A Place on the Board: Sonia Sodha

The former policy adviser to Ed Miliband says she offers political knowledge to the board of the youth volunteering charity City Year

Sonia Sodha
Sonia Sodha

Sonia Sodha first encountered the youth volunteering charity City Year in 2009, while researching voluntary service for young people for the think tank Demos.

Inspired by its approach of offering young people volunteering opportunities in inner-city schools, benefiting both volunteers and students, she stayed in touch. She later worked as senior policy adviser to Ed Miliband when he was Labour leader, and says her political knowledge was a key skill she brought to the board when she joined three years ago.

"That skill was something the chief executive decided was really needed, because the charity is trying to make the case to government for investment in structured volunteering," she says. "Our growth plan for the charity is ambitious, so the most challenging thing, in the current funding climate, is overseeing how you expand at the right rate so you don't lose what the charity is about."

Sodha is now a journalist and freelance charity sector consultant, and says working with the board, rather than the executive, is giving her a new perspective.

"I'm used to being on the other side of the equation, so finding the balance - that line that ensures you're respecting the chief executive's autonomy and maintaining an oversight role - is really important," she says. And as a trustee "at the younger end of the spectrum" (aged 34), Sodha is also learning new skills.

"I'm serving with people who are 20 or 30 years more experienced than me in all sorts of different areas, and I might not have been exposed to that otherwise," she says.

"The best thing about the role is feeling like I'm providing input and support for a cause I'm passionate about. Being a trustee is a fantastic way to do that, particularly if you've got skills of importance to your board."

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