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blog • Story

MEET BRONWEN EDWARDS

Megan Raybould

22 July 2020

Bronwen is an aspiring trustee, looking for a role in an organsiation that works with human rights, equal access to opportunities or a charity that supports young people. She works for the Directory of Social Change and has worked closely with their board of trustees to create a more inclusive recruitment process.

What are you passionate about? What are your hobbies and interests?

Human rights, equal access to opportunities and the best start in life for babies/young people are my passions as well as the central importance of charities in society. I tweet quite a lot about the charity sector and the fact that #EverybodyBenefits from the work of charities both directly and indirectly. I have been active in politics from my teenage years, ended up completing a degree in Politics and Global Governance and continue to follow politics closely. The other half of my time is spent with my clever little 17-month-old, toddler, Eira, who does not stop moving, talking and signing.

Tell us about your professional journey, how did you get to this point?

I come from a small town in North Wales and when I first began my career, I really didn’t understand the importance of charities and never really envisaged myself working in the sector. I had the belief, as I am sure many do, that charities don’t really help me but it was great that they were there for those who were going through difficult times (yes this makes me cringe now!) After finishing University, I worked briefly at Canterbury Christ Church Students Union, I was the Disability Officer on the Council during my last year which really opened my eyes to the central part played by the Union. At University, I also attended a few Crohns and Colitis UK events in the Kent area, my sister was the local organiser, it felt great to be able to talk open and honestly with those with the same condition as me.

Whilst working at the Students Union I was frantically applying for Parliamentary Assistant and Caseworker roles for various Members of Parliament. Whilst at Uni, I had managed to obtain a part-time role with my MP from home (in his constituency office and then in London) and I really thought that that was the work I wanted to be doing. I couldn’t believe my luck when one of my applications was successful and I got the job – I would be working in the House of Commons!

However, as these things often go, after a couple of exhausting years, I realised that I needed to leave Parliament.  Whilst there I came across many interesting, passionate and memorable charity workers (mainly on the policy side seeking to lobby MPs) which opened my eyes to the possibility of working for a charity and really being able to help people.

I applied for a couple of jobs and was working with a recruitment consultant at Prospectus who called me and told me about a role at an organisation called Directory of Social Change (DSC). I googled the charity and a few videos popped up of the Chief Executive, Debra Allcock Tyler, speaking – I saw Debra’s passion, honesty and willingness to swear and just knew that this was the right place for me!

DSC believes that the world is made better by people coming together to help each other and that charities are a wonderful vehicle to make that happen.  We believe that if charities do their work well people’s lives improve.  To help that happen DSC provides training courses, publications, online funding databases, research, conferences, a bookshop and lots of free web resources for charities. If you work for a charity then DSC aims to support you in everything you do. In addition to this, DSC also fight the corner for charities through policy activities working hard to make the UK a better environment for charities to thrive.

I started at DSC as the Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive and I am now the Executive Office Manager heading up the facilities function, personnel function, supporting the Chief exec and working very closely with DSC’s Board of Trustees.

Why did you decide you wanted to be a trustee? How did you first hear about what a trustee was?

I decided that I wanted to be a trustee for quite a few reasons; DSC opened my eyes to the integral part that Trustees play in charities, I realised that there are some really amazing trustees out there, I want to be able to offer my skills and abilities to support another organisation. The final reason was that I hadn’t really come across any trustees whilst working who were my age and I really think that that isn’t good enough – young people have so much to offer and by failing to utilise those skills, charities really are missing a trick! I desperately want to help but also really want to prove that young trustees can be a blessing.

What’s been your greatest challenge in finding and applying for trustee roles? What needs to change?

The greatest challenge that I find when trying to apply for vacant trustee roles is the language used, on the whole, it just tends not to be very inclusive. Although I have the time to give, skills to offer and the attitude needed to be a great trustee, the adverts are tied up in legal language, they make it seem like you need some sort of financial qualification and lots seem like they want you to know lots or rich donors and/or a huge contact list of influential people. Lots of young people don’t fit any of these boxes, not to mention the fact that these uninclusive things will also put off those with disabilities, those who haven’t been to university, black people and people of colour.

