HQN Equality and Diversity Network: Introducing the Best Practice Group

Business People or commuters

Here, Colin Heyman, lead associate of HQN’s new Equality and Diversity Network, outlines his vision for the network’s Best Practice Group – and he wants your input…

In my first blog I talked about where I was coming from in terms of equality and diversity. In this one, I’d like to talk about how the network might develop over the coming months.

Firstly, I’d like to say that these are my thoughts, and I’d very much like to hear from members of the network about what direction you would like the network to move in – as well as hearing from non-members about things we could do that would encourage you to become part of it.

This will be part of the discussion we’ll have at the network meeting on 27 November, but if you can’t make that and have some ideas, I’d be delighted to hear from you colin@maine-stream.co.uk

In my experience, there is a balance to be gained in a network like this between expert input and supporting each other, and discussing how we can improve equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) practice in our organisations.

A lot of my experience is working with diversity champions groups, and I find that the key issue with people in those groups is not knowledge of different issues in EDI, but, rather, questions about how change can be brought about: How can I influence people? How can I challenge people in a way that is constructive and keeps the conversation going rather than closing it down?

To me, it’s important to have knowledge of different EDI issues; but, additionally, if we’re to bring about change in our organisations, those other questions are equally important.

At present, without having met you I don’t know which of those is more important to you, the members of the network. All I would say is that I’m keen to help you improve EDI practice in your organisation in whatever way I can.

Perhaps a couple of examples from one of my champions groups would help to clarify what I mean: One champion, passionate about EDI issues, wanted to raise diversity issues with the top team of the organisation. He was unsure whether the way he perceived the organisation – which was quite critical – was shared by others, nor how to go about introducing his thoughts and proposals at a meeting with the top team. He was able to get feedback on his perceptions, and clarify and focus his thoughts. But, most importantly, we helped him to get away from going in with HIS agenda, and, rather, think about how his proposals fitted in with THEIR agenda.

For me, this is one of the most important things about being a ‘change agent’, getting away from ‘how can I persuade them that I’m right?’ and to ‘how does what I want fit in with what they want?’.

My favourite example was a diversity champion, a librarian, in a local authority that had a system whereby to join your library you had to have two pieces of photographic identification, such as a driving licence. The champion realised that this was excluding immigrants and asylum seekers, amongst others, from being able to join and use the facilities. She approached the head of the library and was successful in persuading her to change the system which had been in existence for decades.

Although she saw it as a diversity issue, the diversity champion first found out key performance indicators for the head of the library. Seeing that one of these was computer use, one of the main arguments she used was to point out that immigrants and asylum seekers were some of the people least likely to have computers at home and, therefore, most likely to use the computers at the library – but that the system was stopping them getting in!

In this spirit, on 27 November I’m intending to spend some of the meeting on each aspect.

I will bring along some information and resources on transgender and non-binary issues, including the Gender Recognition Act which has recently been out for consultation. I make no claims to be an expert but have some knowledge.

We’ll also spend some of the time finding out more about each other’s work and how we can be champions and change agents in our own organisations.

Finally, I’ll be facilitating a discussion about what you want from future network meetings.

I do hope you can make the meeting – I’m really looking forward to meeting you face to face after this rather remote blogging contact!

Contact Colin at colin@maine-stream.co.uk or on 07775 575 358.

For details about the network meeting on 27 November, click here.

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