At World Vision UK, we see EDI as a learning journey for our 230 staff – it’s not just training. It’s not as simple as a step-by-step ‘how to bake a cake’ recipe. It’s really about understanding the experiences of others – especially those who are marginalised – so we set up ‘listen and learn’ forums.
In June and July 2020, we ran six sessions where the CEO and senior leadership team met with all of our Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff. Colleagues talked about things that happened outside of work as well as things that happened in work. It was an open forum where people could talk about whatever they wanted.
Listen and learn
From these listen and learn exercises, our leaders gained knowledge about the struggles people had growing up, as well as in their professional lives and within World Vision. This became the catalyst to adapt the organisation’s approach to EDI, rethinking strategy and amending action plans. It also meant that leaders needed to change their mindset, ultimately leading to a change in behaviour: with a better understanding of our people, leaders should be able to do things differently based on the information they now have.
We’ve found that open conversations are fundamental and should aim to include everybody, because people have all kinds of different experiences. The result is that barriers are being broken down.
REPORT: How to create a learning programme for equity, diversity and inclusion, written by Nathan Nalla.
World Vision’s approach to equity, diversity and inclusion features in a charity spotlight on Learning Now TV.
Leanne Long, Head of Culture and Capability, and Michelle Coates, L&D Manager, highlight that EDI isn’t just a one time conversation, but a continuous programme that needs extra awareness and attention.
People feel more empowered to approach managers, peers and even senior leaders and the CEO when they meet a challenge or personal grievance that they feel is worth pointing out. Leaders are responding to that by seeing those moments as opportunities to learn. We’ve seen a real change in the conversation, the ‘temperature’ is completely different from how it was prior to this work.
In Autumn 2020, we then introduced book circles for those who want to dig deeper into a variety of EDI topics. We put forward the book title – the circle is then facilitated by one person and consists of three meetings. The aim is to create a safe space for colleagues to discuss the content in a relaxed, informal setting. We would usually focus on business titles, for example by authors Brené Brown and Patrick Lencioni, but we introduced Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias by Pragya Agarwal. We plan to expand this to some of the more hard-hitting EDI books such as Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo Lodge.
We’ve also poached a concept called Promising Conversations from our parent organisation. These are scripted conversations on a particular topic (not necessarily EDI), designed for managers to hold with their teams. There’s no need for the managers to be experts or have any prior knowledge. They’re given a guide to support them, which includes an introduction to the topic and a script to lead the discussion. This is enough for anyone with only a little background knowledge in the subject to facilitate a meaningful conversation in a safe space. We aim to kick start our EDI promising conversations before the end of 2021 and the hope is that they’ll be ongoing.
We’ve received lots of positive feedback about our EDI learning initiatives and the work of our diversity and inclusion group, BELONG. Here’s what one of our colleagues shared with us:
“I’ve heard so many people say over the years that it’s great to work somewhere where you can take your whole self to work… it would be great if this conversation carries on and helps more people than ever to feel that”.
Jacquelyn’s top tips
- An individual’s experience should never be downplayed simply because it’s not understood. It’s important to learn from the experiences of others and ensure that they are in the room when action-based discussions are taking place and decisions are made
- Organisational leaders – not just the CEO, but directors, managers and especially line managers, etc – should get comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations
- Listen to staff across the organisation and stick to the facts, not your interpretation of them
- Make realistic action points after any discussions and a roadmap to get there. Ensure transparency throughout the process
Leanne’s top tips
- Learning about EDI is a growth journey for individuals, not something you can offer a one-off vaccination for!
- Different roles in the organisation need different levels of input and knowledge
- Focus on inclusive workplace behaviours, not trying to change (or demonise) a person’s personal views