We were delighted to round off 2023 by welcoming 3 new trustees to our board – Allan Beattie, Jo McCrae and Becky Little. Over the last couple of years, we have been taking active steps to diversify our board to ensure that different voices and lived experiences are heard and represented at all levels of the organisation as the participants we work with continue to come from more diverse backgrounds.
The diversification of our board began in earnest in 2020 with the launch of our Ambassadors programme. Our Ambassadors are a group of Journey graduates with lived experience of the core programme and, crucially, the social, economic, and mental health challenges facing young people today.
Since 2020, the Ambassador programme has flourished and given 7 young people the opportunity to volunteer on our programme, sit on our board, access training and workshops and represent Venture Scotland in the wider mental health, youthwork and funding community. We recently welcomed a new cohort of Ambassadors, with fresh ideas and perspectives, to guide its development in 2024 and ensure that it keeps the needs of young people at the heart of its practices. Our Chair, Evelyn Simpson reflected last year:
“The Board of Trustees has changed significantly over the last 3 years. We continue to focus on ensuring that our trustees have the skills and experiences we need to govern effectively. Our Ambassador programme has been a game changer at every level of the organisation and the board is no exception, having Ambassadors sit as observers on the board and offer the perspective of their lived experience has been invaluable.”
Despite the transformative addition of our Ambassadors, our Board of Trustees continued to have a self-confessed diversity problem… though maybe not quite the one you’d imagine. Our board was, in the words of our Chair, made up of “mostly white, middle-aged, middle-class women.” Alongside developing our Ambassador programme, we had attempted to attract new, younger trustees over the years by putting out appeals on our website and social media. Again and again, potential applicants would tell our CEO, David Brackenridge, “I just don’t see myself as a trustee”.
“The trouble with Boards is that most people don’t understand what they do, and most people also don’t think it’s a role they have the skills to undertake. We wanted to change that and because we had a strong existing board, we felt we could help to support people who perhaps wouldn’t see themselves as trustees, to take that step.”
So, we decided to go back to basics and redesign our trustee recruitment process to be more inclusive, person-centred and flexible. David reached out to people directly, discussed real-life barriers to participation and created an “observers” process to allow potential trustees to sit on our board for 6 months and get used to the ins and outs of charity governance, alongside juggling jobs, families and travel, before committing fully. We were delighted that the trial was a success and in December 2023, we welcomed our 3 new trustees at our recent AGM, including former participant, Allan Beatie. This is what he had to say about becoming a trustee 20 years after being involved with Venture Scotland:
“Venture Scotland had a massive impact on my life. When I left home, I didn’t feel particularly good about the sort of person I was. After Venture Scotland, I felt a lot better about being me again. I learned self-worth. I felt like it was acceptable to be me. After going through the programme over 20 years ago it is both humbling and a privilege to be part of the charity’s journey once more.”
While diversifying the charity continues to be a work in progress, we are proud to have made huge strides towards creating an inclusive and representative board of trustees. We are already looking forward to adding more diverse voices and perspectives in the years to come!