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Statement from Priya Singh, chair, on behalf of the board of trustees

NCVO has approached our work on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) with integrity and transparency. Following receipt of the report into EDI in NCVO, we shared with staff and spoke publicly. We were open that it had revealed deep-rooted cultural traits, behaviours and practices that are limiting the ability of NCVO to be inclusive, socially just and relevant. We shared how shocked we were by the findings and we also acknowledged publicly that NCVO is a structurally racist organisation and that the same is true for sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism and disablism. At the time, our chair and CEO apologised to colleagues and outlined clear steps that would be taken to address the very concerning issues raised. The communications to our colleagues in August can be seen here.

Since then, we have been taking decisive action, going beyond the recommendations in the report. The board established an EDI board sub-committee to embed EDI into our governance structure and hold the organisation to account on progress. This committee has been meeting every other week since September. In addition, support was put in place for staff leading EDI work, leaders began EDI coaching and funding was ring-fenced for EDI activity. The committee also commissioned an independent review into the handling of a racist incident highlighted in the report, and a broader inquiry to create space for additional complaints or concerns to be brought forward. Those two independent pieces of work reported to the board in October.

This was, of course, in the midst of the global pandemic and NCVO facing a significant loss of funding, resulting in the need to restructure.

As a result of concern expressed by colleagues that the review and inquiry findings may prejudice decisions around the organisation’s restructure, the board committed to colleagues that findings from the review and inquiry would not be disclosed to any member of staff including the leadership team, until after the restructure had been completed.

The restructure completed at the end of January and was guided by a comprehensive equality impact assessment, with new inclusive recruitment processes adopted.

Earlier this week, we informed staff of the outcome of the review, which looked at the handling of the racist incident, and informed staff that we had received 10 complaints through the inquiry. We are now commencing formal investigations of these complaints, which of course must remain confidential.

A timeline of our handling of these matters can be seen here.

As we shared yesterday, cultural change is at the heart of our new strategy. An EDI action plan, which includes the findings from the initial EDI report as well as the independent review and inquiry, underpins this cultural change. The board and leadership team are determined to tackle the issues highlighted in the report with a recognition that we still have much to learn and do. As NCVO, we feel a responsibility to share our mistakes and our learning with the sector, but we are clear first we must get our own house in order. That is what we have been doing since last summer and we will continue to do.

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