The Road Ahead

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Equity, diversity and inclusion: Our journey so far – part 1

NCVO's equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) working group reflect on the current state of the wider voluntary sector and changes that need to be made.

For many of us at NCVO and in the sector, inclusion and social justice are at the heart of what the voluntary sector is about. We see, or experience, injustice and we want to do our bit to tackle it. For some of us, it’s intrinsic to our work in the sector and our motivation for working in a charity.

We’ve therefore chosen to be part of the equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) working group at NCVO, which has been running for about a year. So we’re eager to start talking about NCVO’s EDI journey so far. It’s high time we joined the ongoing conversation about what equity, diversity and inclusion mean for the charity sector.

As an organisation we’re at an early stage of a long-term piece of work, and we’re on a steep learning curve! We want to be honest and humble in how we talk about this work. We also want to open up about what we’re doing and learning to the sector as a whole. This blog is one step in doing that.

Why is NCVO getting involved in EDI work?

At NCVO, we recognise injustice is embedded across the systems that affect our lives. These range from education to the media, policing to healthcare and the labour market. This means people’s life chances are affected by how society thinks about race, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, and disability. This unfairness is not an inevitable consequence from an individual’s characteristics. Rather it’s a result of the way others treat them. It’s not just a matter of a few individuals expressing discriminatory views, but deeply embedded inequalities that go beyond any one person or group. The forces of power and privilege are at play in sustaining these inequalities.

It’s therefore obvious to state the voluntary sector, which is part of society, is not immune to systemic injustice. If we don’t acknowledge how systemic oppressions including racism, sexism, classism, disabilism, homophobia and transphobia operate in our sector, we risk further harming or oppressing the very people we intend to serve. As a sector we need to look closely at how we might be complicit in these systems and start actively working to dismantle them.

Just because we, as a sector, seek to ‘do good’ it doesn’t mean we’re always representative of the people we serve, or reflective of our principles.

Statistics on these issues are not always easy to find. However, below are some illustrations of recent points raised on diversity in the sector.

We cannot effectively tackle systemic oppressions if our leadership and workforce are divorced – in mindset as well as background – from the communities we serve.

As NCVO is finding, this is not easy work. It’s led to difficult conversations and much pain as we acknowledge both the discrimination we’ve experienced and the ways we ourselves have been complicit in the oppression of others. But it’s ‘mission-critical’ – to NCVO and the sector as a whole. And for many of us, it’s central to our selves whether we wish it to be or not – it’s written on our skin and engraved in our bodies.

In the next part of our blog, you can read more about what we’ve done so far and learn about what we plan to do next. You can also find out about some simple actions you can take to get started on your own EDI journey.

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