April 14th, 2021

How can we prove the value of equity, diversity & inclusion in our organisations?

At Good Innovation we have been making changes to our own organisation because we know diversity leads to more and better innovation for the sector and better outcomes for the causes we support. So, we have committed to using our innovation and design expertise, our platform and our network to support the sector in making a lasting change.

Last week we held our second Designing for Equity Roundtable. We brought sector EDI leaders (some old faces, some new) together to connect, collaborate and support each other in driving change to encourage cross-organisational learning so we can build more equitable and inclusive organisations. 

We were delighted to have representatives from across the sector: Crisis, British Heart Foundation, Barnardo’s, MND Association, Independent Age, National Trust, CLIC Sargent, RNIB, Macmillan, The Children’s Society, Plan UK, ClementJames Centre, and Two Ridings Community Foundation. 

Last time we discussed challenges and shared our individual ambitions for our organisations and the sector as a whole. This time, we focused on solutions. We used the varying expertise and perspectives in the (virtual) room to share learnings, celebrate successes, co-create solutions, and ultimately keep the momentum going. 

Out of the group’s prioritised challenges, we focused on Proving the value of EDI in your organisation as the first of many challenges we’ll tackle within the series. 

We started the session hearing from Nagina Kayani (Head of EDI at Barnardo’s) and Sarah Farquhar (Director of People & Organisational Development at Crisis), who opened up about their perspective on the challenge and what actions they’ve taken in their organisations. The resounding message was that EDI starts with a plan: the notion that it’s not just an afterthought, but a necessary part of making third sector organisations a welcoming place. But EDI becomes a reality through continued conversations and commitment among company leaders.  

Our key takeaways from the conversation: 

Proving the value of EDI is one of the hardest things to overcome internally: this happens when underrepresented employee voices are drowned out by the majority of the voices who don’t recognise or understand the problems with imbalances in privilege and power. 

Using business cases doesn’t work: Many used to have the mindset that change must be driven by building business cases to prove it’s value. The sector is moving away from this approach as quantifying the value of EDI is itself reductive. 

Moving away from the bottom line? There was a general consensus around the need to move away from proving the impact on the bottom line and towards values driven behaviours to drive impact. But to make a change within the convoluted system that exists - proving the value to the bottom line can be very effective. 

Lockdown facilitates comfort: Lockdown has made people feel safer to have difficult conversations which they may not feel as comfortable having in person. We need to think about how we retain that level of comfort for people. 

Everyone’s responsibility: An authentic voice and a real change will come when it’s seen as ‘everyone’s responsibility’ - including leadership. If employees see this as a key agenda for the Exec team, more employees will actively engage. 

Sort your own house out first: Some talked about focusing internally before you think about equity in your service delivery model. It’s important to move away from the notion of bad press and moral arguments; it’s about providing staff with a welcoming place to work. 

“In our sector people give a lot, personally and emotionally, and not for much money. If we take care of our staff first they’ll know that they can model that for their service users and replicate it for them. They need to understand that they’re cared about first.”

Invest in it: It’s important that EDI leaders are given resources to deliver their objectives. Without this, it’s hard to make a change. 
Welcome everyone to get involved: The reality is that these conversations can be hard - using more conciliatory language rather than combative language can be less alienating and makes it much easier to have difficult conversations. 

Ideas, solutions, iterating tried and testing methods:

Equality impact assessments are integral to highlighting where there’s been oversight. 

Speaking their language - It isn't about building a business case and data sets, but being able to speak the team or individual's language to showcase the impact of EDI on their objectives, goals, impact, etc. For instance, it’s important to think about how it impacts different functions, teams and directorates, such as services vs. fundraising vs. other departments. 

Evidence over platitudes to demonstrate impact and avoid staff fatigue around a lack of change. This can be done by measuring and tracking the impact of initiatives e.g. staff / volunteer / service user diversity data. This also helps to identify where the biggest change can be achieved. 

Unconscious bias training isn’t the answer - by removing names and education from CVs means more diverse groups are getting to interview stages, but there is a significant drop off of people actually securing those roles. You have to review the end-end process where bias could play a role, rather than just one element of the process. We need to embed what we have learned and actually take action throughout the interview and recruitment process. It needs to be more than a box-checking exercise. Organisations have to put in the work upfront during the hiring and recruiting processes to ensure more diversity down the line. 

Holding people accountable at all levels from CEO down to junior staff using EDI objectives, risk registers, checklists, objectives and regular catch-ups means you can report, track and identify the weakest areas in the organisation. 

Creating staff networks so people have ownership and you have representatives driving the equity agenda and holding each other accountable in every conversation or meeting - equipping people to have these conversations in their day jobs is important. 

HR Dashboards & Data to showcase the workforce breakdown sent to team managers and directors so they can identify trends in new-starters and leavers. 

We look forward to hearing about how people will take these back to their organisations, and we’ll be going on the same journey and thinking about how we implement these lessons at GI. We won’t fix everything at once, but we can learn from each other’s successes and lessons, and use design thinking to continue to build solutions together. 

If you are interested in attending our future Designing for Equity Round Tables, please get in touch - DFE@Goodinnovation.co.uk. We look forward to bringing more people into the conversation and collaborating together to create a more equitable sector.