Centre for Charity Effectiveness selects shadowing programme as case study

5 July 2021

The Centre for Charity Effectiveness (CCE), a leading nonprofit and philanthropy centre in the UK, have featured our Board shadowing programme in a case study to promote the benefits of involving members with lived experience at an organisation’s Board level.

The following article has been reproduced from CCE’s Lived Experience resource.

The Smallwood Trust’s purpose is to enable women on low incomes to become financially resilient. It provides grants to organisations and individuals and works with selected partners to help women overcome financial adversity and improve their social and emotional wellbeing.

The Trust wants to increase diversity in its governance and hear the widest range of voices around the Board table and to be able to demonstrate how lived experience expertise is valued just as much as expertise drawn from learned and practice experience. It wanted to do something practical to start that journey and has begun a pilot Board Shadowing Programme to enable women with lived experience of poverty to see what being on a board is all about by providing opportunities to shadow a Trustee, Dr Ambreen Shah, one of the Trust’s newer Board members.

Some of the programme activities that are being delivered include:

Opportunities to attend Smallwood Board meetings and sub-committees/Grants Panels as an Observer
Opportunities for pre-meetings and de-briefings with Ambreen Shah and/or Paul Carbury, CEO before and after each Board meeting (including monthly check-ins with Ambreen)
Opportunities to learn about the grant-making process Opportunities to visit (in-person or remotely) funded organisations
Attendance at external events (eg. Report launches/webinars etc)
Each participant will receive a training budget for personal and professional development related to the programme aims plus any out-of-pocket expenses.

Although not the main motivation, the scheme also has the potential to provide a pipeline for future Board positions (although there’s no expectation that the shadowees will want to take up the role or be offered a place on the Board).

Simple selection criteria were formulated and the shadowing opportunities were circulated via a call out and information on the website, LinkedIn and through networks. Those interested were asked to email Ambreen or Paul Carbury, the CEO, explaining their motivation for being interested in the opportunity and what they would hope to learn from the programme.

Sixteen people, including one man, got in touch, all with varying motivations as to why the shadowing was of interest. One early and important learning from the entry process is that next time, it may be better if the criteria are included as a drop-down menu (ie. checking ‘experience of poverty’ where relevant etc.) to avoid people interested in the role having to relate their lived experience and disclose difficult accounts of poverty or trauma etc. - a potentially triggering experience - when expressing an interest.

Three women have been invited to shadow Dr Shah and induction meetings have been organised. A description of the role and responsibilities of a shadowee was drafted and Ambreen is arranging for there to be opportunities to meet other Trustees and access documentation. The shadowees will observe upcoming Board meetings including an away day. Ahead of and after observing each meeting, the shadowees will meet Ambreen to encourage reflection on the experience and clarify any emerging questions.

The Trust is keen that the pilot will encourage an exploration of new ways to help strengthen its approach to equality, diversity and inclusion and support its purpose of enabling more women to be financially resilient as well as helping to demystify the trustee role. In support of the latter, it invited all those who expressed an interest in the shadowing opportunities to a meeting where speakers from Getting on Board, Prospectus and Ten Years’ Time aimed to dispel the often ‘exclusive’ perception of trusteeship (‘that it’s not for me’) exploring motivations, clarifying the role, offering links to practical tools and support.

More information on the Centre for Charity Effectiveness can be found here: https://www.cass.city.ac.uk/faculties-and-research/centres/cce