February 7, 2022

The more we explore, the more we realise we have to learn.

by Pippa Coutts, Anna Grant, and Aideen McGinley, Carnegie UK

For an organisation over 100 years old, culture change is not new. Despite this, our recent strategy review highlighted areas of our practice that we haven’t given sufficient thought to.

Over the past two years, we have acknowledged the need to reorientate our organisational culture to promote equity and inclusion. To review our starting point, we ran the Association of Charitable Foundations Diversity, Equity and Inclusion survey with the trustees and staff team, in December 2021.

The findings suggest that we are out of the starting blocks, but with a long road ahead. We have started to create dedicated time and spaces and begun work on a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programme to support reflection and action. Running the survey warned us about the risk of hiding this work in a programme silo, as colleagues outside the core team weren’t clear what we are doing to advance DEI. At the same time, it flagged that there was a real divergence of opinion about how much progress we each believe that our organisation has already made in embedding a range of related actions. Interestingly – and maybe unsurprisingly – the more people already knew about this field of work, the further they believed we still had to travel.

We need to listen hard, be open to learning, and sign up wholeheartedly to the conversations we need to have if we are to arrive at a shared understanding of what each of the three words – diversity, equity and inclusion – truly imply for us. We are all alert to the risk of simply scratching the surface and failing to engage with the depth of the challenges posed by this work, before moving on to the next thing that comes along.

To help with that deep exploration, we have a learning partnership with Rivers Coaching, to support us towards “liberation”, where we become more open to everyone’s needs.[1]

We are looking forward to navigating the maze that lies ahead. It feels both exciting and scary at the same time; perhaps the best possible combination of factors to ensure that we truly understand where we are and where we need to be, and are able to make the culture and practice changes required.

We have written up and published our learning from the ACF survey, and you can read about it and more staff and board reflections here. 

[1] Rivers see liberation as being “all people having everything they need, including healing, joy and the space to imagine”.