Navigating the Minefield: Have we become scared of EDI?

On Tuesday this week we pulled together a group of leaders from across the UK Not-For-Profit sector to discuss this provocative but important question.

The proceedings were kicked off by a panel of speakers:

Over 30 years since the murder of Stephen Lawrence, there is finally a global spotlight on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). However, concrete progress remains far too slow across the board. Many organisations have also experienced internal tensions as they have attempted to grapple with these issues. This has been particularly pronounced in the Not-For-Profit sector, where understandably passionate colleagues have often been quick to point the finger at their Senior Leadership Teams or Trustee Boards when they have felt that appropriate action is not being taken. As a consequence, are some leaders now in danger of seeing EDI as a source of risk and vulnerability, rather than as a source of opportunity and resilience? How are organisations responding when things go wrong? And what are the lessons we should learn from the last few years?

Our panel all gave honest and heartfelt accounts of their experiences navigating and advising on organisational issues around EDI. We heard about allegations of institutional racism and how that had been addressed in a tangible way, and the importance of collaborative leadership and investment in people and resources to truly drive diversity initiatives. The group discussed several practical approaches such as staff-led listening groups, diversity leadership programmes, and establishing unfiltered lines of communication to feed back to the Board.

There was ultimately a unanimous consensus that we need to move away from expecting employees or colleagues with lived experience to drive diversity initiatives. This is a specialism in and of itself and yes, it needs to be embedded in all levels of an organisation, but also needs to be resourced and invested in as if it were a standalone function.

The current political and economic landscape we find ourselves in has only exacerbated issues around diversity and those leading the charge are, understandably, exhausted. The approach must be constant, proactive, and iterative with a willingness from leadership to take accountability for mistakes, and fix them. Things may get worse before they get better, but ultimately giving EDI the attention and time it deserves will result in a more inclusive working environment for everyone. 

Related Articles