Taking action on equality and diversity
Late in 2020, having spent the summer reflecting on the murder of George Floyd and the worldwide protests that followed, I wrote that Community Housing Cymru had been complacent in addressing unconscious discrimination in the processes, culture and language of our organisation. Without making significant changes, it was clear that we could not hope to live up to our mission “to enable Welsh housing associations to be brilliant”, and we would fail if we did not fully embrace the diversity of Wales and the experiences of all those who consider this nation their home.
But reflecting on our need for organisational change meant nothing without action.
We signed Tai Pawb’s “Deeds not Words'' pledge to enable us to work alongside Tai Pawb and our members who signed the pledge, as well as those who have chosen to take a different approach. We have also signed the Zero Racism Wales zero-tolerance policy.
On top of that, we committed to devising our own strategy and action plans to reflect the needs and nature of our business as the representative body for Welsh housing associations. But we recognised that we didn’t have the necessary experience to embark on this journey alone.
Throughout 2021, we have been working with the support of some of our members to create an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. Guiding us was Professor Uzo Iwobi OBE, founder of Race Council Cymru and equalities advisor to the Welsh Government. A huge part of her support was connecting us to an external panel of equalities experts, representing various communities and protected characteristics in Wales, to provide the necessary critique and challenge to our thinking.
Alongside the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, sits a Race Equality Action Plan as a blueprint to begin to address these organisational challenges and to ultimately hold us accountable to our commitments.
Following approval by our board, we’re delighted to be able to launch the strategy and the first of our action plans focussed on race equality today. However, this doesn’t mark the end of our work, but the beginning.
There is much work to do and progress to make. While we’ve made some progress in the diversity of our board, and we hope our conference attendees and speakers will have seen our efforts to diversify our conference programmes to reflect the community we work in, there is much more to be done in our recruitment, training programme and crucially our policy and advocacy work. We need to be much more aware of the equalities impact of our policy development.
As Chief Executive, I am of course accountable to our board but also to our membership, and as an organisation we are committing to reflect on and publish our progress against the actions and targets outlined in the strategy and action plan.
The strategy isn’t the last word either - it needs to live and breathe as a document, reflecting experiences gained and lessons learnt. Publishing words on a website is easy. Driving significant change and following through on our promises is much more difficult, but it is a challenge that we will not avoid.
See our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and Race Equality Action Plan here.