Cultural Incompetence is alive and kicking!

In this climate of equalities diversity and inclusion (EDI) have you considered how fit for purpose you or your organisation is equipped to deal with an increasingly small world where many communities are global not just local?

E&D word collage

Now many organisation are compelled to tick the EDI box to secure funding requirements, maybe attract new clients or just straightforward avoiding a law suit! Yep in 2017 there is still a need to test commitments to the equalities agenda!

I did some work for an organisation recently – it was to develop work with diverse communities, having been a very white middle class organisation since its birth nearly 10 years ago.  They had managed to get funding for a Caribbean group and on the back of that secured further funding to roll out their service to diverse communities across the South West and Wales. Fair enough – you gotta start somewhere!

So the work began with African, Chinese, Caribbean and Asian communities and there was much learning along the way: Consideration to cultural issues, norms and values in these communities and needing to know them so as to not make cultural faux pas. There were also language issues, gender issues and religious considerations. It even affected how each of these groups engaged in the service and it took a while to create resources that were fit for THEIR purpose and enjoyment.

E&D Faces

As time went on, the opportunities to test commitment to EDI presented them self.  First as a staff training opportunity for over 40 staff working nationals for the organisation.  A suggestion was made to have a specific training session on EDI to look at the learning the organisation has gained from working with these groups. The offer was declined in favour of medical and academics experts who were going to offer their knowledge on the client group. Instead I would be offered a 15 minute slot amongst regional updates to talk about a year’s work!  In the end it ran over and I was not able to do my brief presentation and the subject was not raised again.

Fast forward to an opportunity to go to the House of Commons  and an opportunity to select a broad rang e of clients reflective of who the organisation works with.  I was not involved in the planning of the trip or selecting any of the coach load who were to attend. Being the only person who works with anyone not white in the organisation – I was not asked. Afterwards, I was shown pictures of the delegation. You know what’s coming! Yep! Not one person from any of the diverse communities.  So….. I thought I’d raise it during a rare one to one moment.  I was told point blank it was NOT necessary for any of them to be Black! Stunned – I finished the conversation and concluded that perhaps there was no money in it – It was not necessary to involve them and therefore the score for commitment to true inclusion was nil point (said in a French accent).

This organisation has its base in an area where anyone who is not white is seldom seen. It does not even have any token policies about equalities. Its CEO in the years I have been around the organisation has never mentioned anything of the sort! It is still using venues not suited to disability access  and works on a who you know basis rather that what is needed basis. The organisation is small and so unlikely to be outed for the appalling attitude to equalities. It’s sad to know this probably does not concern them as long as they can do enough on paper to get the money coming in!

Question-mark with thinker

So how can you sincerely take EDI forward? Here are a few tips:

  • Engage a consultant to help you get a fresh look at the culture of your organisation
  • Provide opportunities for your (and your staff team’s) own knowledge understanding, commitment and resistance to issues to be put under scrutiny
  • Understand that legislation alone cannot change attitudes – nor can just merely learning about the issues faced by others – it is ultimately your innate humanity and sense of self that compels you to act/inaction.  So the success of your EDI strategy, plans and reports lies with you understanding what has shaped you – not others!