EVOLVING CHAIR: A Skilled Board for Climate Change
29 October 2015 at 11:13 am
Keeping the skills-set of an engaged Board and driving change in the climate change arena are the key challenges for the Chair of the Board at the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Renee Carr who is this month’s featured Evolving Chair.
Renee Carr is a campaigner and strategist focused on tackling structural inequality. She is the Founding Executive Director of FairAgenda.org – a community campaigning organisation made up of 35,000 Australians working for a fair and equal future for women – and was recently named one of 2015’s top 100 Women of Influence.
Carr also serves as Chair of the Board at the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, one of Australia’s largest youth movements.
Previously, Carr worked with the Global Poverty Project, and Co-Directed the 2011 Live Below the Line campaign.
She was born and raised in the Latrobe Valley – home to some of the largest brown coal fields in the world. She is passionate about climate justice and first got involved in the AYCC in 2009 after attending the first Power Shift summit.
What is Your Organisation and What is the Board Structure?
I Chair the Board at the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) – which is a movement of young people organising and campaigning to address the climate crisis. We’re a youth-led, national organisation with more than 100,000 members, 100 local groups and more than 500 regular volunteers.
The AYCC Board is currently made up of eight non-Executive Directors, and the National Director of the organisation. The AYCC is led by young people at every level – including our Board – so it’s also a Board policy that the Chair and half of our Board are all under 30.
What attracts you to a Not for Profit or for-profit board?
As someone who grew up in the Latrobe Valley – home of some of the world’s largest brown coal fields – I’m very passionate about climate justice. I believe that to achieve the long-term change we need to stop climate change (and the health and environmental impacts of fossil fuel extraction), we need to build the power and voice of our community – and that the best way to do that is by strengthening the community sector.
I spend my day working to drive change on another issue of structural inequality that I’m passionate about tackling – gender inequality – and see volunteering my spare time to serve on the AYCC’s Board as the best contribution I can make to this issue at the moment.
I choose to volunteer for the AYCC because I believe they’re one of the most effective and powerful campaigning groups out there. The remarkable young people who power the AYCC are doing important work training the next generation of community leaders, and driving strategic campaigns that influence real change on this critical issue.
What is the biggest challenge your board has had to overcome and how did you overcome it?
Two years ago the Board faced the challenge and opportunity that comes with a period of significant Board transition. We had a number of senior Board members who were all coming to the end of their terms at the same time – and faced the challenge of retaining organisational knowledge, and recruiting a next phase of Directors to drive the Board in the key next phase – which we knew would include helping develop the next strategic plan.
We managed the transition process by developing a skills matrix to drive our Board development and recruitment strategy, setting up transition periods and processes with outgoing Board members to transition and mentor incoming Board members in their first couple of meetings, and by finding two senior Board members who were willing to extend their service to ensure a staggered transition timeline. This allowed us to ensure a really great Board team with complementary skill sets served throughout, and that we were able to ensure lessons and learnings from outgoing Board members were passed to incoming members. Now we have a really strong and skilled team in place, recruited in staggered phases so that we won’t be in the same position in three years time!
What are your board’s current priorities/goals?
Right now the organisation is in the final stages of developing our next strategic plan. This will drive the organisation over the next three years – a period we know will be absolutely critical to achieving our vision of a safe climate future. Supporting and informing the development of this plan, and ensuring the organisation is well prepared for a successful implementation have been a key focus for the Board – as a whole and within our subcommittees.
At the same time, the Board sees that the organisation is at a key inflection point when it comes to stepping up our core work of movement building and campaigning. So working to ensure the team have the financial resources they need to deliver the next phase of work at scale is also a key priority.
What has been the highlight of your work with this board?
I’m incredibly proud of all the strategic work being driven by the organisation at the moment. Two particular areas of work come to mind:
– The campaign to Repower Port Augusta – which supports a local community’s campaign to replace their ageing coal-fired power stations with a concentrated solar thermal plant with storage. This campaign focuses on the intersection of the fight for a safe climate and the need to support coal-mining communities to transition to a clean energy future. As someone who grew up in the Latrobe Valley, I’m very passionate about campaigns that not only focus on ensuring a safe climate future, but also on ensuring a healthier and safer future for coal-mining communities; and which ensure that the community can also play a leading role and transition local jobs in a renewables driven future.
– Seed – Australia’s first Indigenous youth climate network. Climate change is disproportionately affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – who are experiencing rising sea levels in the Torres Strait, the loss of sacred country, diminishing food and water accessibility. Seed is organising and campaigning for a just and sustainable future with strong cultures and communities.
It’s a constant highlight to be working to support the AYCC team and their work driving projects like these – as well as the fantastic Board team.
Do you have any advice around recruitment?
The best asset I’ve had to rely on in AYCC’s recruitment for the past two years is a strong skills matrix. We developed this by looking at the core business and vision of the AYCC, and then analysing the skills we would need within the board to provide the best strategic guidance and governance oversight.
Do you have any advice around the Board’s relationship with the Chief Executive Officer?
Two of the processes the AYCC Board has in place for working with our National Director that are serving us really well are:
– A monthly check in between the Chair and National Director that is scheduled between Board meetings, to make time to chat through matters that might not fall within the Board’s remit; but which the National Director might want support on, and also to keep across any issues or exciting developments that arise between meetings. And to provide a sounding board when needed.
– A standing policy of inviting the former National Director to step onto the Board after their term has ended. This usually occurs after a 6 month break (to ensure the new National Director has time to establish themselves and find their own style of leadership), and allows the Board to leverage the expertise and experience that a National Director builds up during their time.
Do you have any advice on sustainable business/organisation models?
That’s the million-dollar question! I think that providing a model that facilitates your community and those who care about your work to financially contribute regularly is always important to embed in any plan for a sustainable organisation model.