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James Watson-O’Neill: Welcome to my third blog post. This is a series where I share news about our progress with equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at SignHealth. I am hoping to establish a space where we can sit together, in the mud, and share what it’s like to do this difficult work together.

Engaging with the wider charity sector

As well as focusing on our work at SignHealth, I also try to take part in what is going on across the rest of the charity sector. I am lucky to be a member of the Civil Society Group (CSG). This is a relatively new group of charities that work together to improve the sector. Most of the charities involved in the Civil Society Group are infrastructure charities or membership bodies. For several years I have been co-chairing a working group focused on making progress in the sector with anti-racism.

Last year we completed a big project with support from New Ways on what anti-racism looks like in the sector, particularly among infrastructure organisations, and what actions we can all take to improve things. The report is called From good intentions to impact – supercharging race equity in the charity sector. I am really proud of this work and of the progress that is being made by lots of people.

My co-chair for this working group is Woosh Raza. He is Director of People, Culture and Inclusion at the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) which is an infrastructure organisation that supports the whole charity sector.

Woosh and I have started to broaden out the focus of our working group. We want to more actively consider other protected characteristics, and their intersections, as well as actively continuing our work on anti-racism. A few weeks ago we met with members of the working group to start to talk about this. We are going to be aligning our work to some of the well-known awareness days or months across the year. This will help focus our conversations, for example, on LGBTQ+ inclusion during Pride month in the summer.

Where to focus efforts?

This is often a tricky part of the conversation with EDI. Do you focus on one protected characteristic or do you try to do everything at once? Or just focus on some that feel very key to what your organisation does? I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, but I am learning how important it is to remember that we’re talking about people. This is not just a list of categories. Some of us have one or more protected characteristics as identified in the Equality Act, but few of us are just about one thing.

We had a very helpful training session for members of the Civil Society Group last year on trans people’s rights and understanding the law better. This was organised by one of the CSG member organisations, Consortium, and the training was delivered by trans people. The training went down really well with CSG members. It was a good reminder that people are interested in learning more, particularly from people who are experts and who have lived experience themselves. This training was a one off and I worried a bit about whether it would make sense with the other work we were doing. In the end that didn’t matter at all. People appreciated the chance to come together and learn.

deaf together

At SignHealth, we are working hard to achieve health equity for deaf people but we know we can’t do that on our own. We also know that deaf people aren’t just deaf. We are also people from the global majority, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people of faith or no faith, old and young and more. Last year we launched our new deaf together campaign because we want to try to help us all work together more on deaf equity in all aspects of our lives, not just healthcare.

We know that good health is about every aspect of our lives – education, employment, housing and many other things. We want to try to find a way for us all to work together more closely so that we can see the combined impact of what we are doing and, together, achieve equity. If you are interested in finding out more you can sign up to be part of the campaign here. Come and join us!

We don’t expect it to happen quickly. We are sitting in the mud with this too – listening to people’s reactions to the campaign and thinking about what to do next.

As ever, if you have any comments or questions about what I’ve talked about here please do get in touch.

Email communications@signhealth.org.uk

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