This article is the result of conversations Oxfordshire social sector CEOs and leaders are having about equity, diversity and inclusion. We have taken a long hard look at ourselves, our organisations, our sector, and the responsibility we have as leaders to address systemic exclusion.

A group of leaders from the Oxfordshire social sector are developing plans and will review our progress against our ambitions. If we don’t succeed, we will reflect on why and what we can learn.

Racial justice has come up as a persistent theme but also other aspects of discrimination and exclusion – along with a collective commitment to change. We are determined to understand the everyday impact of structural racism and discrimination, and how we can get better at disrupting the status quo. We all need to use our privilege to work for justice and demonstrate how to be a strong ally.

Allyship is about using our personal and positional privilege to amplify others’ voices. It is about asking who is sat at the table, who isn’t, why not and how we get them there. We want to make sure the voices of people with a wide range of lived experiences are heard.  We already do this to some degree – e.g. through our support of the Lived Experience Advisory Forum as part of Oxfordshire Homeless Movement – but we want OCF, and our partners, to do this more systematically and effectively.

We are reflecting on how to be conscious and intentional in our actions, and how we walk the walk in everything we do, how we make sure our desire for justice is embedded in our organisations and how we can influence change wherever we can.

We are all taking active steps to ensure that our organisations – Board, exec team, staff, and volunteers – are more diverse and representative, in terms of ethnicity, but also age, socio-economic and professional backgrounds and more.

On a personal level, I have reflected with my peers on how we have the power to give opportunity to others – particularly those with lived experience – to speak. Giving people the opportunity to be heard means they will influence outcomes, as well as develop personally and strengthen their careers.

This led us to think about the small but nonetheless significant steps we can take to influence change.

As a result, along with other leaders from the social sector, I am committing to:

  • Be part of groups and committees that are actively inclusive, and if they are not, to ask who isn’t involved, who should be and how we can get them there
  • Making sure a wide range of voices and lived experiences of the issues we are tackling are heard in our own events and those we participate in
  • Ensuring our communications, publications and other media include an array of voices and experiences to truly reflect Oxfordshire in all its diversity.

I am also:

  • Encouraging others around me to make these commitments
  • Making this an organisation-wide approach whereby we encourage everyone to do the same
  • Talking to other event organisers about amplifying diverse voices
  • Thinking about any barriers – financial or otherwise – to attendance at events
  • Considering subsidies and other mechanisms that enable people from diverse communities to participate.

I am naming and owning my commitment to create space for more voices to be heard. Please join us, as the more of us that make these commitments, the faster we will make change.

There is no badge, no club to join, no fee to pay; just an ask, to do all you can to ensure diverse voices and lived experiences are heard.

A version of this statement is being published on multiple organisational and individual channels, and we would like to encourage anyone who wants to join us in these commitments to use and adapt the text and publish your own version on your own channels.

With thanks to Poppy Jaman for the inspiration from her statement here.