Over recent years there have been high-profile reports of safeguarding failures in the VCSE sector nationally. Discriminatory behaviours, in particular racism, have also become increasingly visible with calls for change from the sector rightfully demanded.
An article published in February 2021 by Third Sector revealed that a report into NCVO had found discriminatory bullying and overt oppression took place ‘with impunity’ across the organisation, and our response can be read here.
This followed the Acevo report, Home Truths: Undoing racism and delivering real diversity in the charity sector, published in June last year, which sought to reframe the diversity debate, stating that racism is a significant and unresolved issue in the charity sector, just as it is in the rest of society.
As the regional support body for the North East VCSE sector, VONNE has a responsibility to address these issues, and when we talk about social justice, are mindful of our own practices and how they may replicate dynamics that perpetuate inequalities.
Start by starting
As a first step, VONNE held a workshop in November with GLT Partners for the VCSE sector on Moving from Non-Racist to Anti-Racist, which demonstrated a desire from the regional VCSE community to have these, sometimes uncomfortable, conversations, and acknowledged that being actively anti-racist requires more from individuals than being non-racist.
We’ve now used our learning from this to agree an action plan with the support of our board of trustees to focus on inclusion, with seven objectives. These are:
All staff to operate within a culture that promotes an understanding of equity, diversity and inclusion
All staff to operate within a culture that promotes continuous learning and development
Staff team enabled to contribute to and shape programme of work
Commitment from board to be evidenced
Equity, diversity and inclusion to be considered at every stage of the employee journey
Equalities and inclusion training to be provided to all staff
All learning to be shared with the VCSE sector to support the sector
This is intended to be a live document, based on data that will feed into future developments, so we’ll update the sector as to our progress.
It currently outlines our activity for year one, and multiple team members are named to ensure accountability is embedded within it, and that we have the ongoing capacity to deliver. We’ll also be refreshing the plan on an annual basis, to ensure inclusion is rooted throughout VONNE’s operations.
Sharing our learning
We might not get it right first time. We are likely to make mistakes, but addressing issues relating to equity, diversity and inclusion is an ongoing and essential process of learning, so we’ll make our own documents available in case they are of use to other organisations.
To start with, our EDI Action Plan 2021/22 can be downloaded below and we’ll publish more examples and templates throughout the year.
We’ll also be sharing our experiences and findings in regular blog posts looking at where and how we can embed EDI in our projects to support the region’s VCSE sector, and holding events for the community to come together, share and learn from each other.
I'd be keen to hear from anyone interested in this area of our work, from any sector, as part of this process, so drop me a line at email@example.com.