Working Chance is the UK’s only recruitment consultancy for women leaving the criminal justice and care systems.
The charity has recently benefitted from new trustees who were all recruited through the Step on Board programme.
‘Step on Board’ is a board-level volunteering programme run by Trustees Unlimited and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations which provides professionals with an introduction to trusteeship, followed by an in-depth one–to-one diagnostic interview with a consultant before they are matched to suitable trustee roles.
Working Chance decided it needed new trustees following a trustees’ audit which highlighted it needed a more diverse board. Several of the trustees had served on the board since the charity was founded in 2009 and were ready to move on, and the charity needed a better mix of people with different skills.
Jocelyn Hillman, Founder and Chief Executive, Working Chance says, “In the corporate world businesses want a range of people across different genders and age groups with different skills and points of view and it is no different in the charity sector – we also need more diversity.”
Having met Ian Joseph, the Chief Executive of Trustees Unlimited at an event and been impressed by his work, Jocelyn contacted him to recruit the new trustees.
Three new Trustees were recruited to the Working Chance board who had all participated in the Step on Board programme including Allison Watson, Head of EMEA Business & Operations Staffing at Google, Tijs Broeke, Government Relations Manager UK, Ireland and Nordics at HP and Erica Handling, General Counsel for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at BlackRock.
Erica Handling now chairs Working Chance’s Corporate Development Committee, which focusses on bringing in corporate donations.
Tijs Broeke sits on the Audit Committee, Working Chance doesn’t receive any statutory funding and Tijs has introduced the charity to several organisations it may be able to collaborate with on fundraising initiatives.
Allison Watson is using the skills she has acquired at Google to help the charity improve its digital strategy.
Jocelyn says, “Trustees Unlimited found people who were a very good fit for our organisation. Having business skills on boards is becoming increasingly important and we were impressed with the calibre of applicants they provided. Our new trustees have brought us firmly into the twenty first century and because they don’t come from a charity background they question the things we take for granted and give us a different perspective on the way we do things.”
In her position on the trustee board of Working Chance, Allison Watson focuses on how the charity can engage with companies and encourages them to support the charity’s initiatives. She talks to companies about social responsibility and looks at areas such as how the charity can equip women with digital skills by partnering with her own employer, Google.
Allison explains, “Charity work has always been important to me and so when I had the opportunity to speak to Step on Board about its mission and values, I jumped at the chance to be involved. Thanks to Step on Board I’m now using the skills and experience I’ve gained at Google to support the charity in achieving its aims,” Allison added.
Allison has introduced Working Chance to the Google Foundation and the charity is currently submitting a proposal to Google to set up a digital hub to give women the skills they need to re-enter the workforce.
Jocelyn explains, “We are very excited about the digital solution we are working on with Google. In prisons they are still teaching hairdressing to women, they haven’t moved with the times – women need skills that will benefit them in the digital world such as being able to use Excel spreadsheets and design apps.
“Google have helped us to think big, the model we are designing will be replicable, so it can benefit a wide range of people, not just the women we work with. If the project is successful it will radically alter our organisation.”
Looking to the future, Working Chance will continue to focus on its core purpose – getting women into paid work to give them financial independence.
The organisation is also looking at ways to take preventative measures to keep women and children out of the prison and care systems such as by finding accommodation for women coming out of prison to help them get back on their feet while they find work.
It is also working with care leavers – there is a care-to-prison pipeline (1 in 3 women in prison have spent time in care) and the charity is trying to get young women leaving care into work and into mainstream society before they get a criminal conviction.
Allison has now been in her trustee role for eighteen months and says, “I would definitely encourage others to become charity trustees. I think it’s important to go into it with your eyes open, but it is such an interesting experience that provides a different perspective on life and work – and more than that, it’s a good thing to do.”
Ian Joseph, Chief Executive at Trustees Unlimited and Managing Director of Russam GMS says, “Charities increasingly need professional people with a variety of skills and experiences on their boards to help them improve governance and achieve their long-term goals. We’re delighted to have been able to help Working Chance fulfil its goal of diversifying its board and recruit new trustees with the skills required to help the charity adapt and grow.”