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#MeetTheAmbassadors: Ruth Wilkinson

Jasmin Glynne

05 April 2021

Every Monday we will be spotlighting one of our amazing 2021 cohort of Ambassadors! This week we caught up with South East Ambassador Ruth Wilkinson to discuss her journey into trusteeship and how she hopes to use the role of ambassador to support others to pursue trustee roles.

Ruth Wilkinson

South East Ambassador

Young Trustees Movement Ambassador

Ruth has been an active trustee in charities since she was 19, starting with a role for a local volunteer centre. She went on to be President and Chair of Kent Students’ Union, a role for which she won ‘highly commended’ for the the Third Sector’s Charity Chair of the Year 2018.  She is currently Deputy Chair at Middlesex Students’ Union and works as Sustainability Lead, in the Strategy and Transformation team at The Children’s Trust.  ‘I fell into being a trustee by accident, and without really knowing what it meant, but the experience led me to have a passion for transformation in the charity sector. I truly believe that our sector will be a better place with young and diverse voices in trustee positions and I can’t wait to help get them there.’

If someone had told me ten years ago that I’d be sat here, on a Friday night, in my home office/living room/dining room, having suffered through 12 months of a foundation shaking pandemic, aged 26, writing a blog about charity governance, I admittedly would have been pretty horrified.

I always imagined that I’d be in the grass roots, megaphone wielding, placard painting side of social change (and don’t get me wrong, you can do both). But in the last ten years I’ve discovered so many facets to social change that are all fascinating and challenging, and charity governance is where I’ve ended up spending a lot of time.

I became a trustee without really knowing what I was doing, aged 19, after picking up an email from my Students’ Union about the opportunity to support this little, local charity. They had a board made up of people who’d been around for a long time and were looking for an injection of fresh perspective.

My next role, as an elected trustee for my Students’ Union came with a lot of training, and a CEO with a huge passion for robust governance. This experience totally transformed my view of trusteeship and left me with the ambition to stick with the charity sector after graduation, both as a staff member and a volunteer.

I’m now serving on my 4th board of trustees. It’s been a wild ride of over air conditioned board rooms, slightly stale sandwiches, pages of papers, some tense discussions, some dramas, some laughter, and many drinks at the bar afterwards - but mostly transformational conversations and decisions that have truly connected with making a difference in the world.

I firmly believe in the future of the charity sector and the roles charities have to play in solving our world’s greatest challenges: climate change, inequality, poverty.

But the charity sector is being let down by the lack of diversity on our boards. To tackle the challenges we face we need to embrace diversity of perspective, recognise how important lived experience is in decision making, and value, not just the finance experts with 50 years experience, but the young people who will be leading our sector in 20 years time.

I’m absolutely delighted to be joining the Young Trustees Movement as an ambassador, and can’t wait to get to work supporting more charities to diversify their boards and more young people to have opportunities to join them.

But without the mentoring, training, empowerment and support that I have been so incredibly lucky to receive, I wouldn’t have known where to start at a board meeting. It’s not just about getting young people around the table, it’s about proving they belong there.

So my work with the Young Trustees Movement will be focussing on developing a training and mentoring programme to support young people on boards to be the best they can be.

And if, as a result, even just one young person steps into that boardroom, head held high, papers filled with notes about what questions to ask, ready to take a seat at the table and influence the future of that charity, then I’ll be happy.

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