My name is Joe Stockley, and I’m a trustee for the British Youth Council. I also run Communications for an equality charity in Wales called Diverse Cymru, and worked with and around the British Youth Council for six years. Those past six years have been quite a wild ride – graduating, unemployment, flirting with homelessness, and lots more – but the constant has been the incredible support, development, and time the British Youth Council has offered me.
In October, I’ll no longer be a trustee for the best youth voice charity I’ve ever been involved with. Of course, this is not the end of the road, the road is just beginning. I cannot wait to use my experience and expertise to fight the corner for young people, for equality, and to continue clearing the way for others and happily watch as they change the world. So what has the British Youth Council done for me? Why is it so close to my heart? Read on for insights of a retiring British Youth Council trustee.
The Trustee Board
For two and a half years I sat on the board of a one million pound charity who support young people across the UK and give youth voice the attention it deserves, with 11 other young people, all under 25, with exceptional skills and abilities. We have auditors, activists, fundraisers, and so much more around the table, all focal voices for young people across the country. We hold the charity to account, and support the organisation to be the best it can be. It is a lot of work, but there’s nothing like it.
It’s one of those roles – if you want it to be transformative, and you put the time in, it will change your life. There have been tough conversations, I have learned to manage conflict. There have been big wins, I have learned to capitalise on success. There has been so so many things I didn’t understand, I have learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
In what other environment can young people be as central to their own cause? Charities that work with young people having young trustees is still a relatively new concept for some reason: “nothing about us without us.” In what other environment can young people get such an overarching understanding of running an organisation, and such a flavour of the problems facing our society, and start to propose solutions? Diversity of opinion leads to good decision-making, we know that, yet for some reason think trustee boards of charities are exempt from that golden rule. There is also the issue of sustainability – we want to create a living, breathing, dynamic third sector, all of the young trustees of the British Youth Council will know and understand what makes a good charity tick, and will (hopefully) be more inclined to work in the sector.
The board of the British Youth Council has been a pleasure to work with for three years, in good times and in bad. I have made friends who I will always stay in contact with, and sometimes ring for advice (and vice versa, I hope!).
We, as young people, are the future. That’s a fairly indisputable statement – rooted in fact and time. Let me blow your mind – young people can be the ‘now’. If you believe in young people, and move out of the way of young people, young people can be the now, can change the world, can change their community, can change their life. They need support – don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t? The British Youth Council has been working to gather hundreds of thousands of opinions, young people across the UK have been telling us for years what their priorities are, and we’ve been facilitating youth select committees who have convened on top issues. The space is made for young people, and they fill it with their voices, and with expertise in themselves. That’s one of the reasons I have been so happy as a trustee with the British Youth Council. I feel that I have been part of a genuinely leading organisation, who have made the UK a better place for young people. Let’s not forget how bleak it currently is for youth in the UK – they have been royally screwed with grades, BTec students only just getting their results now, two recessions in a lifetime. Employment is more difficult than ever, with youth working in sectors most likely to make redundancies. House prices soar, wages stagnate. Youth services are slashed. Nearly one in three young people in Wales live in poverty, according to End Child Poverty Network research. Combine all of that and you have the lowest youth overall wellbeing index since Prince’s Trust records began. Young people need hope, they need attention, they need a voice that is listened to. That is a central pillar of our work, and one our staff fulfill day in, and day out.
We give young people hope in hopeless situations.
One of those young people was me – and for that I will be always grateful.
That is why I wanted to be a trustee for the British Youth Council, that’s why I donate every month to their work. That’s why I’ll always stay in touch with the organisation – they are hope givers.
In two months, I’ll no longer be a trustee for the best youth voice charity I’ve ever been involved with – but that’s just the start.
If I’m being honest, I had no idea what I was truly signing up for when I ran to be Chair of the British Youth Council just over two years ago. I was very clear that I wanted to do my bit in steering this important Charity forwards, and having already served a year as an ordinary trustee I was keen to take on more responsibility and be more involved. I’m a pretty organised and ambitious person, and I like doing my bit to build up the voices of others around me too. I was very prepared to be the voice that encourages all within the British Youth Council to reach that little bit higher, push ourselves that small bit further, and achieve something people thought we couldn’t. I won’t use this blog as an opportunity to try and predict what will come into the path of the next Chair (I got no more heads up than anyone else about the global pandemic!) but I’ll try and lay out some of the key principles and values that I humbly believe will ensure my successor succeeds.
This is perhaps one of the most varied roles I’ve ever been in – some weeks are very minimal whereas others defined by several key moments and decisions happening constantly one after the other. There’s a significant level of responsibility – you’re the public face of a national charity and one of the youngest elected National figures with that level of mandate – but there’s huge room for learning too. Your fellow trustees will almost certainly be the people who teach you the most about what it means to be a leader, and I truly believe leading by example is key – speaking out on behalf of the British Youth Council and young people when their voices aren’t included or their opinions not valued is a far too regular occurrence, but it’s a privilege to be able to speak out and important to do so.
You could be sat with a senior Government minister lobbying for more funding for a critical youth service on one day, then visiting one of the smallest youth groups in the country for a committee meeting the next. If you’re someone who would see both these events as important as each other – you could be a great chair. Some days will be spent working with our phenomenal staff team on the nitty-gritty details of how to make a vital new youth-led project or youth forum work, and that same week you might have to present to a room of other charity chairs about what makes our board different (and often, better). Being a team player and an ambassador are both vital, and as Chair, you get to learn how to be better at both throughout your tenure. You need to want to invest time into the trustee board – making sure meetings are effective decision-making spaces, ensuring everyone gets equal opportunity to be heard and thinking long term strategically about what the board needs to be doing.
The trustees are your main players – collectively you’re responsible for the British Youth Council’s strategy, finances, long term plan, and risk management – you need to be someone who can handle conversations with many opinions and steer people towards compromise and resolution. The staff team are brilliant and vital; you need to be happy to do your bit and makes events and programs a success, acknowledge when decisions are tough, and be prepared to be the person who makes the tough decisions.
Being Chair is brilliant, challenging, rewarding and educational all in one go. It’s intense, yes, but humbling too. You get two years to not only see the best of the best of what young people can achieve collectively and need to be the main person to make sure everything is working behind the scenes so that the British Youth Council can enable them too.
I’m fully prepared to admit that I did not expect to be planning my handover during a Global Pandemic and that the world we operate in now is a very different, and often quite a scary world, compared to one or two years ago. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the unwavering ability of our young activists, staff, member organisations and trustees to ensure that BYC is a vehicle for striving towards a world where every young person is empowered to have their say on the issues that affect them. As Chair – you could have the ultimate responsibility for helping the organisation achieve this.
The British Youth Council is looking for people aged 16-25 who are motivated by a belief in the work of the British Youth Council to achieve our vision of the world where all young people are respected and able to influence and inform decisions that affect their lives or on which they have strong opinions.
The British Youth Council really is governed by young people for young people. Our board of trustees is made up of 13 people who are elected or appointed. The board not only sets the strategic direction of the organisation, but they also monitor progress, shape our activities and act as ambassadors and spokespeople for the British Youth Council in the media and elsewhere.
While your first goal as a trustee is to serve your peers and the British Youth Council, it is also a way to build your experience and networks, develop a broad range of skills and help shape the future of a world where all young people have a say and are heard.
We would encourage all ages to apply to bring both representations of those we serve alongside experience of governance. The British Youth Council needs a diverse, inclusive spread of ages and talents.
The deadline for applications is Monday 20th July 2020 at 9am.