Black Lives Matter is making us rethink our approach to Equality.
Most organisations have management steering groups to monitor their
equality strategies and action plans. But the agendas lack passion,
fail to inspire and reflect the slow bureaucratic approach to change.
Moreover, the groups tend to comprise of managers nominated as
representatives of their departments rather than due to their passion
for the cause.
Undoubtedly, these groups are set up with the best intentions,
but they are not necessarily the best way to champion race equality.
There is another way forward one that is more dynamic, exciting
and potentially more effective. Follow the example of one large
organisation I worked in and abolished the equality and diversity
steering group or its equivalent. If it’s anything like most such
groups the effort being put into persuading people to attend meetings
isn’t justified by the outcomes. No doubt those selected by their area
of the business to attend were nominated by their line manager due to
their availability rather than interest and are only too eager to have
a diary clash. The result is all to often a meeting made up of
unwilling substitutes. What's important is to identify and support
people who wanted to champion equality, people at whatever level in
the organisation, who have a particular interest in equality and are
prepared to put in time and energy to promote it.
The next radical step is for these champions to be focused on race
as opposed to the wider equality agenda. It may appear to be a neat
organisational solution to have one equality group that looks at the
issues with regards to race, gender, disability, faith, sexuality and
age and certainly there are issues in common but the breadth of the
agenda saps the energy and people who want to be race equality
champions don’t necessary want to divert their time and energy into
The aim is to encourage and support champions enthusiasm,
commitment, passion and willingness to speak up.
The next step is for the champions group to change it’s format and
become a virtual group. Instead of a group that meets monthly it
becomes one that doesn’t meet at all.There are two advantages to this.
One, people who identified themselves as champions do not like the
idea of attending meetings any more than any one else. Secondly a
virtual group has no limit to its membership. These two
characteristics fitted well with the idea that anyone within the
organisation, at any level, could be a champion. The only criteria is
a willingness to actively engage.
In this organisation the Champions did decide that their was some
value in meeting face to face and so an annual champions conference
was organised supplemented by two workshops a year. One of the
directors was a champion and ensured the group had status within the
organisation, linked with more traditional equality groups and
maintained the list of champions.
The virtual champions group became more influential as it numbers
grew being seen as a sounding board for proposals to improve the
recruitment process, increase service take up by BAME groups and creat
a more positive perception of the organisation.
As organisations grapple with how best to respond to Black Lives
Matter the idea of a virtual group of race equality champions could be
the difference that puts your organisation into a different league,
the champions league
Blair McPherson former Director and author of An Elephant in the
Room published by www.russellhouse.co.uk