What skills do you bring to WE Charity’s Board of Directors?
For the past 30 years, I have been a public servant in Canada and really, I think service and public service are at the core of something that is important to me. I have had a longstanding career as a public servant where I’ve learned a lot about values and governance and really ensuring the integrity of systems.
I’ve also spent my whole adult life being a social justice activist so I think those two experiences, both professionally and personally, coming together are a beautiful fit as chair of the board at WE Charity.
What is the role of the Board of Directors?
The board is an entity that oversees the governance of any charitable organization. At WE Charity the Board of Directors looks at the finances, we have a fiduciary duty or a trust relationship that obligates us to ensure the highest degree of standards and integrity in the conduct of the business part of the organization.
As a board, we oversee the strategy of what we are doing as an organization. So, we come together, people from varied backgrounds, bringing all our skills and experiences as volunteers to assure the organization is properly run, run with integrity, all the rules are followed—and that’s really what the role of the Board of Directors is about.
Why is governance so important?
I like to say I have a great sense of humor in all things but governance. It’s something I’m very focused on, as is the whole Board of Directors at WE Charity. I think it’s so important because at the bottom line of all charitable organizations is their operational integrity. Do they conduct themselves with the highest degrees of standards and respect for the donors and all stakeholders that come together support any charity?
I think governance is essential, because if you don’t have high-quality oversight and mechanisms to assure the books and records are properly kept, the leadership is in place, that the policies are there, it has the potential without that to undermine a great organization. The great thing is, I think we do that with the best and highest standards that we can always attain.
How does the board deliver on its mandate?
One of the things that I think is important for all supporters of WE Charity to know about, and those who are interested in learning more about us, is the kind of rigour we pursue as Board of Directors’ members.
We want to make sure that the finances are maintained at the highest degrees of integrity, that our engagement in all aspects is done with the most current high standards that we can bring and that the executive team is absolutely leading the organization in a way that aligns with the highest standards that we can set for them.
As Board of Directors we have to make sure that the organization is complying with all the government rules, and with all legal requirements. And that’s something we take great care and attention to assure is done.
We meet regularly, we have conference calls and in-person meetings to make sure we have eyes on all of the books and records of the organization. We have Board of Directors members going out to have a look at the operations globally and we work collaboratively with the executive team to make sure we understand well how the books and records are maintained.
We provide our own expectations to the leadership team and then follow up to make sure those standards are not only met but it’s also really nice to see that they’ve actually been exceeded.
What is one achievement of the board you’re especially proud of?
Thinking back from the earliest days I was involved in the organization, from 2003 to 2004, there are a lot of exciting things that have happened that the board has been directly involved in, but I think now the most special experience I’ve been part of is the development of the WE Global Learning Center.
It’s an amazing space where the potential for big ideas and operations to thrive is limitless. And it’s incredible to see so many different people coming together, from incredibly generous donors who given very special, tailored and focused donations to ensure that the building could be built. Many people coming together with dreams and visions for an incredible space, for sponsors who dream what youth might do with their new technology or big ideas that young people have.
This space is a game-changer for WE Charity. I think we can’t even imagine some of the potential that might emerge from here. It’s a beautiful space. It’s a space filled with light. For me it’s a very hopeful space and optimistic space. I’m so proud of it, we’ve done it with integrity. It’s a jewel for us organizationally and I think it’s really the power it holds for young people that is most special.