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Diversifying Our Board: Our Journey and Learnings

1 December 2020

A few weeks ago we were delighted to welcome eight new governors and advisers to Cripplegate. We saw the appointment of these diverse new voices as a starting point of a journey to become a more representative organisation in the borough. 

Two months later, at the end of November, we shared the learnings that we have made so far at the ACF Conference 2020. Here are some of the key reflections from the webinar we hosted: 

  • It is critical to have committed champions  for all of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work across the organisation.

  • If done properly, this approach can have a big impact on the culture of the organisation as its staff and board become more representative of the borough.
  • We invited a group of people into the organisation who will create the change with us, over time – the organisation will not be the same!
  • A diverse board will co-create new perspectives, new decisions, new ways of working.

Sarah Benioff, Allyson Davies and Manny Wiafe during the ACF webinar

Sarah Benioff, Allyson Davies and Manny Wiafe during the ACF webinar

 

Manny Wiafe, a new governor, gives his personal reflections

 

1. What attracted me to Cripplegate Foundation

I was born and raised in Islington, and participated in several local projects funded by Cripplegate, so I know well the benefits that well-funded programmes can achieve for community development. Connected to this, I applied because:

  • I think it’s important to recruit and train people from minority backgrounds into board and community leadership positions. Some of these groups are disproportionately unrepresented in such positions.
  • If a board is representative of the community, it will make better use of community information and improve decision making.
  • From the feedback we received, other governors also applied because they were impressed by Cripplegate’s messaging on equity, diversity and inclusion.

 

2. How I found the recruitment process

It was clear Cripplegate had done its research and thought hard about why diversity at a board level matters and how to move next to ensure its leadership was representative of the community and its diverse groups.

For example, during my conversations with Allyson Davies (our recruitment partner), Sarah Benioff and many others in the team I was convinced that in their own lived experiences diversity was important to them. This is important because it speaks to integrity and character of the organisation. Candidates can smell out when a diversity initiative has a genuine WHY behind the process or when it’s simply a tokenistic exercise.

Following the recruitment process, if you look at the make-up of the new governors and advisers I think it captures a diverse group of people and voices. I personally grew up in a low income, single parent household.

Candidates can smell out when a diversity initiative has a genuine WHY behind the process or when it’s simply a tokenistic exercise.

3. My advice on how to diversify boards

  • Have clear and flexible candidate briefs:

    • Consider exactly which groups are underrepresented on the board and develop a well-planned process to recruit those groups, underpinned by WHY the board needs those people and those perspectives. 

    • Consider the value of recruiting from an underrepresented age group. They can inject enthusiasm into board activities.
    • Consider early on what structures may prevent suitable candidates from applying. For example, Cripplegate made it clear no previous experience as a governor was required and that it would train new governors.

 

  • Think about development: Boards often go through the motion of diversifying and consider the job done. But it’s important to go beyond diversity and consider inclusion and empowerment. Ask yourself if the board will seriously listen to diverse governors and act on their recommendations. I have friends that have joined a board only to leave some months later.

 

  • Change can only come if there is clear and sustained support for diversity from the board and key officers. Once this decision is agreed, there is no single template or blueprint for change other than the stamina to keep heading in the right direction. This journey will be shorter for some and longer for others