Smallwood Welcomes Board Shadowees for 2024

We are delighted to welcome four new Board Shadowees to the Smallwood Trust!

This is the third time we’ve run our Board Shadowing programme where we welcome women with lived experience of financial insecurity to join our Trustee Board for a year. Our inaugural programme was launched in 2021 with three Shadowees and, due to its success, this was increased to four when our second programme was launched in 2023.

We are really grateful to have received a record 59 applications, the highest number of applications we’ve received in the three years we have run this programme.  A shortlist of 9 candidates was created before we chose our final four after careful deliberation.

Successful candidates Saaida, Noorganah, Louise, Aneita will spend the year shadowing Smallwood Trustee Dr Ambreen Shah in order to gain a deeper insight into what it means to be a Trustee. They will also have the opportunity to develop skills to further their own personal and professional goals. 

Our Board Shadowing initiative is part of our mission to end gendered poverty by involving women with lived experience in the governance of the Trust. The programme is also linked to our strategic goals of shifting power and equity, diversity and inclusion.

We spoke to our 2024 cohort about why they wanted to join our programme and what they wanted to get out of the process…

Saaida Neilson (she/her)

By participating in this program, Saadia aims to not only demystify the roles of trustees and boards within grant-making organisations but also advocate for the inclusion of Black Disabled Women and individuals in decision-making processes. Saadia is keen to contribute to more equitable board practices, ultimately benefiting marginalised communities in search for a good life for all.

“The first meeting as a shadowee board member was an incredibly positive experience. It was inspiring to witness the passion and dedication of the board members and their commitment to making a difference. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from such experienced and talented individuals and look forward to contributing my own unique perspective in future meetings.”

Noorganah Robertson (she/her)

Noorganah is an electrician based in London who practises Chinese martial arts, loves the Olympic games, is passionate about engineering, supporting women as well as people in general to be the best version of themselves. Her application was facilitated by Women Into Construction (a previous grantee of the Trust) whom she continues to work alongside in a mutually beneficial role. Noorganah believes that anything is possible and works actively to live this reality and help others achieve this too, with a positive mindset and the correct strategy as well as well-executed decisions.

“Thus far, it has been extremely rewarding being present at the board meetings and observing first-hand how the Smallwood Trust have been able to sustain their resources for so long, enabling them to be free to make certain choices and adjust their strategy to help as many individuals and other organisations as possible. It was a delight and an honour to be chosen to be a board shadowee and I am thrilled and enthused about what will happen next!”

Louise Grant (she/her)

Louise is from South Tyneside and has recently worked alongside her local NHS trust as a lived experience interviewer. Louise is passionate about using her story and voice to help other women who may feel that they are unable to speak up.

“Having the opportunity to share my experiences and help Smallwood Trust shift power will help so many women in my situation know that this is a path that they can follow too.”

Aneita Lewis (she/her)

Aneita is currently in her final year of a Psychosocial Community Work degree. She has previously worked for the NHS as an administrator and more recently she has been involved with NGOs with lived experience of financial insecurity and the London-based Just Fact Project which aims to establish a different, accessible, and sustainable food system. Aneita is passionate about advocating for single mothers’ wellbeing and hopes to gain employment in the Charity Sector once she has graduated.

“I have enjoyed my time so far, I have felt accepted and it’s been brilliant meeting all the trustees and I look forward to future meetings. There has been constant communication to keep me in the loop and further opportunities put my way.”

The continuation of this programme is fundamental to meeting the Trust’s mission and core values and we are thrilled that the John Ellerman Foundation have taken inspiration from it to create their own Board Shadowing scheme.

If your organisation is interested in creating your own shadowing scheme, please do not hesitate to reach out to us as we are happy to share our approach and learning. You can email Smallwood Trust CEO, Paul Carbury, at for more information.

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