The uneven path towards equality, diversity and inclusion

After five days of events celebrating the fantastic work trustees do for the VCSE sector across the country, this year’s Trustees’ Week has drawn to a close, and our Communications and Events Support Assistant Nathan Choat has been watching with interest. Here is a short blog post about his experience of the week.

The expansive programme defies summary, covering everything from the basics of what a trustee does to the more complicated matter of writing a governance review! But for me, the most notable aspect of the week was its theme; ‘encouraging different perspectives’.

The last several days have drawn my attention to the importance of promoting diverse perspectives in the boardroom. Helen Stephenson, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission is urging charities to evaluate whether their boards truly reflect the people they benefit, pointing out that women, young people and people of colour are less likely to become trustees than others. Many Trustees’ Week events have looked at how charities can create inclusive boardrooms that attract a more diverse range of people, encouraging new perspectives and improving governance in the process.

Improving equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the boardroom is important, as we all know, and as this week has shown. But we shouldn’t stop there – the truth is, staff, volunteers and service users across the VCSE sector all deserve to feel that their perspectives and experiences are valued. If there’s one lesson from Trustees’ Week we should all take away, it’s that EDI should always be at the heart of everything we do.

VONNE’s first steps

Here at VONNE, we’ve taken the first steps on our EDI journey. To be clear, we know we still have a lot to do, but as founder of the Social Justice Collective Pari Dhillon explained at an event this week, EDI is a process, not an outcome; mistakes will be made and new things will be learnt every day, but making progress is the most important thing.

This year, we’ve drawn up an EDI action plan, informed by feedback from staff, and our newly established EDI working group is beginning to implement it. The working group is currently planning a staff training programme on a wide range of topics, including anti-racism and LGBTQ+ awareness. This training will bring us closer to our goal of constructing an organisational culture that’s as open and inclusive as possible.

We’ve also carried out a review of our website, paying particular attention to areas that are not as accessible as they could be. Again, we can’t claim to be accessibility experts, but by using online resources we were able to identify areas for improvement: a higher contrast colour palette here, or an image description there. We’re working our way through improvements on our website based on this review, with the goal of ensuring nobody is excluded when browsing or using our services.

We still have a long way to go on our EDI journey, but by sharing our learning, we hope to support others to embark or continue on journeys of their own. The path towards EDI may be uneven, but together we can take steps towards fully embracing the many different perspectives that make the North East unique.