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The Road Ahead 2023: Keeping up the pace on equity, diversity and inclusion

In this series, we examine the trends that will impact charities and volunteering in 2023. Here we reflect on our shared commitment to better represent and engage with the communities we serve.

As a sector, our drive to reach and represent our diverse society has strengthened in recent years. And as long as inequalities endure in our communities, that drive must not fade.

Research by NCVO, Nottingham Trent University and Sheffield Hallam University in July 2021 found that nearly four out of five voluntary organisations had plans to address equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). And over half (59%) had revised their EDI approach since March 2020.

At NCVO, we’ve also committed to culture change. This work’s resulted in refreshed policies, an EDI learning programme for staff, and a shift in how we work with and support each other day-to-day. But we know there’s still much more for us and the wider sector to do.

Progress will involve changing how we run our organisations, widening our reach, and collectively challenging the root causes of inequalities that exist in our communities. This work is continual and evolving, requiring all of us – staff, volunteers, and leaders – to act.

Workplace discrimination remains

Recent research by the Resolution Foundation found that one in five adults experience workplace discrimination.

Across all survey respondents, discrimination on the grounds of age and sex were most commonly reported. But over one-fifth (21%) of people from ethnic minority backgrounds said they’d faced workplace discrimination because of their ethnicity alone in the last year, and 15% of disabled people had faced discrimination on the basis of disability.

The data also showed lower-paid workers are almost twice as likely to worry about workplace discrimination than those on higher pay.

Read our guidance on where to get support if you’re worried about discrimination in your organisation.

You're not alone in the so-called ‘culture wars’

Our 2022 Road Ahead report highlighted ways that charities, alongside other institutions, have increasingly been drawn into the 'culture wars' spotlight.

These trends look set to continue, particularly as we head towards a general election. nfpResearch has shown how charities are adapting to polarisation and changing how they communicate to broaden and build support.

The key is to keep your beneficiaries at the heart of everything you do and to continue pushing for social change – even in the face of loud opposition.

The public want you to act for your cause

Research published by the Charity Commission in 2022 found the public is comfortable with charities pushing for change within areas specifically related to their expertise. So you can feel confident in advocating for your cause and bringing communities together to bridge divides.

Action on tackling inequality remains urgent

As a sector, we all need to consider how we’re building inclusive spaces where everyone’s welcome and respected.

Are you looking to build a more inclusive culture? Read our guidance on approaching diversity through equality and inclusion.

Data can enrich your understanding of inequality

We can use publicly available data to gain new insight into the inequalities and disparities in the communities we serve. These insights can help us be more representative of the communities we work with, and shape our strategies. Here are some sources to try.

New data

Office for National Statistics (ONS) release plans for 2023 mean you’ll see more detailed data about everything from demography to housing, and health to education. By the end of the year, you’ll be able to combine variables, explore relationships between the data, and gain new insights about the communities you serve.

Existing data

ONS census data on population and households is already available. It highlights our aging population and shows diversity in England is increasing.

You can use the data to:

  • better understand your community and their needs
  • consider who your services are (and aren’t!) reaching
  • understand how representative your team is of the area you serve.

Opportunities to advocate for equity in your community

This year the government will be under a new statutory duty to set clear levelling up goals and report on progress. Local services will also produce a range of new plans.

This presents us with an opportunity to influence how these services engage with our communities. You could:

  • push for services to consult your community when developing plans
  • share insight about your work and the needs in your area
  • amplify the voices of those you work with.

Have your say on health

Integrated care boards and partnerships – which bring organisations together to plan and deliver joined-up health and care services in an area – will continue to bed in. They’re required to produce new strategies and a five-year joint forward plan for health care in each area this year.

Have your say on violence

Local authorities and police must, for the first time, prepare and implement a strategy for preventing and reducing serious violence in their area.

Have your say on your local area

With new devolution deals agreed in late 2022 and metro mayors increasingly active in levelling up, we can expect more localised decision making.

Reaching a diverse audience

The media landscape is changing fast. This year, we’ll need to adapt to continue reaching our audiences.

The decline of traditional media

Ofcom research shows newspapers are steadily decreasing and longer term we may see radio suffer a similar fate.

For teenagers, social media is overtaking traditional channels for news: Instagram, TikTok and YouTube are now their top three most used sources for news. Consider how your communication plans prioritise platforms that reach your intended audiences.

Mass media stations are changing

By December 2022, new TV station GB News (launched in 2021) had a 2.8 million monthly reach and Talk TV (launched in 2022) had a two million monthly reach. If this reach sustains this year, think about where your audience might be tuning in from.

Big platforms are changing

Changes at Twitter have led to concerns about its direction, with evidence suggesting increased hate on the platform. Charities often need to challenge disinformation, including that levelled at them by high-profile figures. While many charities are watching carefully, digital consultant Zoe Amar suggests managing risks by diversifying your social media presence.

In January, the Charity Commission launched a consultation on new social media guidance for charities and we can expect clarity on their expectations for trustees later this year.

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