Daniel Waugh

Previous Board Trustee with

National Youth Council of Ireland and Teenline


Frank Lloyd Wright said, “Youth is a quality, not a matter of circumstances”, and he was right. Youth is something to be sought after as a great quality. After all, younger people are the future. I know, this hackneyed phrase is flung around enough that it’s meaning seems lost, but we can’t run from the timely fact that it’s message holds true.

With good governance at the heart of organisations all over Ireland, and missions and values being revisited, redrawn, and remember it could be time to start considering recruiting competent and capable young people to boards.

In my capacity as a board trustee with both TeenLine Ireland and the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) from 2016 to 2017, I saw firsthand the change my position as a young board trustee had. These two organisations have young people at the very core of their existence, and as the only young person on the board at the age of 25 I was enabled to learn from other board members and teach other board trustees. I was never perceived as a tokenistic young person to tick a box of being in tune with their demographic.

I was valued, felt valued, and offered valuable advice and insight into how these organisations should recruit younger volunteers, financial advice on advertising using digital media, and being confident to make tough top-tier decisions as a board trustee who protected and safeguarded the name of the organisation.

The stigma attached to young people is weighed down by lazy stereotypes. Lack of experience is too easy an excuse to lose invention, creativity, and real insight of a younger board trustee. The breath of fresh air that can shake rigid perspectives and operations of an organisation can be instigated by a younger board trustee. Their energy fills the room and permeates across the entire organisation. Younger board trustees can bring their technology expertise, executive experience, or industry knowledge.

When you’re considering who to appoint to your board – cast a careful glance around who’s sitting at the table. Be aware of the skills, wealth of knowledge, and demographic and composition of your board. Diversity is never bad – it can always be good.

Having a young board trustee does not guarantee your organisation will “understand Millennials,” but it does help to bridge the gap. The sharing of experiences and knowledge between a diverse board means everyone learns, and improves, for the better of the organisation.

Don’t stand back and get out of the way for the youth of today to become the boards of tomorrow. Instead, welcome young people onto your boards and together improve the governance of the organisation. It’s obvious that Frank Lloyd Wright was right: youth is a quality, not a matter of circumstances.