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Board Directors Innovation Unit

Join the board of Innovation Unit, and help us continue to grow and scale powerful innovations, strengthen our voice and embed us in the systems we want to help change.

  • Location: London / Online
  • Salary: £5,000 per annum, plus expenses
  • Closing date: 9 a.m. Tuesday 28th May

Who we are

The Innovation Unit is a dynamic, not for profit social enterprise. Our expert Board and team focus on growing and scaling the boldest and best innovations, that deliver long-term impact for people, address persistent inequalities and transform the systems around them.

We design and deliver innovation programmes that develop new ideas, working with local places, systems and partners to help adoption and adaptation to different contexts and different needs. We also pass on tools and techniques to inspire people to keep innovating, learning and iterating.

Collaboration is at the heart of our work. We value everyone’s lived experience, facilitate co-production and help to reimagine and transform systems. Our approach is intersectional, and we share a core set of beliefs about enabling change that is owned and driven by the people it affects.

About this role

This role offers you the opportunity to sit together with people who are committed to using the power of social innovation to address the most persistent problems we face. The Board and executive have a strong sense of mission and are ambitious and focused on continuing to extend and amplify Innovation Unit’s impact.

Open, generative and productive, the Board brings together diverse experiences that contribute to enriching conversations and offers high-quality strategic advice, guidance and challenge. As Innovation Unit expands into current and new areas of work, we are looking for different experiences to continue to evolve our business model, deepen our impact and become more embedded in the systems that can affect change.

Who we are looking for

We value all forms of diversity and thrive on new perspectives and constructive challenges, and we welcome individuals who are ambitious, optimistic and who are inspired to contribute to our future development. In particular, we are looking for individuals who have expertise in the following areas:

  • Financial Strategy – Innovation Unit starts 2024/25 in a strong financial position with a positive pipeline of contracts. We welcome someone who can analyse and understand our organisation through a strategic finance lens. Someone who can interrogate financial statements and reports to quickly identify core questions about organisational performance, priorities, and developments.
  • Philanthropy and generating investment – we would welcome someone who has deep knowledge, strategic experience and credibility to generate investment from trusts and foundations. Expanding this aspect of our portfolio is central to our ability to drive, proactively, the change we want to see in the world.
  • A ‘door opener’ – someone who can connect us and our work into public debate, thought leaders, and policy-makers – enabling us to contribute our learning to national conversations, as well as to our partners on the ground.
  • Equity, diversity and inclusion – in the context of becoming an anti-racist organisation we are looking for someone who can offer strategic guidance and new perspectives on tackling inequalities within our organisation and through our work.


We have colleagues in London, Edinburgh, Greater Manchester, Yorkshire and places in between, with offices in Central London and Manchester.

Most of our team is fully remote, but we have regular weekly office days in London and Manchester, social events and away days to connect as a whole organisation.

Quarterly Board Meetings take place in London in person, with the ability to join online for those unable to make an in-person meeting.


  • £5,000 per annum, plus cover of expenses in line with policy.

Time commitment

  • 4 board meetings per year.
  • Approximately 10 days per year to cover other meetings and discussions.


  • Three-year renewable

For further information about the role, or to arrange a confidential discussion, please contact our advising consultant at Peridot Partners:

Philippa Fabry | philippa@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07772 902071


If you would like to know more about this role please contact Philippa Fabry

View profile

Welcome from the Chair of the Board

Thank you for your interest in joining the Board of Innovation Unit.

For me, it is both a pleasure and privilege to chair the Board of such a dynamic organisation with an outstanding record of past impact and an exciting pipeline of future work. I am pleased to say that we are growing our Board of Directors from a position of financial and organisational strength – we are ambitious and optimistic for our future development and plans.

In this context, we are actively seeking to bring in new skills and increase the diversity of our current Board, to better represent the communities we serve. We would like you to consider applying even if you have some, but not all, of the abilities, skills and knowledge listed in the person specification. Most important for us is that you bring energy, insight, creativity and the commitment to offering guidance to help Innovation Unit achieve its strategic objectives.

We value all forms of diversity as a matter of principle and because we believe that effective leadership and good decision-making thrive on new perspectives and constructive challenges offered by a diverse Board. We are committed to being an anti-racist organisation and we would like to encourage people of all backgrounds to apply. We also welcome applications by candidates from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, those with disabilities as well as those who identify with any other underrepresented group.

The Board adds real value to the work of the Innovation Unit team through rigorous, collaborative and constructive oversight of the organisation.

Do let us know if you can contribute to the further development of our work.

We look forward to meeting you.

Paul Roberts

Fred Moon

About Innovation Unit

Innovation Unit is a not for profit social enterprise with a mission to grow and scale the boldest and best innovations that deliver long-term impact for people, address persistent inequalities, and transform the systems that surround them.

