Learnings from our Steering Group recruitment process

An update on our Steering Group and learnings from their recruitment process

Ellie Hale
5 min readDec 15, 2022


Screenshot from our Steering Group deck, stating the model, vision and mission of the Steering Group. Model: A strategic governance forum. Vision: Facilitating the development and growth of Catalyst during its transition to becoming an independent organisation. Mission: Providing guidance and advice to the Producers informed by the strategic review, activity impact and network consultation.

Our excellent Catalyst Steering Group are now two months into their posts, and my what a brilliant group of humans we have assembled!

Meetings are fortnightly and have initially focused on helping the group get to know each other, build trust and reciprocal connections. Beautifully facilitated by Lauren Coulman of Noisy Cricket, each session has felt deeply nourishing, despite the quantity of content to share, digest and discuss.

Here’s a small taste of the questions we’ve been exploring:

  • How do we lead by example in modelling the culture we want to create?
  • How do we approach this completely differently in order to challenge our most deeply ingrained assumptions? (the process of ‘unlearning’ that Jo talked about in her blog)
  • How do we practise ‘kind curiosity’ and ‘loving accountability’?
  • How can we use really clear, accessible language while learning in public?
  • What is it that CAST and Catalyst want to be that they’re not at the moment?
  • And a brilliant reminder from Jumoke: “You only need to call somebody out when they’re too far away to call them in.”

After each session we’ve reflected as Producers on how grateful we are to be working with such a diversely skilled, thoughtful and values-aligned group. As Lauren commented last week, the work of systems change and creating something new is that you can’t preempt what is to come, so a lot of this process is about letting go of control and familiar (comforting!) structures. We’re so lucky to have six people who are fully on board with and excited about that.

But creating such a group wasn’t simple. It took time and care, and a couple of iterations to get right. Jo’s fab blog explained the background to this group’s formation; this one outlines some of our learnings from the process.


We had 31 applications come in before the deadline, and five just after. When we launched the recruitment, inviting the network to help us govern Catalyst’s next phase, we weren’t sure what the response would be, and were really happy with this.

We shortlisted semi-blind in the sense that we hid peoples’ names and emails so as not to be too influenced by their perceived identity, or whether we knew them.

It was tough as we had so many strong candidates, but we came up with a list of ten people to speak to from a broad spread of sector backgrounds.

Diversity gaps

We analysed our equal opps form data to get a better picture of the diversity of candidates. It showed a strong female bias and significantly lower representation of disabled and non-white folks:

  • 74% female
  • 70% white / other white background
  • 70% heterosexual
  • 60% agnostic / no religion
  • 96% no disability
  • 52% south based, 48% all other regions
  • 70% between ages of 25 to 44

This was reflected in our shortlist. We all noted that the visible diversity of candidates was very low, and that that’s indicative of the sorts of networks and communities Catalyst is currently reaching.

Inclusion and power-shifting is at the very heart of the new version of Catalyst that we’re developing, so we knew we needed to try harder on this front.

We also wanted to ensure our final choices shared our passion for bringing voices from the margins to the centre. Some had focused a lot on this in their initial expressions of interest, others less so. So for those who made it to interview we posed tailored questions to gauge their understanding and experience of widening equity and participation.

For example, for one who was engaged with community outreach work, we asked, ‘In your outreach work, what are you learning about working with more diverse communities? What are you doing in your role to move beyond passive allyship to more active comradeship?’ The answers to this question were often quite revealing of the depth and commitment of each person’s inclusion journey so far. We want folks who can stretch us and hold us accountable on this, so those whose answers were weaker didn’t make the cut.

Discussions and decisions

We were grateful to Lauren for creating a thoughtful scoring framework for us to follow. This helped us loosely score each person against both our core Producer values (love, curiosity, equity, collectivism, reciprocity) and key questions about their skills, strengths, experience and approach. It included prompts like ‘How likely are they to: Push and challenge us?/ Focus and motivate us?’ and ‘How comfortable might they be with: Ambiguity and experimentation? / Complexity and plurality?’

We noticed each of our ‘top five’ lists shifted as we considered our needs from different angles and slept on it. Luckily there was a weekend in between our calls and the decision meeting, which allowed for a good amount of reflection time.

The decision conversation focused as much on the combination of different people as the individuals themselves, as we know how important it is to have the right mix working together.

Many dimensions of diversity

We’ve since learned our group includes neurodivergence and several other dimensions of diversity not captured on the equal opps form. This relates to conversations we’ve been having with our Initiative Leads recently about what diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)-related data is most relevant to capture, and how best to approach this in a non-intrusive and non-tokenistic way.

It’s obviously a very live question across the whole sector. The DEI Data Standard is a shared framework, created by a collaborative of funders (many of whom are also part of our Catalyst funder ecology) to capture data on funding for groups experiencing structural inequity, and is used by Catalyst-contributed initiatives like the Charity Digital Skills Report. Our Inclusion Working Group has been looking at this, noting that it doesn’t yet include things like education level and primary language. They are exploring how we might recognise a broader and more nuanced range of markers of identity and lived experience as standard across Catalyst.

We know Power to Change, for example, have begun to include:

  • Experiences of economic or educational disadvantage
  • Experiences of long-term unemployment
  • Experiences of homelessness
  • Experiences of being an ex-offender
  • Experiences of refugee status or migration
  • Experience of caring duties
  • Experiences of accessing free school meals as a child
  • Parents’/ guardians’ highest level of qualification/ occupation when you were growing up.

For our Steering Group, we decided to do some targeted outreach to some brilliant Black and disabled folks in our networks, whose lived, learned and practice experience we knew would add huge value to the group. These particular dimensions were not only some of the most under-represented in our original shortlist, but also typically in our sector. As my brilliant colleague Siana mentioned in a call this week with our new Inclusion consultants, Held Collective, when we lift those who are most marginalised we lift everyone.

This dedicated, person-centred approach paid off, and we were able to confirm the final group of six incredible people, whose bios you can find on our website.



Ellie Hale

Co-Director at Catalyst. Co-organiser of several tech for good meetups.