Diversity, inclusion and the hope for community change

Earlier this month, the Connect team hosted a community training session on ‘Diversity & Inclusion’, led by Jan Gale, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at L&Q Housing Association. The concepts of diversity and inclusion cover a wide range of topics – class, sexuality, gender, disability, and neurodiversity, to name a few – but in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement and the rise in prominence and urgency of anti-racism discourse, this particular session held a greater sense of significance with regards to racial and ethnic diversity in the workplace.

This session was attended by multiple community partners from across east London, as well as many members of the ELBA staff team. Jan first took us through the concepts of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’, and their meaning and application in a workplace environment. We then explored the themes of diverse representation, inclusive culture, and equality of opportunity in further detail. We importantly discussed the impact that the recent focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and subsequent dialogue has had on community organisations, with many participants stating that it had led to a new period of internal reflection and desire for action within their organisations. 

What everyone agreed on was how important it is to embed diversity and inclusion into every organisation; that it is everyone’s responsibility. Whilst the charity and third sectors do a lot of work promoting equality within the communities that we serve, it is equally important that we address this within our organisational structures and the sector in itself. The recent ‘Home Truths’ report published by Voice4Change and ACEVO, the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, highlighted that overall the charity sector is actually less ethnically diverse than both the public and private sectors – just 9% of the workforce is Black, Asian or ethnic minority – and that we still have a lot of work to do. Session attendees noted ‘limited capacity and resources’ and ‘the status quo mindset’ that some charities have as two of the key barriers to change within the sector, but at the same time, hope and motivation for improvement and change is strong and ever-growing. 

Ultimately, the session enabled us all to reflect on the positive work that community organisations have done so far with regards to diversity and inclusion, but also to acknowledge how we can be doing better. Some key takeaways and actions from participants included:

  • the need to do more personal research and learning across the staff team;
  • an audit of internal recruitment practices to ensure they are inclusive and attracting the right candidates;
  • the importance of creating networks and safe spaces for staff to share their voices and be heard.

At ELBA, we have recently launched our internal ELBA Inclusion Group (EIG), with the aim to embed diversity and inclusion at the heart of our culture, our performance, and the support and services we deliver. We’ll be sharing further information about our work through EIG as it develops, as we believe it is important to reflect on and share our learnings.

A huge thank you to Jan for sharing her insight and knowledge on this important topic. Whilst the charity sector is not solely responsible for ‘fixing’ the problem of equality and inclusion across society, it is important to acknowledge the responsibility we have to create change, both in the communities we serve and within our organisations themselves. As one community participant stated ‘we all have power in this situation’ – let’s make sure we are using it to make a difference.

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