I honestly don’t think that charities do this on purpose, I think many won’t even realise that they’re putting people off but once you ‘know better’ you ‘do better’.

One of my main questions for those who want to find new trustees would be ‘what do you actually need’ – personally, I believe you don’t need to see someone’s CV to know if they are right for your trusteeship, think of one or two questions that will help you find the person you need, advertise in new ways and in different place. Of course people who are applying to be a trustee do need to understand their role in regards to charity law, but that doesn’t mean they need to be a legal expert, of course the person needs to be able to understand ‘the numbers’ but that can be taught, there is so much training out there that can help (I really struggled with the finance side of charities at first and attended DSC’s Finance for Non-Finance Managers to support me in that area).

How did you change the trustee recruitment process at @DSC_Charity to make it more inclusive?

We had a long, hard think at DSC before we advertised the vacant posts that we had at the end of 2019. We wanted to make the process as inclusive as we could and knew that we needed to diversify our board.I just want to say that the board at DSC has always been excellent during my time there but the board realised that they all looked the same, had similar life experiences, similar educational backgrounds and similar values.  They didn’t think that was healthy and wanted to be more representative of the world and people we serve.

For the process at DSC we;

  • Made sure that we weren’t asking for things that we didn’t really need.  So we worked on avoiding the sort of language that excludes people, for example ‘expertise’ or ‘years of experience’.
  • Worked on making our wording feel warm and inclusive – so we focussed on a friendly tone, talked about working together and giving support where people lacked skills or skill specific experience when it wasn’t needed in our advert
  • We focused on attitude and life experiences rather than traditional skills.
  • We had three key areas that we were looking for, you only need to fulfil one of the criteria (which was made really clear); Experience of working, volunteering or using the services of small charities, experience of leadership in any sector, experience of delivering digital innovation.
  • We undertook blind applications – to prevent unconscious bias – that included removing references to schooling; age; further education etc.
  • We had two trustees shortlist applications and a different two undertake the interviews.
  • We made it clear that applications were open for those who hadn’t be trustees before and that training and a full induction and a ‘buddy scheme’ with an existing trustee would be provided.
  • We linked in with organisations who work with those from protected characteristics – to try and get the ad in front of their membership base/beneficiaries

Typically, DSC might in the past have had 10 or so applicants for a vacant trustee position. This new approach attracted 40 applicants of which we shortlisted 8 for interview.  Our new approach to advertising produced the most outstanding quality applicants and reducing the 40 to 8 was really hard.  In the end the standard was so high that we ended up taking on five – for three of our newbies this was their first ever trusteeship!

What’s been your greatest reward so far in your journey with trusteeships, at work or in your personal search to find a role?

My journey with trusteeships has led me to make connections and relationships with some amazing people from an array of organisations and backgrounds. I have been incredibly inspired by those who work and volunteer for the sector. There really is a drive in this sector to help, so even if you work for/care about different causes, everyone does have some sort of common goal.

I am so proud to have been able to support two trustee recruitment processes at DSC (2017 and 2019/20).

What’s the biggest misconception you have about this topic of charity/ young trusteeship?

I think that there is a common misconception that age means lack of experience or that young people won’t make good trustees. So many young people are eager to learn, have the right attitude and bring with them different thoughts, solutions and perspectives. I honestly believe that attitude is much more important than experience, after all there is so much training available out there for new trustees.

I think those who want to be trustees shouldn’t give up but should try and speak to a human being at the organisation you are interested in; try not to be put off by ads and remember that this is a process that lots of charities are working on at the moment so they will get it wrong - highlight it when they do because it’s unlikely to be intentional, rather that they are just a little ‘stuck in their ways’.

Better to apply and be rejected than to not apply at all.

We’ll be talked more about how to create inclusive role adverts and interviews in our Q&A. If you missed it, you can watch a recording of the event here.

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