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Luen’s blog: Supplying the oxygen we all need to thrive

George Floyd’s cries of “I can’t breathe” as he lay beneath a police officer’s knee, has become a refrain around the world, after his shocking death sparked thousands of people to take to the streets in protest. It has made us all, I think, re-evaluate our own behaviour and the impact we as individuals and organisations can have. 

It’s led to us here at Forget Me Not asking ourselves some pretty big questions. Can our staff, volunteers and trustees all breathe? Are we providing all of our team with enough oxygen to thrive? Or are some being stifled because of their race, religion, gender, sexuality, age, marital status or disability?

Does our prevailing culture support our values, or is there a gap between what we believe in and the lived experience of our teams? As an organisation that delivers care to children and families with very complex needs, from very diverse backgrounds, how good are we at ensuring equality, evaluating our work through diverse lenses and embedding inclusion in all that we do?

In welcoming our diversity as colleagues, valuing each other and treating each other fairly, we will work better together. If we have a diverse workforce that feels comfortable with and understands their different needs, families will find it easier to approach us and benefit from our services. Equally, demonstrable equality and diversity activity will help donors, funders and volunteers lend their support, and that will enable us to do more. So a spotlight on equality and diversity will contribute to improving the services we provide and how we fund them.

We can take pride in the fact that we do some things really well. Our families are very diverse and we actively work to break down barriers around access to care. Our services are personalised and shaped to meet individual needs. We recruit staff and volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds, and we are bringing people together into an “one team” culture where we respect each person’s contribution and can work for each other. This approach certainly helped us through lockdown. But is this enough?

For our team to truly achieve its potential, we must strive to foster a culture that’s inclusive, not just diverse. Diversity creates the potential for different opinions and ideas, but it’s inclusion that allows that potential to be realised. And in the current climate where funding and engagement with services remain significant issues, innovation will be key to survival. A genuine belief in and embedding of equality, diversity and inclusion will also attract and retain talent, the very talent that delivers impact and long-lasting change. Driving forward this agenda could be a game-changer.

This is our chance to seize the moment, shine a spotlight and unite as an organisation. We have started the conversation already by holding drop in sessions with staff, trustees and volunteers. We will continue to consult, including donors and families in our conversations too. We want to get to a stage where we have agreed a set of organisational beliefs that shape our equality, diversity and inclusion strategy, alongside the key actions that will get us there. Our process will be inclusive and informed by a diverse range of stakeholders. We will be fearless in driving this forward and will always work with good intention. We can’t do this overnight, but we’re ready to supply the oxygen that ensures everyone can thrive.