We have 17 years of experience doing this work with ambitious partners in local and central government, schools and hospitals, voluntary and community sector organisations, trusts and foundations.

We hold a bold vision: we want to see a world in which all people belong and contribute to thriving societies.

To achieve this vision, we must challenge and change the systems that people who experience disadvantage rely on most.

Our team come from a wide variety of professional backgrounds and life experiences – researchers, service designers and programme managers work alongside colleagues with grass-roots, community experience, as well as occupational therapists, social workers, and central and local government professionals, to design new solutions and take them to scale.

People who work at Innovation Unit share a core set of beliefs about enabling change that is owned and driven by the people it affects. We all work with the tools and methods from our tried and tested formula for innovation and impact.

Our 2024 areas of impact are:

  • Mental health innovation
  • Tackling health inequalities
  • Justice and reducing violence
  • Children and families
  • Place-based transformation

Our strategy

Our future plans

In 2024, we are embarking on the next phase of our evolution to maximise our positive impact in the world. Like everyone else, the past four years have been tumultuous and challenging for our team and for our work. We are relieved and grateful to have survived and learnt a vast amount as an organisation and in our personal lives too. Now we are looking to grow our team and to strengthen it further by securing new perspectives, experiences and skills to challenge and bolster our work.

Since early 2020 we are proud to have contributed to COVID-19 response and learning with our partners, helped to design forward differently for the future, honed our virtual delivery skills, looked after each other and kept our brilliant team together.

At the end of 2023, we have been reflecting on what all this adds up

to for our future as an organisation. In a world of stark inequalities, big social challenges, and lots of ‘bright spots’ illuminating new possibilities, where are the places, how and with whom should we be seeking to work to help grow a world in which ‘all people belong and contribute to thriving societies’?

The final year of our current 5-year strategy is about being ‘cautious and getting ready to sprint’ – we understand that as the world continues to change around us, we must be strong in our values, bold in our offer, cautious in our investments and flexible in our responses to opportunities and challenges as they arise.

At the heart of this strategy is, of course, our mission, ‘to grow and scale the boldest and best innovations that deliver long-term impact for people, address persistent inequalities and transform the systems around them’.

Our big insight is that over the next few years, we must become more embedded in the systems we want to help change if we are going to realise our mission. This means doubling down in the places and markets we are already working in to deepen our understanding, impact and influence, alongside extending our reach, growing some new skill sets and evolving our business model to be able to hang around with our partners for the long term.

There is lots that we are already doing, which we are going to stick at: helping to grow and scale powerful innovations in children’s social care and adult mental health, that have an impact in the short to medium term – and are beginning to disrupt and challenge the systems they are embedded in. Living Well and Strengthening Families are powerful examples of this. We will continue to build long-term relationships with local systems committed to deep change and will strengthen our voice, nationally, to influence public debates with our learning about the future of children’s social care and adult mental health systems.

We will continue our work on innovation programmes that identify, nurture and help to spread innovation, to adopt and adapt innovations that have already been shown to be successful and enable place-based transformation that really sticks.

So far so familiar. In addition, we will be stretching our reach into justice and violence reduction, and looking more specifically at health and care inequalities. These changes build directly on our learning and experience to date – our first major programme in justice and violence and reduction is Always Hope, working with care experienced young people given prison sentences to reimagine the experience of leaving prison to enable them to thrive.

We will also be evolving our offer to partners – Learning Partnerships have always been in our DNA and are now an explicit part of what we offer. You cannot grow and scale innovations and transform systems without consciously learning your way forward.

Finally, we are evolving our business model to travel with our partners over the long term – not as consultants who come in and out – but as committed investors and partners in the future of a place. We are proud to be co-leading GoodLives GM – a strategic partnership with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, that tackles inequalities by removing barriers to community-led innovation.

As we expand into new areas and types of work, we need more and different perspectives, skills and experience to pull it off. That is why we are recruiting to many different levels of our organisation – and are explicitly recruiting for diversity, for learning experts to join our team, alongside generalists with professional and lived experience of the places and systems in which we work.

Working at Innovation Unit asks you to bring your whole self to your work – your skills, experiences, opinions, strengths and weaknesses, to contribute in your own way to a powerful mission, with a brilliant team and to learn more about yourself along the way.

If this sounds like an opportunity and challenge that excites you, please get in touch.

We look forward to meeting you.

Mental Health Innovation - Living Well UK

Living Well systems are designed to help people recover and stay well as part of their community. They are a response to mental health systems in the UK that have struggled for a long time to provide person-centred, holistic support, where and when it is needed.

National Lottery Community Fund funded Innovation Unit to support four pioneering places in the UK to design and build Living Well systems of support for good mental health and wellbeing (2018-22), inspired by Lambeth Living Well, South London.

