An update from our Chief Executive, Paul Roberts…
Consortium continues to support our membership and the wider LGBT+ sector as it works towards more equitable provision for all LGBT+ people and communities. I wanted to use this opportunity to share with our Members the work our team have been undertaking in this regard. I know we haven’t always communicated as well as we should do on the work happening ‘behind the scenes’. This is purely down to limited capacity rather than any lack of desire to do so! We will improve on this and our blog feature will continue to be one of the avenues for sharing what work is happening. I apologise in advance for the length of this blog…maybe grab a cup of tea and a cake and read it whilst chilling in a comfy chair 😊.
As an organisation, we strive to take an intersectional approach to all our operational and strategic work. This year has seen important events happening through the Black Lives Matters movement, which has brought this sharply into focus. We reaffirmed our commitment earlier on this year to ensuring our BAME/PoC member organisations, from across all the diversity of organisations that this entails, were better represented throughout all of our work and it hasn’t just been about warm words. We have been taking a deeper look at all aspects of our work, recognising that racism is systemic and institutional and we have so much more to do to be an anti-racist organisation.
Whilst the list is far from being complete, I hope members can see we have a genuine desire to provide practical leadership in this area and have put further good foundations in place. An important point in my last sentence was the issue of practical things. I have spoken with many other organisations who have said it is nice to see organisations saying good and positive things about more equitable ways of working but then struggle to take those words off the paper and turn them into long-term action-and most importantly positive change. This has been a central thread for me and the team. Reports are great and words do matter, but if we don’t actually effect change across short, medium and long term aspirations then we will continue to be part of the problem. With that in mind, I want to highlight some of the practical things we have been doing and what comes next for us:
- One of the very practical changes we put in place over the Summer was in response to the Home Truths report from Voice4Change and ACEVO. This hard hitting report uncovered some rightfully uncomfortable reading, sharing BAME people’s experiences in the charity sector. It also suggested some recommendations, one of which centres around recruitment processes, which can be found here. Consortium has done just this. Previously, we would request CVs and covering letters which would be assessed by relevant interview panels (usually 2/3 people). We understand the role unconscious bias can play in this and have overhauled how we sift. We have maximised use of our website’s abilities and created bespoke forms which allows us to use ‘chunking’ and ‘blinding’ to sift on the basis of just 3 scored questions. These all focus on critical elements of the job description and person specification. The sifters see each answer in isolation and score each answer independently, not knowing which candidate individual answers relate to. This allows sifters to make their scores based on just that answer, including the lived experience people bring to the role. We certainly haven’t perfected our recruitment systems but they are definitely better than before. We will continue to share our learning on this.
- LGBT+ Futures: Net Fund—A key element of work across Consortium during the pandemic has been income generation for our LGBT+ sector. We have been working with funders to ensure LGBT+ people and communities are visible in their funding, and worked closely with the National Emergencies Trust to secure LGBT+ specific funding. We have ringfenced 20% of the £350K of onward grants for intersectional focused work, particularly those working with BAME/PoC communities. We recognise the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on these communities and are committed to reflecting that through our funding. I am so proud that over the last 18 months we have brought over £1m of additional grant funds into the LGBT+ sector.
- Intersectional Funding Development—Last year we published our Feasibility Study into setting up an LGBT+ Fund. We are absolutely committed to making this happen, and particularly loved the exploration of more participatory grant making models so those most affected by issues are put front and centre in the decision making about those issues. With some of our members, we are currently exploring the potential of future grant funds for those working across the intersections of our LGBT+ communities and who are run by and for those communities of need. We can’t say more about this particular piece of work at the moment but rest assured we are co-producing our thinking with those members, and everyone has fingers and toes crossed!
Sector wide work
- Equity and Inclusion Working Group: The LGBT+ Leaders Network has discussed how the sector can work collectively to take more equitable approaches to its work over the last few months. As a result, a Working Group on Equity and Inclusion has formed. Whilst still emerging, a group of around 8 organisations are meeting every 2 months to explore further practical actions the sector can take, including co-production of Equitable Principles for our LGBT+ sector, and how to put those into practice. As these develop we will consult with our various specialist networks, members and wider organisations to ensure these can become a central part of how we assess work across the LGBT+ sector.
