiting new trustees to our board, and our work to ensure that racially minoritised people, people with lived experience of the criminal justice system and people under 30 were represented.
Clinks has an engaged and committed board of trustees who bring a wealth of experience and range of expertise to the table. This year, as a number of longstanding trustees reached the end of their term and we sought to recruit new trustees, we took the opportunity to thoroughly examine the diversity of our board and which areas of skill, expertise and experience were underrepresented, in order to make our board even stronger.
Finding the gaps
After a thorough board review – including a skills and experience audit - we established that racially minoritised people, people with lived experience of the criminal justice system and people under the age of 30 were underrepresented on our board. Having a fully representative board is important for a number of reasons. We know that excellence requires diversity of backgrounds, experiences and opinions, and that diverse teams outperform homogenous teams. They bring a broader range of skills, experience and insights – making the board stronger and better able to provide leadership and direction. Additionally, it aligns with our values of equality and inclusion and our work towards become an anti-racist organisation. Diversifying our board also creates the opportunity to lead by example and to encourage other voluntary sector organisations in the criminal justice system to take similar steps.
It was essential to think very carefully about our approach – how could we make sure we were reaching a wider range of people? And how could we make sure that the process worked for them? We considered how, where and when to advertise our needs and we openly stated that that racially minoritised people, people with lived experience of the criminal justice system and people under 30 were particularly welcome to apply. It was crucial that we did not perform a tick box exercise. To be truly inclusive we needed to establish an open and accessible process. We asked people to apply in any way they felt able to do so – including in writing or by video. We wanted to get to know the people, not applications. Informal chats were taken up and support and encouragement given.
After a successful effort to encourage younger people to apply, we filled two spaces on our newly created Clinks board fellows scheme. This was reserved for people under the age of 30 who wanted to gain the insight and experience of being on a board, without holding the full legal responsibilities for governing a charity. This was established as the best way to ensure that younger people could be included and their valuable and innovative opinions heard.
Although in our advertising we stated that people with lived experience were warmly welcome to apply, we did not ask for detail of that experience as part of the application process. Some applicants chose to openly disclose having convictions as a way of expressing their reasons for wanting to be involved with Clinks. Being trauma-aware and knowing that levels of comfort when disclosing past convictions vary from individual to individual, we only enquired if our new Trustees were disqualified from taking up a restricted position as a trustee and needed to apply for a waiver from the Charity Commission after they had accepted an offer to join our board. Where this was the case we committed to supporting them in applying for the waiver. We want to support our Trustees to join a safe and inclusive environment, where there is no pressure to disclose, and/or prejudice.
Ensuring greater representation of racially minoritised people on our board was extremely important to us. We are strategically committed to seeking out the widest pool of talent and to removing barriers to full participation for those who most appropriately represent the diversity in our sector. Given the over representation of racially minoritised people at every stage of our criminal justice system it is vital that our board includes representation from these groups. Tackling structural and institutional racism in the criminal justice system requires valuable insight and expertise from people with direct experience.
Having a diverse, fully representative board, including people with lived experience is not a “nice to have”, it is an essential part of great governance. Clinks strives to be accessible, safe and trusted and to model the future we’d all like to see.
Joni recently spoke at an event run by Charity People about meaningful power sharing through lived experience trusteeship. Read more about the event here
If you’re interested in this topic and discussing how to do something similar in your organisation, you can contact Joni here
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