Diversity and inclusion: the Connect ELBA journey so far
ELBA has a proud tradition of working to address inequality in our communities. The events of 2020, including the murder of George Floyd, highlighted the inequalities that exist within our society, and addressing institutional racism became a more prominent goal for many people and organisations.
ELBA’s Connect Team draw on the time, skills and expertise of employee volunteers from the businesses that we partner with to build the capacity of east London’s many fantastic community organisations. We place trustees on the boards of local charities, pair community leaders with coaches and deliver a range of capacity building activities that enable community organisations to overcome a variety of business challenges. Our mission is to help sustain the amazing community organisations that provide essential services for so many east London residents. One might therefore be guilty of assuming that our work bears little relation to addressing inequality. Our journey over the past year has taught us otherwise.
Various forms of activism both pre-dating the murder of George Floyd and in the aftermath of his death, notably, the Black Lives Matter movement, challenged all organisations to consider the role that they were playing in addressing racism. As a broker organisation, ELBA felt compelled to consider the affect that this had on both the community organisations and the businesses that we work with. We also resolved that we needed to reconsider our own role in tackling racism. That led to the launch of SHIFT25.
In the Connect Team, it soon became clear to us that if we are to truly address racism and other forms of inequality then we need to ensure that diversity and inclusion form a key part of everything that we do.
So what did we do?
The first stage in our journey was to reach out to the community organisations that we work with to listen. We did this via three forum events, held in the latter part of last year. The first focused on Structural Racism in east London, the second on Equality in recruitment, HR & organisational culture and the third on Equality in Leadership and Governance. Our aim was to better understand the challenges that community organisations are facing and ensure that our corresponding work was effective in meeting those challenges. We also hoped to provide a platform for representatives of community organisations to interact and learn from one another.
Following the forum events, we decided to draw on the experience and expertise of Diversity and Inclusion professionals, and those engaged in related work at our member companies, to deliver Toolkit sessions on key topics. Volunteers from ELBA’s alliance of businesses delivered workshops on ‘Building an Inclusive Culture’, ‘Diversity in Leadership and Governance’ and ‘Identifying and Addressing Racial Bias’. We aim to build on those sessions to deliver further activity in the coming year which assist community organisations to develop their understanding of Diversity & Inclusion and ultimately ensure that all east London residents have equal access to the opportunities that they provide.
In the process of delivering the community forum events and Toolkit sessions we had the opportunity to reflect on our own work and explore how we can make our programmes more inclusive. The Connect Team has begun to focus on the promotion of programmes at underrepresented groups. We have started collecting diversity data on both the volunteers and beneficiaries of our core programmes to better understand the audiences that we are reaching and address associated inequalities. We have worked to ensure that our case studies reflect the rich diversity of the east London community. We have reviewed the language that we use and the way that we talk about different groups.
Perhaps most importantly of all, we have learned that in order to end institutional racism, and other forms of discrimination and inequality, consideration of diversity and inclusion must be at the heart of everything we do. They must be embedded in the core principles of our organisations and corresponding action taken to ensure that they are a key feature of activity design. To achieve this, it is essential for the elimination of racism and other forms of discrimination to remain a priority for all organisations.
The Connect Team is currently working with a Diversity & Inclusion specialist to review our activities and find ways to ensure that our programmes are fully accessible for all members of the east London community. We aim to develop a strategy that will both provide a pathway to improving our practice and key success measures that will enable us to monitor our progress.
Racism, discrimination and other forms of inequality do not happen by accident. They are embedded in the fabric of our institutions and cannot therefore be viewed in isolation from our practice. If we are to create a fairer world then it is everyone’s responsibility to act. That starts with us looking at all aspects of our work as asking whether we can be confident we are helping to create a more equal society?
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