Celebrating Trustees: From the inside, out

By Kawika Solidum the Head of Region (North West) for the CSJ Foundation, Chair of The Funding Network and Parent-Governor for a primary school in Greater Manchester.

As a trustee, when I step into a boardroom I know I give my best when I have one foot in the room and the other outside – bringing in those sparks of insight from other contexts.

In the most basic terms, a charity board must enrich the decision-making of the organisation, helping it become more sustainable and impactful. I am privileged in that I am not only the chair of a charity called The Funding Network, which is a live crowdfunding platform that links a community of generous donors to small charities around the world, but also a parent-governor of my children’s primary school.

My career is focused on positive social change and reducing social inequality. My voluntary roles enable me to contribute in ways that complement what I do in my day job, as Head of Region (North West) for the CSJ Foundation. Day to day, I scout out innovative approaches to addressing and alleviating poverty – ideally looking for those solutions, models, technologies and collaborations that can prevent poverty for future generations.

Philanthropy, when done well, can drive this type of social impact. The charities and social enterprises that are genuinely embedded within their communities and using the insights they have gained through experience or by lived experience are often on the front foot when it comes to social innovation. They see a community need – and quite often the complexity of dealing with overlapping needs – and they intrinsically seek to serve.

No part of the voluntary sector has a monopoly on this, but often small charities that are indefatigably improving lives of those living in poverty – and in the process learning how to address recurring themes by looking at root causes – will go unnoticed by the patient philanthropists investing in social good.

This is where I come into the room. By roaming the region, I have seen positive social change in different communities. I know the organisations and the leaders. I know their models and their ambitions. But because of my governance roles, I am also able to understand them from the inside out.

Together with my policy colleagues at The Centre for Social Justice, I can understand pressing public policy issues and see the opportunity for engaging with grassroots leaders with their gritty perspective of what works, and what doesn’t.

As chair of The Funding Network, I understand the fundamental mismatch of philanthropic resources afforded to larger charities and the need to nurture smaller organisations and give them a fighting chance to meet generous individuals who may support their missions.

As a parent-governor, I understand that a school’s academic performance is its perennial priority and this rests on quality of teaching, staff and student wellbeing and resilience, positive relationships between the school and parents – as well as sufficient funding.

These different frames of reference require me to navigate many different stakeholders and build relationships across multiple sectors, which only adds to the bank of people I know I can call on to speak into a policy discussion or work together to build new community initiatives. The diverse contexts also sharpen my ability to see connections or gaps where public policy can intervene, philanthropists can invest or people can lead local change.

Whether I work to enrich national policy decisions by involving individuals with first-hand community knowledge, or providing the challenge and support as a trustee, chair or governor to foster better decision-making within a charity or school, my job is to understand an issue deeply and explain my insight simply.

The range of experiences I have and perspectives I encounter means I can bring a wealth of insight into a boardroom. When I pivoted my career to the voluntary sector over a decade ago the then chair of the charity I worked for said: ‘the best things you can give the sector are your time, talent and treasure’.

Today, as a trustee committed to good governance, I’d like to think I can add ‘testimony’ to that list.

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It’s not just your time, talent and treasure –it’s also your testimony 3 It’s not just your time, talent and treasure –it’s also your testimony 4 It’s not just your time, talent and treasure –it’s also your testimony 5


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