Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion journey

Bruce McCombie
18 March 2021

As a charity founded to support charities in their efforts to help more people, we share the common goal of tackling social disadvantage in all its guises. As a community of purpose, we strive to create ripples of positive impact every day.

The murder of George Floyd in May 2020, and the worldwide protests which followed, sparked a sense of emergency. The sheer scale of protest marked a turning point in the fight for racial equality. This moment matters, and as Interim Chief Executive at the time, I wanted to ensure we responded in a meaningful way.

'The Journey is On' neon sign

We needed to create a space for staff and trustees to explore why this moment matters and the action we will take. On #blackouttuesday, Pilotlight embarked on a new journey. I asked both staff and trustees a simple yet challenging question: what can we do to show solidarity and take positive action?

Did we think Pilotlight had done enough in the past? No. Did we, as staff and trustees, share a genuine desire to do more? Yes. Racism and prejudice have no place in society or Pilotlight. Through the charities we work with, we could already begin to see that the pandemic was disproportionately affecting those who were already disadvantaged, and this turning point ignited our passion for change. At the same time, we did not want to rush in, pay lip service or just tick a few boxes.

We needed to invest time to recognise and commit to overturning the intersectional dimensions of powerlessness and discrimination of those who are minoritised and under-represented. We needed to approach this with real sensitivity, build a shared understanding and set clear objectives. And so, I’m pleased to share today Pilotlight’s commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

To get to clarity and commitment, we first had to throw the metaphorical pebble into the pond and see what ripples appeared. We established a working group of staff and trustees. The aim was to develop an action plan to set out our commitment to improving and influencing greater diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In the shorter term, we would focus on the positive steps we could take to champion these values within Pilotlight before inspiring and collaborating for change with our partners.

We surveyed our staff for their ideas, looked outside for inspiration, and scoped diversity and inclusion training providers. We also commissioned research to surface and explore the needs of charities led by, for and with minority's communities. Towards the end of 2020, we published an update on the various actions we had already taken.

Why equity (not equality)?

Diversity Equity and Inclusion explainer

Equality and equity refer to similar but different concepts. Whereas equality typically refers to a concern for equal opportunity to ensure everyone gets the same levels of support, equity goes a step further and is about fairness.

We felt equity more accurately described our intentions of positive action. The use of equity encapsulates access to opportunities whilst also working towards recognising and undoing the systemic barriers, which may limit the potential of diverse individuals. As described by Fancy Sinantha, author of the Learning and Listening for Mutual Action report mentioned above, equity is “the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people”.

Setting our objectives – the journey ahead

From the outset, we wanted to continue to foster our culture and to ensure a sense of belonging at Pilotlight for all our staff and trustees. To build our understanding and commitment, we asked The Other Box to help us develop a structured programme of learning and development for all staff and trustees. We also committed to embedding a DEI perspective within all of our practices and procedures, removing barriers and amplifying voices. As a first step, we became a committed member of Inclusive Employers to access expertise and resources.

In late 2020, supported by BAME Recruitment, we welcomed three new trustees to our board, each bringing a wealth of skills and a deep commitment to helping Pilotlight address disadvantage. We understand that DEI is good governance, as was well summarised by Pari Dhillon’s blog on the updated Charity Governance Code.

Next week, we will be launching an exciting new initiative focused on enabling a more diverse range of individuals to become Pilotlighters. We have designed this initiative to bring more under-represented voices to the table, enriching our community of purpose and positively impacting our ability to help charities help people most effectively.

I’m also pleased to say that 'Confident Inclusion' will feature as a key enabler of Pilotlight’s new 10-year strategy due to be launched later this year. It will involve action to:

  • orientate our work around diverse and inclusive leadership,
  • champion inclusive ways for people with skills and varied experiences to use these to support charities.

To achieve this, we will:

  • focus on understanding and surfacing the needs of charities led by, for and with minoritised groups,
  • work collaboratively towards meeting those needs.

Although eager to get going, we understand that creating a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Pilotlight takes time. We will continue to have challenging conversations and remain transparent in sharing our progress. I’m excited by this. There is more to come and we are ready for the journey ahead.