Amanda Ariss, chief executive of the Equality and Diversity Forum, argues that the third sector is failing to take the lead in promoting equality and human rights issues
Last month I chaired a conference at which the equality manager for a large police force argued that private companies are often better than public bodies at achieving the benefits of good equality practice.
Whether or not you agree with her claim, would you feel able to argue with confidence that this is a topic on which the voluntary sector is leading the way? I’m not sure I would. And as the leader of a network of organisations committed to advancing equality and protecting human rights, that concerns me. I want others to be able to look to our sector for the best practice in equality and human rights.
Equality and human rights matter to our sector because, whether we’re large organisations or small community groups, all of us work to support and empower the most disadvantaged people in our society. Getting it right on equality and human rights is essential if we’re to live out our values in everything we do.
But getting it right on equality and human rights is also essential if we’re to succeed in the face of huge challenges.
Today we have to be more innovative, creative, productive and resourceful than ever. We need to build on what we do well and identify where we can do things better. We need to reach diverse audiences and motivate talented staff and volunteers. We need to ensure that the people we work with are there right beside us, every step of the way. And we need to meet the standards expected by commissioners, regulators and the law.
Getting it right on equality and human rights is essential if we’re to live out our values in everything we do
These are tough challenges but good equality and human rights practice can help with every single one of them. Many people in the sector know this all too well but struggle to build good practice systematically when their organisations face so many other pressing issues. That's why a group of voluntary organisations has developed a new Equality and Human Rights Framework launched in Glasgow recently.
The framework is a free online tool that can help your organisation to further develop your commitment to the values of equality and human rights. It is a flexible, user-friendly way for your organisation to assess your performance and to make further progress. Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sectorand the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights worked with us to get together a draft framework, which was then successfully piloted across Great Britain, including with six organisations in Scotland.
Designed in an easy-to-use modular format, the Equality and Human Rights Framework contains resources, guidance, case studies and information designed by the voluntary sector for the voluntary sector. It covers: getting started, involving people, providing services, employing people, working with volunteers, campaigning, advocacy and policy work, and funding and finance.
It’s not a magic wand but the framework can help your organisation to understand how using an equality and human rights-based approach can support you in improving your performance and sustainability. It offers an effective approach to reviewing what you’re already doing, identifying new ideas and initiatives, and planning what you want to achieve next.
Amanda Ariss is chief executive of the Equality and Diversity Forum.