A Place on the Board: Olivia Shaw of the Wilderness Foundation

Taking a place on the board at the age of 25 last year, Shaw says she doesn't want to be a token younger person

Olivia Shaw
Olivia Shaw

When Olivia Shaw became a trustee of the conservation charity the Wilderness Foundation in March last year, the 25-year-old was slightly daunted to be in such experienced company. "I found myself on a board where I was on an equal footing with everyone else, and where my vote counted just as much," she says.

The charity works to protect areas of wilderness in the UK and Africa, and provides opportunities for people to visit these areas. "We're a fusion charity," she says. "Our aims are to help people and to protect places. Most charities would do either one thing or the other."

Shaw joined the board after attending a leadership scheme, run by the charity for 18 to 24-year-old women. She was then asked by the charity's chief executive to speak at an event in Spain run by the World Wilderness Congress, a network of which the UK charity is a part. After that, Shaw was asked to join the board – her first experience of such a role.

"I wouldn't want to be on a board just as a token younger person," she says. "But it's good to encourage younger people who want to give more to be more involved in the charity world. The charity sector is like any other in that we should be creating the next generation of leaders. Being a trustee is a great way of doing this."

As well as her trustee role, Shaw is also volunteering on the charity's executive sub-committee, which meets more frequently. She works in local government as innovation and accreditation lead at Essex County Council.

"As I expected, the charity's board has a similar governance structure to that of the council, with consent by committee, board papers and so on," she says. "But overall, it is less bureaucratic. It's a family charity, made up of like-minded people who are dedicated to the charity's aims."

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