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Irise / Learning  / Irise shortlisted for UK Charity Governance Awards 2020

Irise shortlisted for UK Charity Governance Awards 2020

We’re thrilled to announce that Irise has been shortlisted for the UK Charity Governance Award 2020 in the category of Board Diversity and Inclusivity.

Read more about what Diversity and Inclusivity mean to Irise…

How has a more diverse and inclusive board helped  to achieve Irise’s core mission?

Our board includes trustees with lived experience of poverty and shame in the UK and East Africa and professionals with diverse experience of academia, the public, private, and third sectors. It includes young people, women with children, and students because people from these groups have the unique experiences we need. This diversity has catalysed the two pillars of Irise’s approach to social change; leadership by those affected by the issue combined with robust evidence of what works. Creating a meaningful way for young women to engage in our governance structure has been critical in realising our vision of Irise as an institution and resource that belongs to our network and that can be used to achieve the social change young women wish to see. Alongside this, marrying perspectives on how to use evidence from different sectors under a vision co-created with those affected by period inequality has enabled us to uniquely position ourselves as a catalyst for evidence based policy and practice.

What does diversity mean to Irise?

Diversity at Irise means bringing together different experiences, skills and perspectives under a shared vision. It goes beyond ensuring representation of difference and is rooted in the belief that transformative leadership can only happen in an environment where the diversity of the people we serve and stakeholders we need to engage is reflected in the diversity of experience at the leadership table. For us, diversity at board level means a richer more meaningful dialogue that can nurture innovation and disrupt harmful social norms about who should lead. 

Practically, how do we do it?

We actively considered the experiences and perspectives needed on the board and recruited trustees with relevant life experiences in addition to skills. Explicitly recognising that leadership is not age or gender specific and that there are types of transformative and disruptive insight and vision that only non-traditional leaders can bring was an important part of finding and engaging the right people. We created a flexible and friendly environment to support and nurture leadership among those who might feel out of place in a traditional board meeting. This includes providing training and mentorship for young women to build their confidence and convince them that their place is at the leadership table. At the suggestion of our Advocacy Trustee, we introduced a cascade mentorship initiative where everyone involved in the organisation is encouraged to mentor somebody else, simultaneously building a sense of community and everyone’s capacity to lead. We encourage volunteers and young advocates to see their involvement as the start of a leadership journey and nurture a leadership mindset at all levels of the organisation. This process is facilitated by a genuine commitment to enable young people to lead beyond just sharing their voices and a willingness to be transformed as part of becoming more diverse. Nothing can be sacred in the process of becoming more inclusive! Clarity among key people about what leadership, as opposed to management, means was also critical in effective engagement of the board and Advocacy Committee in strategic decision making.

How has diverse leadership made Irise more impactful?

The Advocacy Committee and Network have enabled the charity to have a greater impact through championing their own strategy to end period shame. They are building relationships with our equivalent network in East Africa helping to create an international movement. 87% of young people involved in our work over the last five years felt they had helped create meaningful change and 93% felt part of a community of likeminded people, one said “I have learnt how to put a passion into real tangible change.” Some key successes from 2019 include securing £100,000 from The Act For Change fund to support 50 young people from marginalised and vulnerable groups to become advocates and receiving the Power Together Award from the Global Women Leaders Forum in recognition of our contribution to building a global movement.

Insight from diverse sectors and lived experiences is critical in using evidence to overcome barriers to change identified by young people. Our innovative use of data and evidence would not be possible without understanding academic, practitioner, and policymaker perspectives and bridging these gaps. Our role as a key player on the UK government’s Period Poverty Taskforce hinges on our unique positioning in this space. In East Africa our intervention (currently achieving 50% reduction in menstrual related absenteeism) hinges on combining community and local government engagement with robust evaluation so that we can create something that is acceptable to the community, meets girls needs and that can be rapidly scaled by government.

We’d like to say a big thank you to our wonderful board and celebrate the power of disruptive, non-traditional leadership. Together we can transform our communities and the world. 

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