- Just a note on the LGBT+ Leaders Network. This has always taken a diverse approach to who can engage. We acknowledge those working at the intersections of our communities are more likely to be under-funded and under-resourced, and therefore less likely to have paid Chief Executives. Where this is the case, we welcome those volunteer leaders to be an equal part of the LGBT+ Leaders Network.
- Catalyst and Connector: Consortium has always used our own profile and visibility as a conduit for highlighting the work and general magnificence of our members! We recognise that amplifying the voices and visibility of our intersectional members isn’t enough and should always be the start of ensuring the diversity of our membership gets access to the people in positions of power and influence. We remain committed to acting as a catalyst and connector so members have opportunities to share their experience and expertise directly. One example of our work in this area is a new project we are co-producing with Wise Thoughts, a BAME-led LGBT+ arts charity. The Emerging with Pride project will allow BAME and Trans voices to talk about their experiences through the Covid-19 pandemic. This project forms part of the wider Emerging Futures programme at the National Lottery Community Fund, which will help to influence future strategic funding and policy direction.
- Equity discussions: Alongside the sector Equity and Inclusion Working Group, we have also set up an internal Consortium working group, arising from our regular team meetings. This small group of team representatives (we are just a team of 11 in total after all!) is meeting monthly and have created an action tracker as we review what we do well, what we don’t do so well and what we do that needs revising, in relation to equitable ways of working. We have found this system of review works well for tracking change. We have also implemented a once a month whole team discussion on a targeted intersectional issue so we have the space for reflection, conversation and additional action planning.
- Strategic Plan: we will launch our 1-year strategic plan at next month’s AGM, which will help us to navigate what we expect to be another challenging year as a result of the global pandemic. We have worked really hard to ensure intersectionality comes through every element of this new Plan and are committed to every action contained within it. We hope our members will hold us to account as we go through the next year, and we will provide regular updates on where we are achieving things well, and where more work is need to overcome any challenges along the way.
What comes next?
Clearly, there is still so much more to do for us to be as inclusive of the diversity of our communities as possible. We will remain practically focused and prioritise areas of development in line with our capacity and operational plans. These are just a flavour of what comes next for the Consortium team:
- Trustee recruitment: Our former Chair of Trustees, Helen Belcher, came to the end of her 6 year tenure just last month. Trustees are constitutionally bound to retire at the end of their 6 year term, except for extreme circumstance which require strict preparation and specific things to be in place for. Helen was a fantastic chair, but also an amazing trans advocate. With her departure the Board we now have no specific trans representation from our current 7 trustees, which we know isn’t right. Now our 3 newest trustees are settled in and better understand the work of Consortium and its members, we will work alongside our Trans Organisations Network to recruit new trustee expertise from the trans and non-binary sector. This will follow our usual open and transparent process.
- Team development: We are delighted to have received a recent grant which will allow us to recruit a part-time BAME/PoC community Engagement Officer in the New Year. Whilst this work will currently be restricted geographically we are exploring how we can boost the funding to increase the part time hours and geographical remit of this role before we commence recruitment.
- Recruitment: We will continue to refine our new systems for recruiting new team members and trustees to reduce unconscious bias, value lived experience and make more equitable decisions. We will share our learning with the LGBT+ sector and support others to put in place best practice systems.
- Partnership and Development: We have just recruited for a brand new senior role at Consortium, our Head of Partnership and Development. Starting in January, our new worker will focus their time on what is on the horizon in terms of future opportunities for collaboration, funding, and partnerships across the LGBT+ sector. The thread through all of this work will be equity and intersectionality, which will be continually assessed by myself as their line manager, and the whole staff team in terms of opportunities we pursue.
I am super proud of my team and my Board of Trustees. Whilst we remain a relatively small team, we all retain a genuine passion for seeing an LGBT+ voluntary and community sector that reflects the diversity of the communities we serve. I am equally amazed at the amazing work our members are doing each and every day. This is a strong and powerful combination which puts us in a unique position to push our sector to be leaders in equitable ways of working. There will be things we haven’t thought about that we should be doing. If something pops into your mind, please share it with us. No idea is a bad idea and we want to hear them. Get in touch with your Engagement Officer, with me or with our of our Trustees.
You made it! Well done…hope the tea didn’t go too cold, and the cake was yummy. Appreciate the time you’ve taken to digest this. It isn’t everything and plenty more to be doing—but that is why Consortium exists. For you, our members! We are nothing without you. Back to work we go 😊.