Written by Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Chairperson
With Contribution from Áine O’Connell, Board Trustee & Eoin Corbett, Board Trustee
SpunOut.ie is Ireland’s youth information website created by young people, for young people. Established in 2005, we are a national charity, governed by a volunteer board of trustees. Our vision is to help create an Ireland where young people aged between 16 and 25 are empowered with the information they need to live active, happy, and healthy lives.
SpunOut.ie has a strong record of maintaining high levels of age diversity on our board of trustees to ensure a wide range of perspectives inform our decision-making at all times.
In our area of work, direct input from young people is absolutely and obviously vital; but we also believe age diversity can benefit any organisation concerned with planning for the future.
As with all measures to improve diversity, it must not be tokenistic. Young trustees need to be supported to build their capacity, and space needs to be created at meetings to ensure their voices are heard.
It is important to acknowledge that board participation can initially be intimidating for young people, and unfamiliar governance jargon can be an early barrier to their effective participation in meetings.
And yet, while younger people may have not yet developed the specific expertise of other trustees, we find they bring the fresh perspectives and new thinking needed to challenge old patterns or approaches. Our experience is that expertise and confidence can be gained very quickly, especially when younger trustees are encouraged to have their say and ask questions as needed.
Consideration must be given to the significant legal responsibilities attached to board trusteeship, and how to support to board trustees with less experience when difficult decisions have to be taken.
Having an open recruitment process is not only good for transparency, it helps ensure that applicants (of all ages) actually want to be on the Board. If young people understand why they are there, and the importance of their contribution to the decision-making, their commitment will be that much stronger.
At the same time, it is not enough to simply welcome youth participation on the board: this has to be proactively stated in any recruitment processes, and information about the opportunities should be shared on the channels that young people access.
The image of a Board of Trustees as a group of older men in suits also needs to be borne in mind and actively challenged as much as possible.
Young trustees who serve on our board report a very positive experience. Along with the high-level skills developed, it offers a great opportunity to interact with new people they may not otherwise encounter, including those with successful professional career experiences. Additionally, having engaged with an organisation at this level is something which stands to young trustees for a long time to come.
SpunOut.ie aspires towards wider diversity of representation on our Board and Youth Action Panels in future – but right now we are proud to offer a strong model of success in ensuring diversity in age, just as we have in gender. Age diversity strengthens our Board. It challenges us. It inspires us. It gives us our mandate. Above all, it helps ensure that we make the best-informed decisions for the future of our organisation.
Find out more here: https://spunout.ie/about