Starting a new job during a global pandemic is certainly a very unusual experience. Over the past 10 weeks, I have been completing a graduate internship lead by Scotland’s Third Sector Governance Forum.
The project involved creating a report mapping the governance training and support provision available for trustees in third sector organisations – Governance Matters. In many ways, the internship was just like any other, providing the opportunity to gain invaluable insight and experience into a career in the third sector and to demonstrate that the skills learned during my degree were useful and transferable after all (phew!).
However, there was one unusual difference: I never met anyone I worked with in person and from the interview to the project completion, never set foot outside my bedroom. Months of quarantine Zoom quizzes suddenly came in very handy as video calls and emails became my only point of contact.
The project consisted of two primary research methods: interviews with governance training and support providers and an online survey for trustees, distributed through the SCVO Trustees’ Bulletin and social media. Using responses from these two sources, I mapped what training and support provision was currently available for boards of trustees, identified areas of improvement, and, directed by suggestions from providers and trustees, compiled a list of recommended improvements. Throughout the whole process I was supported by the brilliant Tracey Bird (SCVO), Shirley Otto (Consultants for Good) and Steff Bell (EVOC), who were always on hand to share their insight and from whom I learned an incredible amount.
I was also connected into an incredible network of people working in governance, encompassing representatives from national third sector organisations, TSIs, lawyers, funders and more. I was amazed by how generous everyone in the network was with their time, support and knowledge in contributing to the project – it really reflected how passionate the sector is in improving governance practice and supporting the work of the trustees. Having the opportunity to learn about everyone’s amazing work and hear such a diverse range of perspectives concerning governance was certainly my highlight of the internship.
Despite the internship being delivered remotely, I don’t think I’ve ever felt as connected and supported during a project and, on reflection, the distanced nature of the project developed my skillset even further than it would have been otherwise and in ways I never predicted. Not only was my time management and self-discipline tested and developed, but I also learned how to connect with new people in a whole new way.
One of my biggest takeaways from my time working with SCVO and Scotland’s Third Sector Governance Forum are all the incredible people I met during the project. Although everyone had a different approach to governance and governance improvement, one thread that connected every interview was a passion in their work and a deep admiration for all the work that charity trustees do. This experience has certainly cemented my desire to pursue a career in the third sector. I found it to be defined not only by the brilliant work it does but by the passion, intelligence and warmth by all the people within it.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the creation of my report, it was wonderful meeting you all – and all your toddlers, children and pets who would sometimes join in too. A special thanks to Tracey Bird too for all of your brilliant help. I look forward to meeting you all again in my future endeavours. To celebrate Trustees Week I’ll be launching the report with a webinar ‘Governance Training and Support – What do you need and where can you get it?’ on Thursday 5 November. Come along and find out more.