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Diverse News From the For-Profit World

by Oct 10, 2019

No doubt, all of us in the charity sector spend all our time reading the Harvard Business Review. Or maybe we dont. 

But there have been interesting articles about diversity in teams, on corporate boards and in for-profit companies that resonated with us at involve Community Services, especially with recent campaigns and awareness through #charitysowhite showing that our sector’s good intentions aren’t enough. 

Diverse Teams Feel Less Comfortable, and That’s Why They Perform Better wa ne headline. Reading more, and the associated reports about how diverse creative views come better from a properly diverse group of people working together, made me wonder about the charity sector and our boast of diversity. 

Yes, we serve diverse communities, a bsolutely-wid ange of beneficiaries, our employee and volunteer teams aim for diversity although not always completely successfully, and then there are boards of trustees. 

In the UK charity sector, boards are >60% male, >90% white, >60 years of age, generally middle-class and well-educated. And dont get us started on number of trustees with disabilities or from LBGT communities. Thats not diverse in our opinion (Data: Charity Commission 2019, NCVO 2019, National Trustee Survey 2016).  

If the for-profit sector is both concerned about and addressing the issue of greater diversity in their governance, why aren’t we? 

Its not that for-profit companies are looking to improve their diversity because they feel its a good thing; we dont mean they think itbad per se, its just not their driver of financial profit. Why diversity is highly important to them, and should be to us is because it stops group-think, meaning that teams, groups, companies boards of directors, charities boards of trustees,  

are simply smarter. Working with people who are different from you may challenge your brain to overcome its stale ways of thinking and sharpen its performance. 

Diverse teams are more likely to constantly re-examine facts and remain objective. They may also encourage greater scrutiny of each members actions, keeping their joint cognitive resources sharp and vigilant. 

The London Business Survey asked 7000+ for-profit groups about their performance and revealed that those run by culturally diverse leadership teams were more likely to develop new products than those with homogenous leadership. (Quotes from Harvard Business Review Diverse teams are smarter) 

If, as charities, we are looking to improve what we do and develop new services, this rings bells. We’re not saying that we must be more like business and profit-focused or anything like that: we simply need to be more diverse and inclusive at all levels. And most-especially at board level, if we are ever going to change our own governance and, yes, become smarter. 

Now although we shouldn’t look for trustees only because they come from diverse backgrounds, we don’t need to: people from all parts of society have the skills, abilities, understanding and experience we need; we just haven’t asked.  

We must also remember that existing boards, employees and volunteers need to ensure we have inclusive and appropriate practices, so as not to dismiss those experiences, skills and understanding that are different from what we’ve known: we need to be smarter to get even smarter. 

So, a final word: there are people from backgrounds quite unlike the above-quoted 60/90/60 composition of charity boards who are ready, skilled and enthusiastic about becoming charity trustees. We know because were already in contact with some of them.  

The inTRUSTed service provided by involve Community Services has already recruited diverse boards for local charities and we are easily able to recruit for your board.  
Tfind out more or ask