When people talk about “trustees”, it can conjure up images of a roomful of older, very experienced professionals, and young people might not immediately spring to mind.
Go back a few years, and that was very much what I thought anyway – I was convinced that you had to have bucket loads of experience, and an incredible CV from across a 20-year career to be one – but fast forward to 2018, and I’m a trustee of UK Youth.
I got involved in UK Youth in 2016 because I wanted to help develop and empower young people; and improving youth representation across society is absolutely at the heart of this. The work which UK Youth drives, and the impact that the UK Youth family delivers, is phenomenal, with youth voice as the fundamental pillar across it all.
This week is both #iWill Week and Trustee Week and for me those two things fit very naturally together within the question: how can we get more trustee boards across the country engaging young people in decision making, and what more can be done to embed youth representation at the core of these organisations?
But why is it actually so important?
Organisations talk about the need to have good gender balance, ethnic diversity and a broad range of skills, but there is often less consideration given to recruiting a mix of younger and older trustees alike. Diversity of thought is crucial for robust decision making, and a diversity of experience is always going to be a key part of this.
So ultimately, if organisations don’t have young people as trustees on their board, they’re missing out on the vital insight and invaluable perspective which only young people can bring to their discussions. And their organisation will be the weaker for it.
A need for youth representation extends beyond a board of trustees as well, and where any programme, facility or campaign is expected to impact young people, or seeks to engage them, they really have to be part of the design and decision-making process. UK Youth’s programmes, and in particular the UK Youth Voice network, are a prime example of this and the value that young people bring to the table.
The benefit isn’t just for the organisation though! Getting involved with an organisation as a young trustee or with youth representation can be a fantastic learning curve. It certainly has been for me!
In fact, the role of trustee can drive huge personal development, with phenomenal opportunities to learn new skills, meet new people and reflect on where you want to further develop.
There can be a perception that if you are to become a trustee, you need to be an all-round expert. But you don’t need to have all the answers. One of the key tenets of a good board is having a diverse group of people who all bring different skills and insights to the table. Or to look at this from another perspective: everyone will have areas to develop.
So this Trustees Week, I would like to encourage you to think about youth representation in your organisation. Do you have relevant young people contributing to your strategy and decision making and if you don’t how can you productively include them to help your organisation see a positive impact.
And if you’re a young person thinking about whether to get involved, I 100% encourage you to do so. Reach out to your local youth network, step forward, be a part of the conversation and help make things happen.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Written by Ben Jessup, Young Trustee UK Youth