Groundwork is a national federated charity with a 35-year track record of helping people build better, greener lives in the places that need it most. We believe young people are vital to building vibrant communities – our youth programmes help them gain key skills, make their voices heard and take practical action in their local environment.

Our Youth Network’s led by a national Youth Advisory Board that shapes our strategies, programmes and campaigns for young people. With their help, we’ve evolved our offer to deepen young people’s participation and are now reaping the benefits of this. In fact, working with a Youth Advisory Board would be a great first step for any organisation that wants to develop its own offer for young people and see them potentially become Trustees and leaders.

Our commitment to recruiting young Trustees started with the broader discussion around governance and diversity. Plenty of research supports diversifying leadership through young Trustees, developing the skills in young people capable of leading the charity sector in the future. Since one of our goals is to be rooted in community and current youth initiatives, it seemed natural that we should recruit young Trustees, and future-proof our work by ensuring we had a diverse and experienced Board.

We weren’t sure what adjustments we needed to recruit and support young Trustees, so we started by reaching out to #iwill campaign partners for help. This led to a young Trustee from Step Up to Serve coming along to our next board meeting to share their experience and help us think through the recruitment process, and beyond.  

We agreed a few key adjustments and busted some myths about how both young people and boards can be perceived. For example, we discussed how the format of a board meeting, the intensity of activity and the skills of a Trustee don’t seem unusual to young people at all.

The offer appealed to our board members and to young people, so we agreed to recruit up to two young Trustees (aged 18-28) who could support each other in the process. To make sure these young Trustees would have as much influence as possible, we gave them the same responsibilities as other board members and agreed to identify current board members who could mentor them.

On reflection, we think it’s important to make such a recruitment process appealing to a young audience, and to actively involve young people in the recruitment where possible. We started by making the recruitment pack itself attractive to young people with case studies, pictures, diagrams of governance structure, that let them see where their role fits. We used explanatory, encouraging language, and multimedia content, for example a video explaining more about the organisation. We also used free recruitment platforms such as NCVO Trustee Bank and CharityJob. Here’s our CEO, Graham Duxbury, making the case on Twitter.

We wanted a diversity of view and experience in selection, so we engaged other young professionals in the shortlisting process, and our Youth Advisory Board in the interviews. It also became clear that some flexibility may be needed around interview dates and format, depending on the candidates locations and schedules.

Finally, we steered unsuccessful candidates to other youth initiatives or organisations recruiting Trustees, encouraging them to continue volunteering and building the skills needed for the Trustee role. The whole process has been extremely positive for us, from the support received from partners, to the quality of applications and the general visibility it’s given our organisation.