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Meet Ben Attle

Priscilla Tomaz

27 May 2024

Ben shares ideas on how young trustees in international development charities and beyond can deliver positive change for their boards, promote meaningful conversations, and leverage their professional experience!

Ben shares ideas on how young trustees in international development charities and beyond can deliver positive change for their boards, promt meaningful conversations, and leverage their professional experience.

I started as a trustee for the international development charity the Sierra Leone Education & Development Trust (SLEDT) in March 2023. During my university years I was fortunate to visit South Africa and act as a volunteer teacher through the charity Warwick in Africa. Since then, access to education, especially in developing contexts, has remained close to my heart and trusteeship represented a way to meaningfully contribute towards this cause alongside my other work.

As a board member, I believe there are different levels of contribution, as outlined in the book Boards by Patrick Dunne. There’s:

  • Ensuring Survival
  • Ensuring Sustainability
  • Fulfilling Potential

Each is needed. However, most board members act principally within the ensuring survival level; ensuring what needs to be done is done. As the above framework shows, there are opportunities for a trustee to drive meaningful change, helping ensure the sustainability and potential of a charity are realised.

Future of Charity & Sierra Leone Education & Development Trust

I want to share my experience with the Sierra Leone Education & Development Trust - how we used (were inspired by) the Future of Charity Report by Good Innovation - to discuss and assess whether there was more we could do to achieve our potential. The Future of Charity Report proposed 6 Foundations as “fundamental to designing the future of charity”, these were:

  • Purpose: Purpose has become lost. We need to refocus, refine and future proof organisational purpose in order to secure a role for future charity.
  • Relevance, Resonance and Impact: Impact must be more than a mone:y in, money out equation. To future proof mission delivery, organisations need to be clear about their relevance in society and build resonance with donors, service users and programme participants, taking advantage of new technology and new spaces to build engagement.
  • Business Models: Traditional fundraising models are in decline. The sector operating model is too homogenous. We need to invest in innovation to explore new approaches to income generation, leadership and longer-term planning that moves away from short-term metrics and values long-term engagement.
  • Culture, Technology, and Innovation: In order to tackle the big problems we need charities that are fit for the 21st century, with the right talent, culture and technology, and innovation at the heart of strategies, not sitting on the periphery.
  • Collaboration: Our challenges are too big to solve in isolation. We need to get past bureaucracy, ego, and brand barriers to unlock collaborations and partnerships. We need charities to act as conveners, experts and quality assurance in purpose ecosystems.
  • Governance: Charity governance is broken. It’s the biggest blocker to change, innovation and the future of charity. Without changing governance, how we recruit and train trustees, and the diversity of boards, there is no hope of change across the other foundations for the future of charity.

The report encouraged boards to talk about what these foundations meant for their organisation. I felt it was important for the Sierra Leone Education & Development Trust to join this conversation, so with the support the chair and other Trustees, I helped  plan the discussion of these foundations across two meetings - half at one meeting and half at the next.

Given the Sierra Leone Education & Development Trust is an international development charity, we aim to be mindful of the realities of working in this space. It’s important that we work in de-colonalised ways, empowering our colleagues based in Sierra Leone wherever possible - both in terms of programme delivery but also the wider setting of the charity’s strategy. As such, before we started this process, we felt it important to add “Empowerment” as a 7th foundation for discussion.

Prompts for each foundation were sent to Trustees to collect their thoughts. For example for Purpose, a prompt used was: "Are you, your board and your trustees all aligned? Do you all agree on your organisational purpose?" Similar prompts were used for the other Foundations. Once responses were collected, a board paper was created to summarise the responses and suggest potential actions. This was circulated in advance of a board meeting to allow group discussion about which actions to take forward. For the template used to collect responses, please see: Template for Completion - Future of Charity

The exercise produced many good discussions/actions including but not limited to:

  • Agreeing to recruit a 2nd Young Trustee (female)
  • Agreeing to recruit a second Sierra Leone Trustee
  • Drafting a formal  empowerment strategy
  • ​​Drafting a formal values statement
  • Better use of data and evidence to complement stories and photos
  • Bringing NGOs together in Freetown (Sierra Leone) to discuss the exclusion of disabled children from school


Reflecting on my first year at the Sierra Leone Education & Development Trust, as of March 2024, being a trustee helped me deliver positive change by prompting meaningful conversations whilst also leveraging the innovation experience I have built through my professional work at Digital Catapult. Helping our charity move towards sustainability and fulfil its potential has been rewarding as well as ultimately impactful for the people the charity seeks to serve -  as time will hopefully show.

Arguably, discussions about the future of the Sierra Leone Education & Development Trust wouldn’t have taken place without the work prompted by  the Future of Charity Report, which I helped initiate. I hope this example helps showcase that young trustees can instigate meaningful conversations in their boardrooms and can serve as a possible reference points for trustees both within and beyond the international development sector on how this could be done.

Ben is an innovation management and community-building professional. He is a Trustee at the Sierra Leone Education and Development Trust and has supported the development of the Model-Boardroom Series (MBS) with the Young Trustees Movement.

Hear more about Ben on his LinkedIn

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