Changes to the Lab board in 2021

2021 sees some key changes at the Lab, as we say goodbye to chair Sue Charman, and see current trustees Kit Beazley, Nana Francois and Amit Shah stepping up to join existing vice chair David Carrington to lead the board. Later this year, we’ll be searching for two to three additional trustees to join the 11 brilliant members of our current board. COO Rebecca Sumner Smith shares more about these changes, and what’s to come!

Farewell to Sue…

 At the end of January, Sue Charman stepped down as Lab chair. Sue is the Lab’s longest serving trustee, having been involved since 2009 when the Lab emerged from a collaboration between WWF-UK and the ICAEW. The support Sue has provided to the Lab and its team over the years is impossible to measure, and we will miss her wise counsel. You can read her reflections on her time as chair here.

… and hello Kit, David, Nana and Amit!

Stepping into Sue’s rather large shoes is current board member, Kit Beazley, who will serve as interim chair during 2021. Kit has been a Lab trustee since 2019, and before that spent over ten years at Triodos Bank, one of the world’s leading sustainable banks – an organisation closely aligned with his personal values of fairness, inclusion and transparency. Kit now focuses his time on a portfolio of roles centred on working to make the financial system fairer, more inclusive and more sustainable, and is a Trustee Director of Avon Mutual Ltd, a new community bank for the West of England which is currently preparing to apply for a banking licence.

Kit will be supported by existing vice chair David Carrington, alongside two new interim vice chairs, current trustees Amit Shah and Nana Francois. Amit spent the first ten years of his career in finance and strategy consulting, after which he helped to establish and grow a charity and consulting firm focused on innovation in education. He is now building two of his own social ventures. Nana is Director of Membership at FaithInvest, combining her professional background in finance in alignment with her values to do better for people and planet. She is also a non-executive director for the Women’s DNA Fund, providing missing-middle financing, strategy and training for SMEs in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa.

Why interim?

With Sue stepping down after nearly ten years on the board, we began an open search for her replacement. Chair of trustees is a vital role in any charity; it functions as an ambassador for the organisation, a line manager for the CEO, and much more. Despite some strong external applications, we were not able to find the required mix of skills to make an appointment. At the same time, we knew we already had a strong and large board consisting of 11 incredible individuals. Due to other commitments, none of our existing board members had applied for the role of chair – but much has changed for us all during the pandemic, and at the end of 2020 some of the board felt able to step up to key roles for an interim period. This is a fantastic outcome for the Lab, in particular as all four of our new leadership group already know and understand the Lab’s work, and the aims of our new strategy.

In line with our core values of collaboration, empowerment and ambition, our new chair and three vice chairs are working together with our CEO and COO to co-create what this shared leadership structure will look like, and we’re excited for what comes next.

What have we learnt?

We know that being a trustee is a huge commitment – and chair even more so. It’s a huge ask to expect someone to be able to step in from outside an organisation and lead it, and while it can and does happen (including previously at the Lab) we see this as a great opportunity to rethink our approach to trustee recruitment more broadly.

There’s a lot happening in this area, with many organisations thinking harder about how to encourage a broader pool of applicants to apply. We already shortlist applicants ‘blind’ based on response to key questions – rather than a cover letter and CV, for example – but there is more we can do to open our doors, and we’ll be exploring our options before going out to recruit again. When we do, we’ll likely do so for general trustees rather than specific roles, and let new recruits settle in before committing to taking on a named role on the Board.

Until then, we want to learn from what others have tried.

Looking forward to 2021

This year sees the first year of implementing our 2030 strategy, exciting programmatic work, and new team members and associates joining the Lab. On the board, with Sue leaving, we have space for up to three new trustees to join us, and we’ll be turning our attention to this recruitment later in the year. Despite the ongoing challenges of the impact of COVID-19, there’s a lot to be excited about. We’re looking forward to learning and innovating with our board – ably led by Kit, David, Nana and Amit – during 2021.

Have you tried out new, inclusive approaches to trustee recruitment? Or are you interested in hearing more about being a trustee at the Lab? We’d love to hear from you – contact our COO Rebecca