Understanding lived experience on charity boards can be platform to overcoming barriers

New Centre for Charity Effectiveness resource can help ensure those with lived experience are more involved in boardroom decision-making.

Including trustees with lived experience of the cause on the boards of non-profit organisations, charities and social enterprises will lead to more evidence-based decisions and ensure greater accountability to the community.

The Business School’s (formerly Cass) Centre for Charity Effectiveness (CCE) has launched a new online resource explaining the benefits of including those with lived experience in the decision-making process to help overcoming barriers.

The resource includes insights from lived experience seminar contributors, perspectives from CCE academics, case studies including the real-life experiences of individuals and organisations and links to related materials. There are also insights from a CCE seminar on the subject, held in November 2020, which was attended by organisations from sectors including health and social care, homelessness, physical and mental health, learning disability, victim support and the youth sector.

The Centre hosted a webinar on Thursday 15th April 2021, which was attended by 174 people. The CCE governance team was joined by two guest speakers: Judith Davey, Chief Executive of The Advocacy Project, and Darren Murinas, Chief Executive of Expert Citizens CIC, to discuss the contributions those with lived experience could make to non-profit boards.

Caroline Copeman, Consultant and Senior Visiting Fellow at CCE, chaired the event and said: “We have been missing a trick as trustees with lived experience bring unique knowledge to a boardroom that should be equally valued with other aspects of knowledge and experience.

Organisations have the choice about whether to make it a strategic goal – this would be one way of focusing the organisation's mind on this important aspect of work that reinforces authenticity and trust.

“I am going to change my approach as a direct result of listening to the planning and preparation that trustees with lived experience put in.”

Judith Davey, Chief Executive of the Advocacy Project, said 40 per cent of the organisation’s trustees have lived experience, and believed this was crucial to the quality of the service they provide.

Having staff and trustees builds authenticity, trust and ensures our work is spot on in terms of what people know. We want to bake this into all levels of the organisation – from the boardroom to front line delivery.

“It takes a lot of time and effort to introduce this properly – it is a journey. Information must be accessible, and trustees must have had time to reflect on it and formulate questions before a board meeting. But it is worth its weight in gold as all trustees have improved knowledge and confidence impacting the quality of decision making and overall governance.”

Darren Murinas, Chief Executive of Expert Citizens CIC added: “People with lived experience bring a unique knowledge to the boardroom which cannot be learned at university and cannot be learned academically. This knowledge and experience should be equally valued.

“It is important to meet trustees outside of the boardroom, to have development training available for everyone in the boardroom, so that we can learn from one another.”

To listen to a recording of the event, click here.

CCE welcomes contributions and thoughts from non-profit organisations, charities and social enterprises to help inform this resource. Please contact [email protected].