‘We’re building a movement of young trustees’

“I’m constantly learning from people in the Young Trustees Movement. It’s been an incredible opportunity to learn from and our funders are part of this journey”

Mita Desai, CEO of the Young Trustees Movement   

We provide unrestricted funding for the Young Trustees Movement (YTM) alongside The Blagrave Trust, Zing and Esmée Fairbairn. Grants from our Foundation total £180k, with £75k delivered by the end of 2022. We listen and we learn from YTM as it supports young people into charity leadership positions. This aligns firmly with our commitment to building more equitable and inclusive communities, and helps us contribute to Co-op’s vision of ‘Co-operating for a Fairer World’, too.    

Below, Mita Desai, CEO of YTM, shares her experience of being a young trustee. She tells us how her career has progressed to date, and reminds us that young trustees bring so much more to Boards than just lived experience. Thank you to Mita and YTM for all your work in 2022. 

We look forward to building communities of the future together.  

Mita Desai, CEO of Young Trustees Movement, speaking at an event. Co-op Foundation flexibly funds The Young Trustees Movement so they can encourage more young people to become Trustees.
Mita speaking at a Young Trustees Movement event

Mita’s story  

Growing up, I always tried really hard but I rarely saw the fruits of my labour. In reality, I just hadn’t realised that my brain worked differently because I’m dyslexic. It wasn’t until I got involved in youth social action and embraced my different ways of working, that I finally felt the work I put in had value.  

This gave me the confidence to apply to be a trustee for the British Youth Council. At first, I couldn’t believe they were willing to trust young people with that level of decision making. It turned out to be a brilliant opportunity that changed my life. 

I learned quickly that inter-generational governance is essential and not a ‘nice to have’. When there’s so much uncertainty in the world, how can you react to it without the perspectives of the people you serve?  


My confidence dropped when I was first appointed to the British Youth Council as I felt the weight of responsibility of a trustee. However, I wasn’t the only one going through this. I heard similar stories from other young trustees who also struggled with ‘imposter syndrome’. 

Sadly, those on the sharp end of exclusion felt this even more deeply with one young trustee telling me they ‘felt like a burden’. It was in that moment I felt I could see things more clearly. They clearly weren’t the problem; they were incredible and so needed. The problem was systemic – it’s all about the support, training and reframing of who belongs in the room. 

In 2018, The Blagrave Trust commissioned the Social Change Agency to carry out research into youth voice on charity boards. The outcome of this prompted the creation of a movement that would increase the quality and quantity of young trustees and dig deeper into understanding the challenges and opportunities of this work. It was a dream job for me to be hired to co-ordinate the incubation of this movement and then become CEO when it has become its own entity in 2022.   

“It’s a misconception to think young people are on Boards just to share lived experience. They’re there as a trustee, just like anyone else. Just asking ‘how can a young person be a trustee?’ often leads to the catalyst of other questions that help Boards break out of the status quo. This can then lead to transformative change that enables better, more innovative boards.”  

mita desai

Impact so far  

Our mission at YTM is to:  

  • Put young people into boardrooms and develop them so they can innovate to benefit themselves and their Board.   
  • Disrupt the sector and standard rules of governance 
  • Showcase the long-term benefits of how diversity can make decisions that are future proofed.   

In 2022, we used support from our funders to:  

  • Expand the reach, number of people in and awareness of the movement 
  • Deepen best practice inside Boardrooms by launching our training and matching programme 
  • Develop a new business model that allows us to generate income for better long-term financial sustainability 
  • Influence wider systems change that enables greater youth voice and innovation in governance. 

Read more of our highlights.  

In the future, we see inter-generational governance as the norm and for it to have sparked innovation. This can be anything from how budgets are done to gamifying governance and training.  

There are many pathways to achieving this aim, and what we end up focusing on will be led by our movement members.  Over the next year, I am particularly excited about the expansion of our training programme, our Model Boardrooms podcast series and campaigning work. 

Watch the below video to hear the experiences of three young trustees we work with

Flexible funding matters  

Key to our success has been the flexible funding and community of support we’ve received from our funders.  

Unrestricted funding is invaluable for a growing movement like ours. It allows us to be centred purely on our mission and pivot when needed. This enables us to centre our accountability to those we serve, rather than funders. 

Meanwhile, our funders have also been great at asking us how our service users are actually leading our work. It’s incredible to be a part of this power dynamic. Our funders genuinely want to be partners in this, and they live our values, too.

Working together

Keep reading

This story is part of our Learning & Impact Report 2022. Head to our interactive webpage to read more and sign up to our blog to keep up to date with our plans. You can also help us do even more in 2023 by donating your Co-op Member Reward online or in App, or pledging to support us on JustGiving