Making The Cares Family a safer space for community
Posted by Alex Smith on 31st May 2021
By Natalie Alleyne
Last year, in response to the events that shook the world, The Cares Family recognised that in order to reduce loneliness and build community effectively, our work must be inclusive; safe for, informed by, created for, driven by all those who are part of it.
To start, we made a commitment to anti-racism action, determined to strengthen the safety and trust that are bedrocks of our community. We wanted all to feel equally heard, seen and held regardless of characteristics such as race, and other potential intersections such as gender, sexuality, ability etc. Following our five-week training programme, we amended some of our internal policies, procedures and processes, including in programmes, fundraising, recruitment, HR and communications to help deepen safety in The Cares Family.
To hold ourselves to account for meaningful, positive action, we paused to evaluate how we do what we do and found our teams and neighbours to have found great safety, connection, learning and joy in the community we’d built over nearly a decade – but that we also had more work to do to make our spaces equitable.
Striving for a higher standard, together
Learning to connect with and represent our communities more effectively has opened the door to a much higher standard of building connection. There is so much space to more deeply embody our values and improve our work, while nurturing the wellbeing and morale of our teams. We are exploring our culture, our communities’ needs and our capabilities and finding ways to arrive at the healthiest balance possible, with our changing society and people in mind. With invaluable feedback from colleagues, neighbours and partners, we have committed to four inclusion goals in 2021.
1. Making The Cares Family a safe space for everyone;
2. Ensuring access to and experience of our work is equitable and representative of our communities;
3. Diversifying experience in The Cares Family staff teams and board members;
4. Communicating progress and setbacks and ensuring staff and neighbours have the opportunity to offer feedback on inclusion work.
We wanted to make sure our approach to achieving these goals was just as inclusive as how they were established, if not more so – that the ‘how’ was as developmental as the ‘what’. So we have reflected on last year’s actions and identified a three-step method to achieving our goals together.
1. Radical listening – listening to all with the intent to understand gaps and challenges;
2. Establishing accountabilities – recognising and naming our responsibilities and where the power to deliver solutions lies.
3. Driving action – supporting one another to achieve solutions together.
We’re making progress
We’re making progress towards our goals. We are benchmarking the demographics of our teams and local areas to better understand who has access to and power in our work and how people from different backgrounds are experiencing that work. We have welcomed two new board members and lots of wonderful new staff colleagues; and we are still exploring exciting new ways to hire inclusively.
Teams have embedded time for discussing inclusion in staff meetings. Our senior leadership is considering how they live The Cares Family values and how they can continually seek to improve their communication and connection with our communities to make decision making more bottom up and transparent. We’ve updated our Equality, Diversity and Equity policy, added clarity to our complaints procedure, are working on a Lone Working policy and are taking an extensive look at collectively defining wellbeing at work so that it works for everyone. So much is being done collaboratively, and, reflecting our values, we are all learning and being rewarded for our bravery along the way.
Deepening safety for all
With close attention to accountability and responsibility, power, the meaning of inclusion and how we live our values equitably, teams are working to achieve our first goal – making The Cares Family a safer place for everyone – through our core programmes.
We began with phase one, listening. We listened deeply to all teams across all The Cares Family’s programmes to learn more about the barriers to safety. The feedback has been the root of meaningful action: teams have not only highlighted gaps and asked questions, but have proactively created solutions for better recruitment, more open outreach and more diverse programming.
Phase two, establishing accountability, distributed solutions across the teams through short, accessible tasks. Our Anti-Racism Action Group is the main forum for decision making, and as The Cares Family’s Inclusion Lead, I Chair that group and report to the CEO to ensure actions are taken to deepen our broader culture of inclusion.
Teams are now embarking on stage three, driving action. Led by our shared values, individuals volunteered to complete tasks, alone or in pairs, taking responsibility for embedding measures of protection and prevention against racism, and nurturing the elements of a more inclusive culture. We plan to fully implement these changes by the end of June 2021.
As our anti-racism work continues, our communities have expressed interest in deepening our inclusion work in other ways too.
So we are now beginning to look at ways to help older and younger LGBTQIA+ people feel more welcome; at ways to better tackle the digital divide that prevents people who are less mobile from connecting with community to get involved; and at new, ambitious methods for building bonds between people born in different times, who have experienced different lives and cultures and may hold different attitudes, to share time, space and relationships.
That’s how, even in an era of disconnection and change, we will build a more connected future.