On Diversity and Inclusivity

Date: 25 May 2022   Author: Energise Me

Helen takes us on her journey of self-reflection and realisation as she creates a new outline for our diversity and inclusivity plan.

As an organisation, we knew we didn’t want to just be seen as ‘not racist,’ we wanted to ensure we were ‘anti-racist’. We needed to be an organisation who could listen to individuals and act upon feedback. We needed to be a team that could be entrusted to represent our local communities. Following the tragic murder of George Floyd in 2020, the act of being anti-racist is as important now as ever. For most of the world, his death cast a shadow of shock and mourning. For our non-white peers, this was another brutal reminder that the organisations and systems that are meant to protect, guide and teach are systemically flawed. It was a wake-up call to how much work society had yet to do to actually become anti-racist.

This spurred the decision to update Energise Me’s Diversity and Inclusion plan. Now, don’t get me wrong, Energise Me has always worked hard towards being diverse and inclusive. I think it’s fair to say we can pride ourselves on our values. Though, we were aware that there was plenty more work to be done. So, when I was asked to help pull together our new Diversity and Inclusion plan, I said yes without hesitation. Ok, there might have been a little – I have dyslexia, so writing is not my favourite way of trying to impress. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a journey of some serious self-realisation.

About Me

So, a bit about me: I’m a white British female, born and bred in Basingstoke, UK (or Amazingstoke as it’s known by some). I love to travel and have been fortunate enough to do so. I have even worked outside of the UK in a country that bubbled with people from a mixture of cultures and backgrounds where churches sit next door to mosques and people share their cultures and values in peace. My family is mixed heritage; my husband is from Ghana and my two children have the privilege of belonging to two countries and being born in a third.  We visit our family in Ghana regularly and the kids enjoy the cultures of Ghana and England equally. I also like to think that (in general), I’m a kind and caring person.

All in all, I should be a pretty inclusive person, right? Somebody that has being anti-racist nailed? Someone that could take on this task given to me by our Chief Executive with ease. I thought so… until I started this piece of work.

what I soon realised, was that I was a part of the problem – my naivety of how much bias I have, that we all have as humans.

My First Realisation

My first few major shocks in self-realisation surfaced when we were learning about bias, micro-aggressions and white privilege. Basic stuff, right? Terms, if I’m brutally honest, I had heard of but now realise I had never fully understood. Perhaps it was easier not to. I mean I can’t be racist right?! Racism is fuelled by hatred and prejudice. It’s something that I would never want my children to experience, and luckily has never really faced our little family. But what I soon realised was that I was a part of the problem – my naivety of how much bias I have, that we all have as humans.

This, alongside my lack of understanding of the power of my white privilege, created doubt in my ability to do this work.  Yes, we can all recognise blatant racism, but am I really bold enough to call out microaggressions?  Do I even recognise them? Would the rest of my team expect me to lead this work?  Would they think I’m an expert or that I was out of my depth? Fortunately for me, the Energise Me Team would never cast judgment on others – but these thoughts really did hinder this journey for me. So, I set about trying to learn more and more, improving my knowledge and confidence as I went.

My Second Realisation

I soon recognised that I would never be an expert on this, but I would be able to support others. I would at least string a sentence together about this topic without crumbling to a nervous wreck rambling unrelated words fearful of saying the wrong thing. More importantly, I wanted to become someone that people could rely on. Someone that my family could rely on. The stark realisation that perhaps I wasn’t that person troubled me deeply.

we have to continue to have these difficult conversations.

Our Plan

So back to our plan. Our working group began pulling ideas and thoughts together. Though as time passed, this became harder and harder; the combination of such emotive thoughts and feelings from a large group as well as feedback from team members and trustees meant we had so many ideas to include. At some points, I thought we may not complete a coherent strategy – we wanted to hear everyone’s opinions, but could that all fit into one plan? Sometimes, I hoped we could push back deadlines or focus on something easier, but it is this type of diversion that is part of the problem. That, I did know.

If we truly want to create change, we have to continue to have these difficult conversations. We must complete the hard work to kickstart personal self-reflection and probe how we can strive for better.

After a united effort, we completed a plan we were proud of. Our team was happy, and the trustees were happy, so we published it on our website and shared it with other Active Partnerships. Among our department, we have a small question we like to ask ourselves: so what? If there is no answer to this, we know that there is more work that needs to be done, more investigating to undertake. Will this creation help people in our communities? Will this plan help my own children have a fair chance in reaching their full potential?  Not on its own.

Now is the time for us to remain true to our organisational values and be curious and open, be creative and bold in the way we work.

Going Forwards…

You see, while having finally taken a sigh of relief and feeling pleased, I had another moment of personal reflection. I felt much more confident talking about diversity and inclusion. But this was only the beginning. Now is the time for us to remain true to our organisational values and be curious and open, be creative and bold in the way we work… because we have a plan full of actions that unless we get to work means nothing.

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