Introducing the ELBA Inclusion Group (EIG)

The murder of George Floyd last May sparked powerful conversations across the globe. It had governments, cultural institutions and businesses looking inwards, examining themselves to see how equal and just they really were in their practices. Equally the UK charity sector experienced a new period of self-scrutiny, as around the same time the ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) ‘Home Truths’ report came out, highlighting an astonishing amount of discrimination and inequality within charitable organisations and structures.

ELBA has been an active contributor in the diversity & inclusion space for many years, particularly in the context of supporting our corporate partners to improve their positions on ethnic minority underrepresentation, workplace culture and progression. ELBA’s Connect team have also been doing a lot of work around opening up conversations around systemic racism and inequality in local charitable and voluntary sector organisations, launching a series of local forums and toolkits on diversity and inclusion for the local voluntary sector last summer.

We believe that it is of crucial importance to look inward and ensure we are having authentic and open conversations ourselves. Like a lot of other organisations, we have been looking in the mirror.

Prompted by the widening conversations about the need to proactively encourage a positive and inclusive organisational culture, four ELBA staff members came together and formed ELBA’s first ever internal Inclusion Group, or EIG.

The ELBA staff who founded the EIG did so with the aim of having open conversations across cultures and backgrounds in order to maximise the talent, connection and comfort of our proudly diverse workforce. It also aims to help staff feel more confident in embracing all that makes us unique as individuals. We believe that at its core, inclusion is about authenticity, and a sense of belonging within the culture of an organisation. Whilst the diversity of staff can be measured with metrics and data, how inclusive an organisation is is a lot less tangible to measure or define. By embarking on this journey, we hope it will contribute to enhanced and optimised staff authenticity and therefore greater staff satisfaction.

Since the launch of the EIG in September, which is open to all staff from all backgrounds, we have covered a number of topics. We started by focusing on reactions and views to the global Black Lives Matter movement in the context of the workplace. At a later session, a colleague shared her journey towards embracing her natural hair as a Black woman, enabling us to discuss western ideals of beauty and workplace ‘professionalism’. We discussed the decision to step away from our use of the acronym ‘BAME’ and looked at our current internal diversity data with a view to considering the best way to approach measurements going forward. Whilst our initial focus has been on race and ethnicity, our focus goes well beyond this, and we have a whole range of topics we will be addressing going forward, including microaggressions in the workplace, and doing some deep learning on LGBTQ+ inclusion.

We encourage all questions and comments in a safe space environment and after each session, we ask attendees to provide us with feedback anonymously so we can continue to improve and develop our work as we go. Although we’ve only run a few sessions so far, feedback has been very positive from staff, including one attendee stating:

“It’s great that ELBA is paving the way for inclusion in the charity sector, but also happy to reflect on its own areas for development.”

The sessions are relatively informal and we have been pleased that attendance so far has reflected the various backgrounds that make up the whole ELBA staff team.

The EIG is one way in which ELBA is reflecting on our internal culture, and we aim to continue learning, evolving and sharing our journey as we go. Have you started an inclusion or discussion group in your organisation? We’d love to hear from you and see how it’s going – please get in touch

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