We helped our sites generate insights about people’s lives, then used this new knowledge to co-design and prototype new multidisciplinary teams, implement them successfully, and, finally, scale (extend and grow) them across whole places. We coached

leaders and their teams as they introduced difficult changes, and helped build local capabilities to ensure that new ways of working can be sustained long after our work is complete.

Since then, the movement has grown and is now influencing and supporting the transformation of adult community mental health across Derby and Derbyshire County, Greater Manchester, Edinburgh and York.

Place-based transformation - GoodLives GM

GoodLives GM grew from conversations with brilliant innovators across Greater Manchester. They identified common barriers to embedding community-led innovation. Together, we are exploring and learning how a system-shifting capability could help them tackle these barriers.

GLGM is facilitated by a strategic partnership between Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Innovation Unit. Our work is steered by VCSE and public sector colleagues, working closely with the 10 GM localities.

We are currently working on behalf of GM in relation to Live Well, a programme of work aiming to reduce health inequalities by growing community-led support for healthy lives. The GLGM team

have been supporting five GM localities to anticipate the system barriers they will encounter and design-in collaboration and experimentation to overcome them.

We are also working with four trailblazer localities regards Early Family Help to reduce inequalities through community-led support that helps families to flourish.

All underpinned by a new kind of leadership collaborative. Supported through 1:1 and group coaching and a programme of learning opportunities whilst trios of leaders conduct system-shifting experiments to rebuild structures and cultures.

We currently have a Board of five Directors who each bring their unique experience, expertise and perspectives to the table:


Paul Roberts, Board Chair

Rebekah Ayres

Valerie Hannon

Sola Afuape

James Thomas

As a Board, we are highly engaged, work well together and aim to use our collective experiences to offer high-quality strategic guidance and robust challenges.

“I regard being on the Board of Innovation Unit as a privilege. It is one of the most value-driven organisations I know, bringing together people who are committed to using the power of social innovation to address the most intractable problems we face, all driven from a standpoint of social and environmental justice. Relationships are incredibly positive and caring. There is a strong sense of shared endeavour. Board meetings are purposeful and add value (we are not just there to make up the numbers.) The diverse fields in which Innovation Unit operates make it an extremely interesting space – in which one learns, but in which the Board’s inputs are valued.”

Valerie Hannon – Board Director

“The work of Innovation Unit is important – it really matters. I joined the Board a couple of years ago because I wanted to be part of shaping and supporting an organisation that makes a positive difference to people and communities through scaled up innovation and systemic change. Our Board meetings are open, productive and enjoyable – we bring a diverse set of experiences and perspectives and these contribute to rich conversations and good decision making. We’re positive about the future and ambitious for what Innovation Unit can achieve next.”

Rebekah Ayres – Board Director

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    Thank you for your interest in this role. Please download the Role Description and Person Specification.

    To formally apply, please submit a CV and supporting statement (ideally maximum 2 sides of A4 each) that clearly outlines your suitability for the role against the criteria provided in the person specification, including your interest and motivation in applying for this position.

    Please ensure that your application is emailed to response@peridotpartners.co.uk inserting “Innovation Unit – Board Directors” into the subject field.

    For further information about the role, or to arrange a confidential discussion, please contact our advising consultant at Peridot Partners:

    Philippa Fabry | philippa@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07772 902071

    As a sector-leading executive search consultancy, we know the importance of creating recruitment processes which are fair, inclusive and free from bias. We are committed to promoting equality and diversity and developing a process that values differences.

    If you have a disability that meets the definition set out in the Equality Act 2010, and you can show that you meet the ‘essential’ criteria described in the person specification, please let us know.

    If you experience any technical or accessibility difficulties, need help making an application, or have any additional support that needs to be considered as part of the interview and selection process, please let us know.

    Recruitment selection processes are based on evidence of competence stated in the person specification and in relation to our values.

    Due to the nature of our work with children and vulnerable adults, Innovation Unit operates a Safer Recruitment policy. All offers of employment will be made on the condition of a DBS check being carried out and we will ask for two references.


    Closing date: 9 a.m. Tuesday 28th May 2024
    Candidates informed of outcome: Monday 3rd June 2024
    First Stage Interviews (in person in London): Friday 8th June 2024
    Second Stage interviews for preferred candidates: w/c 10th June 2024 (tbc)

    Equal Opportunities Monitoring

    Peridot and Innovation Unit are committed to promoting equality and diversity. To help us raise awareness and support a culture that is diverse and recognises and develops the potential of all, we need to appreciate the profile of candidates who apply for positions. We will send you an equality monitoring survey at the point of receiving your application, in the interview phase and at the time of placement. This ensures that our processes remain inclusive and equitable throughout, and provides us with important data to help us showcase our impact. The information will be treated confidentially and anonymously and will help us to support our commitment to fair recruitment practices. All information provided will be held in the strictest confidence and will not be shared with anyone, in line with the Data Protection Act 2018. The information provided does not form part of the decision-making process and will not affect your application.

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