Ery McPartland joined the Friends of the Earth Scotland board at the AGM last year. They joined Young Friends of the Earth Scotland in 2019 where they spent a year on the steering group. They’ve also been involved in People and Planet Edinburgh and recently started a physics PhD. We spoke to them about what it’s like to be a trustee.

Why did you decide to join the board of Friends of the Earth Scotland? 

I’d been a member of Young Friends of the Earth Scotland for a few years – it was an amazing place to be and I learnt so much there. I was interested in seeing how the larger Friends of the Earth Scotland organisation worked – especially to see the intersection point of the two groups. During my time at Young Friends of the Earth Scotland I started working more on disability justice and I wanted to see what work was happening on that in Friends of the Earth Scotland. 

What have your first six months been like? 

The first six months have been a steep learning curve but very rewarding. It was a really interesting time to join the board as we had just got a new director, Gracie, who was leading us through the process of creating a new strategy. I really enjoyed working with Gracie and it was very exciting seeing this new strategy that really met with what I saw as the best parts of the organisation.  

I’ve learnt so much since joining the board from seeing how a strategy is put together to getting an intro to charity finance work. It was really interesting reading through the new staff handbook and I learnt a lot from that about how charities are run and the work Friends of the Earth Scotland is doing to become a more inclusive employer. 

What does the board do? What does a typical meeting look like? 

For me, the main role of the board is oversight and support. We know the work the staff team does is incredible and we are lucky that we get to see what’s going on. We review finances and approve some high-level decisions (like on the strategy). We are starting to look at creating some subcommittees to work more closely with staff on key areas that would be useful, for example, membership. We will also be supporting with the recruitment of a new director. 

A typical board meeting is up to about three hours. We agree the minutes of the previous meeting and go through all the papers. Some of the papers are just to keep us in the loop and others we have to make decisions on. We begin and end the meeting with closed discussion between the board and the director which is a good place for us all to gather our thoughts. 

What support were you given to make sure you could participate fully? 

I was given the opportunity to go on some finance training which really improved my confidence. We’ve also all been given training on the role of the board. I joined at the same time as Rona another board member and the previous director, Gracie, gave us an induction which was really helpful. 

What kind of skills are valued on a board? 

I think a really wide range of skills are valued on the board. We have members on the board who have been campaigning for decades or have been on many boards before. People who have experience with strategic planning or others who are knowledgeable about fundraising or recruitment. I was worried when I joined the board that I wouldn’t have much to bring as I’ve only been doing activism for a few years. I found though, that my confidence with spreadsheets and attention to detail has been very valued – as well as my knowledge about Young Friends of the Earth Scotland. 

What do you enjoy about being on the board? 

I really enjoyed all the strategy work – it was a really great insight into how strategies are developed and it was so exciting seeing that alignment between my values and the ones set out in the strategy.