Scholar Profile - Stephanie Jackson PDF Print E-mail
Stephanie Jackson

STEPHANIE JACKSON

Board Member at Youth Affairs Council of WA (YACWA)

Awarded a BankWest Foundation / Institute of Community Directors Australia scholarship for a Diploma of Business (Governance), October 2014


What sort of work does your organisation do?

We're the peak body for youth affairs in WA, so we work closely with young people and the organisations and workers who support them, to advocate for young people's human rights at both the State and Federal level. We also undertake projects which support young people and help them to realise their human rights (such as our music-based mental health promotion project 'Music Feedback'), and provide training and conferences for organisations and workers who support young people (including the biennial ‘Fairground’ Conference).

Describe a typical day's work.

As a board member I’m removed from the day-to-day operations at YACWA, so I keep up to date with what we’re up to by following along on email and social media. Given the training I’ve gained through my ASF scholarship I’ve sort of become our governance expert on the board, so I’m usually working on one project or another, collecting research about best practice from a range of places and bringing it all together to apply to our work – I started with developing our Board Charter, and on the horizon are comprehensive reviews of our policy manual and risk management protocols. It feels good to be doing the behind-the-scenes tasks to ensure that the staff can focus on their important work and know that they’re supported by a strong board with a clear direction and policies.

What were some of the key learnings from the Diploma of Business (Governance) program?

The number one thing I’ve gained out of the course has been a much better understanding of the legislative and compliance requirements of the board. I’m confident now that I understand the various parts of good governance and compliance, and what I need to do to ensure we meet our requirements in those areas. I’ve also really benefitted from learning more about reading financial reports, and also about the strategic planning cycle.

How has it impacted / changed / benefited your role and your organisation as a whole?

It’s still early days, but I’ve already begun putting my hand up for more things at board meetings, as I’m just more confident that I can make a useful contribution now. We now have a board charter that I know outlines the key roles of the board, as well as tackling that often tricky distinction between the roles of staff and the board. I think that this document in particular will be a great tool for inducting new board members, particularly the two members of our board who are under 25 years old – a requirement under our Constitution which ensures that the board stays in touch with the people the organisation is working for. I also think that the culture at board meetings has been enhanced by my participation, I’m more comfortable to ask questions now (and, I actually know what questions to ask!) and this means that other board members are asking more questions too. And this is just the start!

How did you come to be working in the not-for-profit sector?

I actually studied to become a high school teacher, but when the opportunity work on a program I’d been volunteering on for years became available, I jumped at it. As is often the way in this sector, I took on different projects along the way and developed a real appreciation for the breadth of community services out there, and just how much need there is. As a young person I was always really passionate about young people getting the chance to have their say about their communities, so I was attracted to YACWA as they advocate for just that. When the the call for nominations to the board came up in 2013 I thought I’d give it a go and was lucky enough to be elected, and I’ve absolutely loved it. I can see myself being involved in boards of community organisations for years and years to come!

What do you feel is most needed to sustain and build the impact of the not-for-profit sector?

There are two things I think will help us grow our impact, and they really go hand in hand. The first one is a greater understanding of what governance is and how it works – I think that the community and the members of many organisations don’t actually understand what boards do. The second thing is that we need people on boards who are aware of what being a board member actually means – after doing the Diploma of Business (Governance) course, I can honestly say that I had no idea when I was elected! Obviously the members elect and are also the people who become board members, so one problem breeds the other. When organisations have strong boards who are focused on both maintaining a compliant and effective organisation in the present, and working to have that in the future as well, they will have a greater impact on their clients as well as the wider community, and the NFP sector. But to achieve this, we need people at the top who know what they’re there for and what they need to do, and who have the opportunity to learn more in those areas as well.

What is something interesting / unique / unusual about you?

I start every single day with a mug of hot milo! I really enjoy food and eating… I saw a fabulous meme the other day that was just perfect, it said ‘There are only 2 types of food in this world. Food I've eaten, and food I'm going to eat”.


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"When organisations have strong boards who are focused on maintaining both a compliant and effective organisation… they will have a greater impact on their clients as well as the wider community, and the NFP sector."


ABOUT STEPHANIE:

Steph is passionate about advocating for young people, and creating initiatives and events to engage them in their communities. She has been involved in a many different teams, committees and projects as an employee and volunteer, and has learned a lot about the needs of young people. She has been a Board Member at YACWA since 2013.

Late 2014, ASF awarded Steph a scholarship to attend ICDA’s Diploma in Business (Governance).

ABOUT YACWA:

Annual revenue / size:

Medium - $250,000 - $5m pa

Segment of NFP sector:

Health and Disability

Operating in:

WA

Website:

https://www.yacwa.org.au/