Deepening trust and safety for all
Posted by Alex Smith on 7th December 2020
In summer 2020, The Cares Family made a commitment to anti-racism action, with the intention of addressing loneliness and isolation inclusively. While we expect this journey to be as long as it will be fruitful, in just six short months we have made progress which is making a difference to our programmes, our culture and how older and younger neighbours interact in our communities.
Beginning in July, I led all team members across The Cares Family through a five week programme intended to 're-culture' – to support teams to view their roles and environment in a light that sustains the organisation’s commitment to anti-racism action.
The teams bravely engaged in open conversations on marginalisation, identity, justice and accountability, and continued to rise to the responsibility of learning how to apply their reshaped outlook in practice. Since training ended, the team has continued to propel anti-racist action by contributing ideas to anti-racism strategy as well as implementing changes with enthusiasm. In October, nine new starters joined the organisation who have also seamlessly embedded into the newly founded culture, led by the open attitudes of their colleagues.
The Cares Family teams have made fundamental progress towards their commitment. They are now working towards their mission more completely, understanding how to respond to the dynamics of power and identity in relation to their work and working environments.
The Cares Family have embraced anti-racism as integral to their community by embedding it into their ethics. Their five values now interpret racial and cultural inclusion in the following light:
- Kindness: we recognise that it is kind to call in racism as we see it occur.
- Community: we listen closely to our local communities to meet, represent and be inclusive of them.
- Trust: we communicate racial justice openly and in the spirit of kindness, building trust within our community.
- Bravery: we bravely share our mistakes in the advancement of accountability and collective learning.
- Learning: we strive to continue our own anti-racism learning as well as share our learning with our networks.
The Cares Family recognises that to counter loneliness and isolation in line with our anti-racism commitment, we must engage our communities inclusively. This means listening closely to older and younger neighbours and sharing with them the space to be heard, seen and to also lead. As a result, the charities are better responding to marginalised groups within their communities and social clubs are authentically diversifying. Recent social clubs include:
- An intergenerational 'difficult conversations' workshop with Hope Not Hate
- A Layers of London map exploration of the Windrush Generation
- Black History Month Awareness Workshops
- A Mandela Day phone-in club
- A cooking club with Diaspo exploring heritage recipes
- An Introduction to Mongolia, led by a younger neighbour
- A Taste of Sri Lanka, led by older neighbour
- An Indigenous film screening
- The Cares Family Carnival Disco
- A European Day of Languages social club
- A Congolese Dance social club
- A Songs for Freedom social club
- A Dance through Time social club
- A London Black History Landmarks social club
- A Dia de los Muertos social club
- Two Barack Obama book clubs exploring race and identity
The new variety of social clubs has had a positive impact. In the spirit of togetherness, neighbours are openly and kindly engaging in conversations on race and culture that previously may have felt challenging or uncomfortable. These invaluable conversations are honest opportunities for neighbours to better relate to one another, to recognise how our communities benefit from being rich and multifaceted – further closing cultural and attitudinal divides in line with The Cares Family's core objectives.
Safe, inclusive environments
It is important to The Cares Family to create safe environments. So, while Social Clubs coordinators are encouraging representation, open conversation and learning opportunities within the diversifying clubs, they are also creating and maintaining safe environments with the introduction of The Cares Family housekeeping statement. The statement acts to remind older and younger neighbours to be thoughtful about their conduct and language, so as to remain inclusive:
"The Cares Family value safety and inclusivity for all, and therefore we have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind — race, class, sexuality, gender, ability, religion or belief etc. Any such behaviour will be addressed, possibly resulting in a ban. If you witness or are made uncomfortable by such behaviour, I encourage you to let me know publicly or privately."
Older and younger neighbours are also now feeding into new procedures, helping to reshape our programmes as we progress. Neighbours have been sharing insight on the digestibility and impact of a working anti-racism guide, intended for any neighbour across the network who may benefit from the support of learning materials; including neighbours who may have unintentionally caused offence and have since committed to learning.
Experiencing Racism Policy
The Cares Family's Anti-Racism Action Group fed into the rendering of a new policy, Experiencing Racism: Recognise, Report, Resolve, Record. The policy is designed to protect and support neighbours and staff members alike in the face of racism.
Analysing anonymised incidents of racism shared by team members, we created a policy that includes often overlooked subtle, micro-aggressive racism. This form of racism was reported by team members to be very mentally draining and the most frequent form of racism both experienced and witnessed. The all team anti-racism training programme set a solid foundation for the whole organisation – trustees included – to understand how The Cares Family defines micro-aggression, and therefore to implement the policy to better enable accountability, progress, protection and justice.
Every step of The Cares Family’s journey towards becoming an anti-racist organisation offers learning and rewards that will be felt long into the future. Teams already describe feeling safer, with greater trust in each other, including senior leadership. Despite unavoidable separations during Covid-19, teams have expressed how working towards the anti-racism commitment has increased communication between the charities, offering valuable peer learning, strengthening bonds and improving procedural uniformity.
It is a pleasure to see confidence, morale and creativity infusing the network. We will use this positive momentum to drive us to accomplish our 2021 anti-racism goals, which include further safeguarding against racism across programmes, building more inclusive communications, and improving recruitment processes.
We look towards the new year with excitement!