Lots of us want to do better when it comes to diversity, equality and inclusion in our sector. Why? We know this is an area that can improve in the third sector and with global events and the pandemic further highlighting long-standing inequalities in 2020, the time for action is now. At Reading Voluntary Action (RVA), we have been thinking about how our aims can be transferred into tangible action so that we can actively reflect on and improve our work in this area. Here are the steps we have taken so far on our journey and information that could help you with yours.
Step 1: Commitment by leadership to equality, diversity and inclusion
At RVA, this commitment was displayed by our CEO and trustee board with a creation of specific aims. These aims highlighted internal and external objectives that were important to the whole organisation:
- Ensure RVA is an inclusive charity reflecting the diversity of Reading in the shaping of our staff, volunteers, trustees and how we work.
- Support local charity groups to review their own inclusion policies and develop inclusion plans.
- Collaborate with partner, colleagues and stakeholders to support local VCS to develop a shared Reading VCS Inclusion Strategy.
- Support local VCS to build capacity to be able to participate in partnership groups and forums.
Creating aims that throw a spotlight on inclusion show that this is an important priority for your organisation. Starting at a leadership level, and reflecting on this at all levels of an organisation builds a pathway to improvement and real change. Challenges may include people who are resistant to these aims or feel there aren’t a need for them. What training and support can be offered in this situation so that all stakeholders have a greater understanding?
Step 2: An inclusion lead
RVA was able to employ an Inclusion Development worker to help drive this work across the wider sector. Some organisations will be able to employ someone in this role but it is obvious this will not be the case for many organisations. If you are in a position to employ an Inclusion lead, it is important to consider your recruitment and interview processes so that the best candidate joins your organisation to help drive this work forward. Someone who is knowledgeable, approachable, sensitive and engaging are some of the varied skills that are required to champion this work.
If this is not an option for you presently or in the future, are you able to look at your current capacity and investigate who has some knowledge and experience in this area? Who has lived experience of being a ‘diversity champion’ within their personal and professional life? Could this person help lead and implement ideas, strategies and actions? Which external experts can you invite to provide different experiences and viewpoints based on their lived experience and expertise?
Step 3: Create a working or sub group(s)
A working or sub-group means that different people can feed into, discuss, share and lead on where to go next. This can also provide a sounding board and a space to discuss successes, learning points and next steps. An inclusive approach to the group involving both staff members and trustees also helps to reflect and represent different people in your organisation. At RVA, there are different sub groups focused on different areas and the Inclusion Sub-group has both staff and trustee members with a lived experience of different genders, races and disability.
Step 4: Ask those involved in your organisation for their priorities in equality, diversity and inclusion
Why is this important? To create active change, you need to engage the most important people in your organisation. This is everyone who works there and who also has a keen interest to support, guide and help such as your trustees. By asking each person their own priorities, you can build a real picture of where your organisation is currently, what it is doing well and where it needs to go.
You could use an individual questionnaire or self-assessment after an introduction in a team meeting. Or, you could discuss in an open forum. We all know this is trickier in these online times but create a space so that people know they are free to talk, share their thoughts and any concerns and that these are important and valued. It is vital to create the space and option that allows for contributions from all members-individually or in groups.
Knowing your staff and trustees and what works well for them will help you to consider the best option when moving forward. The chosen option may not work as successfully as anticipated initially and will therefore need reviewing or changing depending on how the process goes. You can use these questions to help you consider which option best suits your organisation:
- Do I want everyone to have an equal chance to contribute? (eg provide an introduction to the work and email each person individually a questionnaire they can complete with the option of it being confidential).
- Do I want everyone to speak and share their priorities in a discussion? (eg hold a staff/team meeting with the importance of each person being able to speak).
At RVA, after an introduction to the aims, each stakeholder completed an individual questionnaire to help garner everyone’s views.
Step 5: Compile feedback and share with the working/sub group
How successful was your engagement with feedback? If the majority of your organisation have fed back, then this gives you enough evidence to plan your next steps. If you have not received this, what changes and adaptions do you need to make to try and make this more successful next time? Discuss all feedback that has been obtained with the working/sub group and create priorities for your organisation based upon the feedback received. This may start with one priority and increase depending on your organisation size and current capacity. At RVA, all staff and trustees did respond to their individual questionnaires and this feedback was collated and shared with the Inclusion Sub-Group in preparation for Step 6.
Step 6: Discuss priorities and how you will action them in practice so that there is real, effective, everlasting change
This is the step we will be working on at RVA at the beginning of 2021…. check back in due course to see how we get on. We have added a section on equality, diversity and inclusion to our Knowledge Base which we will be updating regularly. In the meantime, if you would like further clarification or some support in this area, please contact RVA’s Inclusion Development Worker Azra on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diagram – process for developing equality, inclusion and diversity in your organisation