Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion – Learning together to speak out about racism

10 August 2020 by Heidi Marshall

We started our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion journey in June, soon after the death of George Floyd took Black Lives Matter from being a grass-roots protest movement to a widely supported global force for change. Recently, we held the second of our monthly all-staff Taskforce meetings, in which we reported on our progress so far.

In a previous post, we shared the beginning of our journey where we set out a framework for a staff-led task force; all-staff involvement and participation and the opening up of a company-wide conversation about race and structural racism. Since then:

  • 50 people have joined one of 6 Task groups
  • A diversity monitoring exercise was conducted in which 62% of staff responded
  • We reviewed our recruitment strategy to attract more applications from those from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds
  • Over 20% of Corndel employees are actively involved in co-creating our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion strategy

Here’s what we’re learning and how our strategy is emerging.

Empower self-managed teams to lead strategic projects

The strategic focus for our six task groups emerged from our initial scoping session. Each group includes a member of the Senior Leadership Team but none of our group leads are managers. Task group leads volunteered and were all chosen for their knowledge, enthusiasm and leadership skills. Senior managers will ensure a continuous flow of information to their senior colleagues.

Leads and their teams are shaping their terms of reference and objectives for six strategic priorities:

  1. Diversity data gathering and analysis
  2. Education, learning and development
  3. Holding good conversations
  4. Stakeholder engagement
  5. Board effectiveness
  6. Inclusive practice for staff and learners

As an emergent, staff-led and co-created strategy, the process of planning, delivery and evaluation will be an ongoing feature of our approach. Data will inform the work of each of each group, with the development of a strategy for inclusive practice being the objective. The group for Board effectiveness will communicate and align activity across all groups and support the Corndel Board in setting and achieving targets to boost black and ethnic minority representation at all levels.

Share learning

The governing principle for creating a fully inclusive workplace is that everyone has something to learn. Inclusion something we all bring about through interaction with each other and by being sensitive and alive to the subtle, and often unconscious actions, in the form of micro-aggressions.

“There are no quick fixes for the racism that is so ingrained in British society. But, from education and work to voting and organising, there are steps we can all take for a more equal world. Read.” – Professor Kehinde Andrews

Many people are learning for the first time about the true extent and horrors of the transatlantic slave trade in black people that financed the British Empire for over two hundred years. This is generally not a history taught in British schools, though it may be more familiar to those that attended black supplementary schools or people with familial links to Britain’s many former Colonies. Thought leaders, subject matter experts and organisations with a long-standing commitment to equality, have shared their resources generously in recent months. We are gathering those resources and inviting all staff to share what they find.

Cultivate a state of psychological safety

Our monthly all-staff taskforce meetings are intended to be fully inclusive, participatory and a place for us to share and learn together. Sessions are modelled on Ravens’ Action learning Sets, in which small groups address challenging and complex issues. Ravens suggests that the rate of learning must be equal to the rate of change, so that the pace of change is comfortable. This serves to create an all important sense of psychological safety. That in turn supports greater openness and drives more learning in a virtuous circle.

“Psychological safety does not imply a cosy environment in which people are necessarily close friends, nor does it suggest an absence of pressure or problems. Rather, it describes a climate in which the focus can be productive discussion that enables early prevention of problems and accomplishment of shared goals, because people are less likely to focus on self-protection.” - Roderick M. Kramer, Karen S. Cook Ed., (Cook, 2007)

Talking about race at work is not easy, and participation in the learning sets was instructive. We noticed the sharing of stories, experience and ideas. We also noticed that some people didn’t speak or were cautious in their comments. We’ll be observing how this changes over time and we’ll be checking-in with our staff regularly to track changes in their self-reported sense of psychological safety with reference to the research of Amy Edmondson. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUo1QwVcCv0 and https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2307/2666999)

Challenge and provoke thought to drive action

There can be no learning without action and no action without learning’ – Reg Ravens

Widening the scope of our education and learning about our own relationships with race and racism, whiteness and white privilege takes commitment and courage. At our recent meeting, we used a video addressing the retort to the Black Lives Matter slogan of ‘All lives matter’ as a prompt for conversations. We intend to draw from a wide range of resources as well as the lived experience of colleagues. We’ll aim to inform, challenge and provoke thought and move to action.


Our current focus

We’re planning a Black Lives Matter education day for staff to come together virtually for discussions as well as individual study; ‘READ UP TO SPEAK OUT’. We know that self-education itself won’t bring about structural change but as educators we believe it plays a foundational role. We want to create and cultivate a culture of fearless, positive and open dialogue as a means to achieving what many years of diversity awareness training have failed to do: to bring about real and lasting structural change to deliver true equality.

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