Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Trustee Story: Peter Olawaye, Leap Confronting Conflict

Peter Olawaye, 23, became a trustee of Leap Confronting Conflict this year.

When I started at Leap Confronting Conflict a few years ago  I would never have thought that I would be on their board of trustees (or any board for that matter) in the future.

I was attracted to the role of Trustee at Leap because I have a genuine interest in helping young people affected by conflict and I felt that I had something to offer them to help them achieve their vision, whilst also developing my own skills. As a young male from the London borough of Hackney I have real life understanding and experience of the conflict that is going on amongst young people today and can relate to Leap’s beneficiaries. It was an amazing opportunity for me to be able to offer the perspective of a young person to the board which is especially important for a youth charity like Leap. 

 The step up from being an intern at Leap Confronting Conflict to becoming a trustee has been a big one. As an intern I worked specifically on a project to enhance Leap Confronting Conflict’s social media presence.  As a trustee I am required to take part in decision-making which affects the charity as a whole, and the young people we support. To know that my judgement can have such a wide impact could be intimidating but I’ve felt really well supported right from the recruitment process, through my first meeting and to becoming an active member including taking part in committee meetings. The board have been really welcoming; going out to dinner with them on my first day was a really nice way for me to get to know them better.

I’ve been really busy right from the get go with a real range of activities. Over the past few months, I have enjoyed attending board meetings; learning more about our strategic plan, our financial outlook and also gaining an insight into how decisions are made across the charity. I love the fact that my input can have an influence within these meetings and that I am genuinely listened to. I’ve also spoken at a major donor meeting at the Tower of London, which was a new experience for me and something I thoroughly enjoyed (getting a free tour and seeing the Crown Jewels after was a bonus). Speaking at our annual awards ceremony to celebrate young people – Lighting the Fire -  was a moving day for me as I got to see first hand the impact that Leap is having on the lives of young people and those around them. It was really inspiring.

I am currently leading on a governance review where I will be carrying out interviews with each board member to find out more about what their responsibilities are. I will be contributing to the development of our governance as well as increasing my understanding of Leap, the importance of the board and also the role I can play. In addition to this, it will help me get to know the board members much better ,which is important as a board that knows each other well can work much more effectively. It’s been great to be given so much responsibility from the start but also to feel really supported.

It has been challenging learning more about the board, getting familiar with the language they use to discuss accounting, finance, strategic goals and keeping abreast with the fast paced developments at Leap. It really kept me on my toes and brought me out of my comfort zone, something that I believe key for my personal development. Managing my new role with my other commitments outside  of the board will always be a challenge, but one that I am happy to take on.

Being a Trustee has already helped me with my professional development; I’ve become more confident in running my social enterprise and am now beginning to have a much clearer picture of how charities operate, from top to bottom. I can see the personal benefits of being a Trustee and have become a better networker, a more skilled public speaker and have gained strategic experience that sets me apart from the crowd. I’m able to learn so much from being part of such a diverse board, full of people with a range of experiences and backgrounds.

I feel lucky to have been so well supported to become a trustee and now in my ongoing development; I have been able to ease into my new responsibilities and feel well prepared to embark upon this new challenge. It feels achievable and like I will really learn a lot during my time as a Trustee.

Young people have so much to offer charity boards and so much to gain from the experience. More should be done to provide better information about what being a trustee means for young people as this can often be a barrier to them going for such positions. Often when there are positions available, a glance at the job specification suggests that the candidate would need to be fairly experienced in particular fields. More needs to be done to encourage young people to apply for trustee positions and charities should work harder to provide room for those with less experience and to support their development, perhaps through mentoring or shadowing of another trustees. 

About Peter:
After benefitting from Leap’s programmes and a successful period as Leap’s social media intern in 2012, Peter is now a co-ordinator for the youth charity Envision and is also the founder of Aiming Skywards, a social enterprise focussed on reducing youth offending.

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