Ryan Campbell and Paul Farmer of Mind discuss the challenges of maintaining a diverse committee.
Like most charities, Mind wants to make sure that our work is available and accessible by everyone. One in four people has a mental health problem, and one in one of us experience mental health. So it’s important that the work we do is informed and driven across society.
In our new strategy, ‘Unstoppable Together’, we have identified removing inequality of opportunity as one of our main strategic goals. We know that there are some communities where there is an over-representation in the mental health system – especially people from black and minority ethnic communities. There is also evidence that other groups struggle to access appropriate mental health services – for example vulnerable migrants. So our objective is to remove that inequality.
In order to do that, it’s important that the charity understand issues around diversity. Among the staff team, we set up a diversity champions network to equip staff with a good understanding around diversity issues. Each department has made its own diversity pledge and receives support from their diversity champion to achieve this.
Our governance structure also needs to reflect the communities we serve.
So as part of our governance system, we look at the diversity of our board through a diversity audit. There’s plenty for us to be proud of. Around three-quarters of our trustees have direct personal experience of a mental health problem – this is a central part of our values to be driven by people who understand mental health problems the best. Just over half our trustees are women – better than the sector average. We also have a fairly respectable age spread. We have mirrored the diversity champions initiative at trustee level, so that the board and each of its sub-committees has nominated diversity champions, who receive support and network together to ensure equalities and diversity issues are always high on our agenda and in our consciousness.
But our challenge at the moment is to improve that diversity. Our most recent chair, David Henry, came from a Jamaican background. When he stepped down it left us with a gap in ethnic diversity which it’s been difficult to fill. We have one excellent trustee from an African Caribbean background, and we’re now looking for more people from black and minority ethnic communities.
From what we can see, we’re not alone in desperately seeking diversity. Figures suggest that only 32 per cent of trustees are women, 9 per cent are from ethnic minority backgrounds and 6 per cent are disabled. Young people are also less likely to be trustees.
Our sense is that we have to make our organisation relevant and appealing to all communities, so that people want to join us as members, campaigners, donors as well as access our services. So we’re looking at how we can do this more effectively. Our ‘Time to Change’ campaign (run in conjunction with Rethink Mental Illness) has just received some further funding from the Big Lottery to work specifically with people from black and minority ethnic communities.
This is not about tokenism, it’s about ensuring proper representation, and inviting a wide range of views and experiences into the running and operation of the charity, so we are responsive to the whole of society. This is a constant process, but one we’re determined to achieve.
Ryan Campbell is chair and Paul Farmer is chief executive of Mind