As a sector, are we really doing enough in our workplaces to address antiracism and allyship? We know we are not – or shall we re-phrase that, we have not been doing enough.

Like many organisations we have coastedwe had the policy, we had the monitoring form, we have had varying levels of diversity in staff over the years and so assumed we were doing fine. BUT we were not. That is why we have created an Equalities & Anti-Racism Task Group to tackle every aspect of equality, diversity and inclusion in Community Southwark and beyond, to all our members and organisations we work with. 

Here are some of the questions we are asking ourselves and actions we are taking to do better: 

1. How do our individual actions affect others? 

Before any actions could be taken externally, we needed to look inward and ask some pretty challenging questions of ourselves, as individuals and as an organisationWe organised space to begin discussions and arranged an all-staff Unconscious Bias training to begin this process. We have also created a resource for internal and external use, of materials to inform ourselves on the relevant issues and history, white privilege, and why we cannot be blind to race.  

2. Antiracism strategy 

We want to be clear that we have a zero-tolerance approach to workplace discrimination. This goes for all aspects covered by the Equality Act 2010,but particular focus must be paid to race. We are therefore creating our own Antiracism Strategy based around CIPD’s Six Principles:  

  • Clarify the organisation’s stance and values 
  • Co-create a systemic approach for practical action by working across the organisation  
  • Commit to sustained action through visible leadership and a willingness to change  
  • Critically appraise your people management approach from end to end. 
  • Connect your people by creating safe spaces, systems and times to talk, share experiences and learn from each other  
  • Communicate your messages consistently and ensure the conversation is two-way 

Find out more on the CIPD website. 

3. Do our policies and processes stand up to scrutiny through the lens of racial discrimination? 

We are auditing all our policies and processes, starting with the ones that can have the biggest effect such as Anti-Bullying and Harassment, Flexible Working, Grievance and Disciplinary, Recruitment, Staff Code of Conduct etc. We have also created an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy that overarches all our other policies. It is a big job to go through these with a fine-tooth comb and so will take time, but we plan to have these in place in the new financial year and ready to share with the sector as templates. 

4. The pipeline is full of talent so why are we not attracting that talent? 

I am very proud of the workforce at CS, we are a dedicated and talented team. However, we are not currently super diverse! We have been lax on analysing our monitoring data and asking where people saw the job advert – so we do not know if we are using the right recruitment platforms. We suspect not, but we need to know all the facts and compare them with the demography of Southwark. 

We are asking ourselves, are we representative at all levels, including Trustees, management, staff and volunteers? The answer currently is no. So what are we doing about it? 

  • We have changed how we recruit to anonymised applications to eliminate (as far as possible) unconscious bias. 
  • We are working to have more diversity on recruitment panels. 
  • We are working on our monitoring forms: what we ask, why we ask it and how we record and analyse it. And most importantly what we learn from it and how we change as a result. 
  • We are actively looking for new ways to advertise roles. 


5. Is our leadership diverse and reflective of the borough we serve? 

Our leadership is not as diverse as it should be, and we are working to a) ensure our trustee board comes from and reflects our membership; and b) our senior management team does the same. 

We have achieved a 50:50 gender split on our Board but we need to work on increasing diversity in other areas such as race, disability and LGBTQ+ representation. Likewise, our management team is mainly female, but we must look at the opportunities for our Black female colleagues to progress to management and to have a more diverse staff and volunteer team throughout the organisation. 

We are also carrying out yearly Staff Satisfaction surveys with a section dedicated to equality and diversity. 

6. How will we embed this culture in Community Southwark and beyond? 

It is great to start the conversations and act now, but the changes needed are systemic and ongoing – we cannot put a policy in place and sit back. Therefore, we are working towards gaining the British Standard Valuing People through Diversity and Inclusion (76005), through continuing all the work above and seeking opportunities to hold ourselves to other equalities standards and good practice. We have put equalities at the centre of our latest organisational strategy, have employed a VCS Support Officer to work with Ethnic Minority led groups, and will continue to produce resources and workshops that support this internally and externally. We are changing our comms to be as visually representative as possible, and as accessible to as many people as possible. 

We will call out microaggressions in ourselves, our members, and our stakeholdersand we will continue to educate ourselves and be curious and courageous in questioning our actions – both as individuals and as an organisation. 

We also know that we must be held to account and so we are working on how we will monitor and evaluate this work. And we ask you, our wonderful members, to hold us to account – ask us difficult questions, send us useful information, tell us what you want and needand if we have gone wrong.

Tell us to do better and we will work continuously to do just that. 

Join our REACH Alliance Network

Southwark's R.E.A.C.H Alliance is a new network for voluntary and community sector organisations and community groups led by a majority Black and minority ethnic teams, and/or serving predominantly Black and minority ethnic communities, and not for profit social enterprises working for the benefit of their local communities. Join it here

Our training and support

As usual we have lots of useful training coming up, take a look at our website here. Also, if you would like some support for your charity, please contact our VCS Support team on: [email protected]