By Phoebe Green, Women’s Involvement Officer
In 2020, we set up the Pause Advisory Group, a group of women who have completed the Pause Programme, who support the board of trustees and senior leadership team make important organisational decision. Having a mechanism for involving the women Pause supports in decision-making has meant we have increased confidence in the work we are prioritising and how we deliver it. In December 2023, our original members came to the end of their three-year term, so now feels like the perfect time to reflect on our learnings.
A key learning from the early days of the Pause Advisory Group was to drop any preconceived ideas about how the group should work. We met the women at whatever point they were in their journey and figured it out together; we wrote our group agreement together, setting out how we want to work as a group, as well as agreeing how we would set the times and dates of the meeting, and how we would communicate with each other. We tried a range of meeting formats to figure out what worked for us as a group.
Each year, we have discussed which skills the group would like to develop and have commissioned training based on this. So far, the group has attended training on confident communication, storytelling and campaign skills. It’s so important to ensure that those who give their valuable time to an organisation get something out of it too, so alongside training we make sure we get together in-person at least once a year to connect and have fun.
Whenever we ask the Advisory Group members why they get involved and what they want to get out of it, they always tell us it’s about improving things for others: other women, other families and for the next generation. So, it has never been lost on us the importance of making sure the group really understands the impact they have. This isn’t always easy, as change can be painfully slow. We make sure to celebrate the small wins, build space to reflect, and each year create certificates and highlight posters as keepsakes, to remind the Advisory Group members of the incredible impact they have.
We’ve learnt a lot about creating safe spaces, despite talking about some really difficult things. How we work together is grounded in building relationships, practicing boundaries and self-care, and reaching out for support when needed. We encourage being able to share opinions and perspective, while respecting and celebrating diversity of thought. We’re genuinely invested in the TV shows each other are watching and everyone’s favourite biscuit. Importantly, we laugh a lot!
At the three-year point, we are still learning all the time. We want to broaden and deepen the ways in which women with experience of the Pause Programme shape Pause’s work. We want to strengthen the pathways to influence decision-making in Pause’s governance structures, and we want to continue to bring new voices and perspectives into our work.
We are so grateful to our Pause Advisory Group members past and present for teaching us so much, for all their support, challenges and all the fun.