At the start of 2020, our team could not have imagined that the Black Lives Matter movement, which in recent months has swept across both America and the UK, would become a catalyst for change in our organisation.
But it did.
It sparked impassioned debate amongst our staff about our organisation’s commitment to racial equality and what we, as an organisation that recognises the inequalities that Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities face, are really doing to support them. We questioned the authenticity of our actions to date and in August, we released a statement outlining our commitment to making a greater impact in our efforts to close the gap in racial inequality.
Honouring our commitment to change
Upon releasing our statement over the summer, we made it clear that our actions needed to speak louder than our words. To this end, we have taken tangible steps to ensure that we better understand and support the Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities we seek to work with.
Acknowledging our lack of awareness around issues facing Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups across our county, the whole team will, in November, undertake race and unconscious bias training. To be delivered by the Diversity Trust, the sessions will focus specifically on how we can challenge racial bias and racism in practice and deepen our understanding of what unconscious bias is and how it manifests in daily activity and behaviour. This training signals a departure from the generic equality and diversity training we have held in the past and recognises the very real knowledge gaps we currently have.
We are also pleased that our equality and diversity steering group has been established and the first couple of sessions have taken place. One of our first outcomes was to sign off on ‘broadening the doorway of representation’ within the group and embrace the decision to invite local Black, Asian and minority ethnic leaders, to share their experiences and insight with us. Alongside the equality impact assessments, it is our hope that this group will help to hold our organisation accountable for its action or inaction over equality and diversity issues.
More to be done
Although some initial progress has been made, we recognise there is more to be done and that we have both an opportunity and a responsibility as a system leader, to take meaningful action and start to bring about change. Over the last few months, following ongoing discussions with our team, we have sharpened our priorities and gained clarity on our calls to action.
First, we must acknowledge and address our own knowledge deficits and move towards becoming an anti-racist organisation, rather than one that simply finds racism abhorrent. To this end, we are exploring steps other organisations have taken to address their shortcomings and will use this insight to design and develop our own bespoke programme of change, focusing on staff recruitment, staff benefits, rewards and recognition, assessments and promotions, meetings and social connection, and learning and personal growth.
Secondly, it has become evident, that without greater insight, our attempts to engage with Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups across the county and work with them to create new and sustainable opportunities to be physically active, will, however genuine, be short-lived. We will therefore be undertaking a mapping exercise to gather insight on our minority ethnic communities – to get to know who they are, where they live, what their goals and aspirations are and map out the challenges and barriers to participation that they face.
Thirdly, as a system leader, we are in a position to shape and influence the priorities of others in the system and recommend that the issue of racial equality remains high on their agendas. As such, we will continue to expand our strategic engagement with key stakeholders, to ensure that physical activity and commissioning physical activity for Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups is a key consideration in the planning of services.
Finally, Active Gloucestershire, as the backbone organisation for we can move, is increasingly moving into a more facilitative role, in which we support our partners to get those least active in our county, moving more. As part of this role, we have agreed to make funding available to local organisations that wish to undertake training on racial inequality and unconscious bias, so they are better positioned to improve physical opportunities for local Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.
We are only at the start of our journey and no doubt will face further challenges and many more moments of reflection and tension. However, the conviction to tackle our own shortcomings is resolute and our desire to generate real change is genuine. We are determined to build on the momentum of the past few months and look forward to sharing our progress with you.
Tom Beasley, CEO, and the Equality and Diversity steering group.
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