Equality, diversity, inclusion
Although some voluntary or community organisations specialise in promoting one or more of the values of equality, diversity, inclusion and good relations, all such organisations are expected to respect and promote these core values. The outworking of these values should be demonstrated by the management committee adopting appropriate policies on equality, diversity, inclusion and good relations. For smaller organisations this may be all together in one policy, in larger organisations it may by more effectively outlined in several different policies.
In relation to the management committee these values mean ensuring the membership of the committee reflects the diversity of the community(ies) within which it operates in terms, particularly, of gender, age, sexuality, disability, political/religious background, race/nationality. This doesn’t mean a tick-box approach to recruitment but communicating and engaging in such a way to encourage people from diverse backgrounds to be prepared to consider membership of the committee. Only recruiting new committee members by identifying people who are already well known to existing committee members may not, on its own, sufficiently widen the diversity of board membership.
It also means ensuring discussions at board meetings acknowledge that diversity and avoid expressing bias or prejudice.
The appointment/election of office-bearers should also take into account the need to ensure diversity.
In relation to staff, these values should be reflected in an equal opportunities policy with ensures that all appointments are made purely on merit and no staff members, or candidates for posts (including promotion) are discriminated against unfairly on the grounds of gender, age, sexuality, disability, political/religious background, race/nationality. The potential to undertake training or other learning opportunities should also be available fairly and not affected by bias or discrimination.
Organisations should also have a policy which explicitly prevents staff members or volunteers being bullied or harassed because of their gender, age, sexuality, disability, political/religious background, race/nationality.
In relation to the services an organisation provides, every effort should be made to promote equality of opportunity amongst potential beneficiaries. Many groups in society face particular challenges including barriers to participating in and/or accessing the services of community and voluntary organisations. To increase accessibility, organisations need to consider ways of reducing these barriers. The kinds of actions that some organisations are taking include (in no particular order):
- Producing leaflets, website content, etc in different languages
- Providing interpreters
- Training staff in sign language
- Training staff in disability awareness
- Training staff in unconscious bias
- Improving the internal and external physical accessibility of premises
- Providing activities that are appropriate for particular groups (e.g. relaxed performances for people on the autism spectrum)
- Building relationships with ethnic minority groups and organisations
- Training staff to respond appropriately to jam cards
- Develop a policy on mental health
- Setting up a ‘diversity and inclusion’ staff working group
For detailed information in relation to an organisation’s responsibilities in terms of disability click here.
For information on an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion audit, click here.
For a sample Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy, click here.
Good Relations is “The growth of relationships and structures for Northern Ireland that acknowledge the religious, political and racial context of this society, and that seek to promote respect, equity and trust, and embrace diversity in all its forms.” Equality Commission for NI. It is broader than what used to be defined as community relations which had a more narrow focus on communities with different political and religious identities i.e. Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist and Catholic/Nationalist/Republican. Good relations includes the above but also refers to the need to support the integration of all kinds of communities in Northern Ireland. In addition to insuring fairness and equality between individuals, good relations requires organisations to promote dialogue, understanding and reconciliation between different groups and actively tackling racism and sectarianism.