Oxfordshire’s Voluntary and Community Sector have had many conversations over the last year about equality, diversity, and inclusion. Along with other organisations, Community First Oxfordshire has taken a long hard look at ourselves and our sector and the power and responsibility we have to address systemic exclusion.
Racial justice has come up as a persistent theme but also other aspects of discrimination and exclusion – along with a collective commitment to change.
CFO is a community development charity, our values and practice are rooted in human rights, social justice, and respect for diversity. However, we know we can do better – we are determined to understand the everyday impact of structural racism and discrimination, and how we can get better at disrupting the status quo, using our power and privilege for justice and demonstrating strong allyship.
Allyship is about using our personal and positional power and privilege to amplify voices. It is about asking who is sat at the table, who isn’t, why not and how do we get them there, as well as making sure the voices of people with a wide range of lived experiences are heard.
CFO has reflected on how to be conscious and intentional in our actions, and how we walk the walk in everything we do, how we make sure our desire for justice is embedded in our organisation and how we can influence change wherever we can. We have developed an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan to hold ourselves accountable to our values and allow for an ongoing appraisal of how they can be better embedded in CFO’s community work and working practices.
On a personal level, we have reflected with our peers on the power we hold and the opportunities we have to use that power to give opportunity to others – particularly those with lived experience – to speak. Those with the opportunity to be heard get to influence outcomes, as well as develop personally and strengthen their careers.
This led us to think about the small but nonetheless significant steps we can take to influence change. As a result, along with other leaders from the Oxfordshire Voluntary and Community Sector, we are committing to:
- Be part of groups and committees that are actively inclusive, and to ask ourselves the question who isn’t at the table, who should be and how can we get them there?
- Always be asking ourselves, our teams and other organisers if we are making sure a wide range of voices and lived experiences are heard in our own events and those we participate in
- Work to ensure that our communications, publications and other media include a diverse array of voices and experiences to truly reflect Oxfordshire in all its diversity.
We are also:
- Encouraging others around us to make these commitments
- Making this an organisation-wide approach whereby we encourage everyone to do the same.
- Talking to event organisers about amplifying diverse voices.
- Encouraging thinking about any barriers – financial or otherwise – to attendance at their events and consider subsidies and other mechanisms that enable people from diverse communities to participate.
In making these commitments public, we are naming and owning the power we hold to create space for more voices to be heard, and to influence. And the more of us that make these commitments the faster we will make change.
Our group of leaders from the Oxfordshire Voluntary and Community Sector are developing plans and will review our progress against our ambitions. When we don’t succeed, we will reflect on why and what we can learn – please join us in committing to do all you can to ensure diverse voices and lived experiences are heard.
Emily Lewis-Edwards and Tom McCulloch – joint-CEOs, Community First Oxfordshire