Why we’re making Room for Change
The problem we’re trying to tackle is a big knotty mess. Unravelling it will take lots of effort from all directions, and we want to do our part.
Here are some of the things contributing to this knotty muddle.
Many people, graduates or otherwise, who would and could make an important contribution to the social change workforce are cut off from opportunities because of basic unfairness in the job market.
There are lots of reasons for this. Right now, most internships and entry-level roles, especially in bigger charities and social change organisations are based in London and the capital is just too expensive for many people when they are starting out. So unless you have somewhere to stay already, those opportunities won’t be open to you. For example, of graduates that move to London, less than 10% come from the most deprived areas of the UK. With increasing rents in the capital pushing up living costs, low paid internships and entry-level roles are not an option for every graduate and some young people who secure an internship have to subsequently turn it down for financial reasons. People also might be put off from trying to join the social impact sector because the sector doesn’t appear to reflect them. Or, they might actually be trying to get into the sector but not being successful because many of our organisations still struggle to make our recruitment processes work for different people.
The workforce in charities and other social impact organisations still doesn’t represent everybody in our society.
It is now widely acknowledged that the workforce across charities and the wider social change sector is not a balanced reflection of the whole population. Factors affecting representation include race, age, gender, socioeconomic background, disability, sexual identity, educational background and life experience. For example, in 2018 just 3% of charity leaders reported identifying as BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) Yet while this issue is regularly acknowledged by leaders in the sector, change still isn’t happening. It is also acknowledged that social change organisations do better work when they are more diverse, for example, they are more culturally responsive, can have more empathy with the communities they serve and a better understanding of problems leading to more effective solutions but this knowledge alone isn’t changing anything. More action is needed.
An unrepresentative workforce affects our impact and sustainability as a sector.
Only one in four organisations are confident that they will be able to access the highly skilled employees they will need in the future, therefore, having a bigger talent pool to draw on is a critical way to build resilient organisations. For millennials and those coming up behind them, inclusion is associated with innovation, and a commitment to fostering diversity is something they look out for when deciding where they want to work, so taking inclusion seriously matters for future-proofing your workforce- and this is just one benefit of more diverse workplaces.
Diversity promotes innovation and diverse teams are more creative, smarter and less biased. In the social sector, leaders believe that a Board which reflects the populations served can better understand its client base and help organisations to be more flexible and adaptable as the environment they work in changes. These benefits cascade through all levels of an organisation, with diversity increasing employee satisfaction, supporting employee retention and increasing productivity because people feel better able to innovate and feel more engaged in inclusive workplaces.
There are particular benefits of diverse teams for organisations that are committed to positive social change. For example, the value that employees from backgrounds that are underrepresented in the industries they join bring through offering new insider perspectives and promoting empathy with the communities that organisations want to serve.