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Black-led organisations aiming to serve their communities often face the problem of providing impactful services on a very tight budget. In our research, having engaged with over 500 Black-led social enterprises and charities, we found the primary sources of funding are personal savings and personal income from employment with almost 60% of their stated income coming from these places. Including the racial wage disparity, Black-led organisations are doubly burdened by systemic inequities, as they work towards resolving social issues affecting their communities. With minimal resources to operate vital services, Black-led organisations often shut down due to financial pressures.
In advance of our report on the state of Black-led impact organisations, we spoke with 10 founders of who anonymously confided in us as we sought a deeper understanding of how they’re funding their work and what financial strategies they employ to operate their organisations.
The need for funding
Many of the organisations we spoke with expressed a need for funding to hire knowledgeable and experienced staff to perform important functions within the organisation. On average, Black-led impact organisations have an annual income under £33,000 with 60% of that income coming from the personal savings and salaries of the Directors. The interviewees said they relied on volunteer support or freelance staff to fill skill gaps. Some impact organisations had ambitions to fulfil broader service delivery goals, such as digitisation, impact measurement, increased personalisation of their offering, but could not afford to hire the right person for the role.
As most Black-led organisations are self-funded, access to other sources of income would help offset those costs from their personal income.
The challenges of funding
Some of the organisations we spoke with found the process of applying for funding challenging because their internal structures and capacity were not prepared to face the scrutiny of the assessment criteria. One interviewee expressed frustrations about a lack of understanding of the process, meaning funding was a barrier and not a tangible opportunity for them.
Others spoke about the convoluted steps in applying for funding, investing additional time and effort with funders, only to be denied funding at the very end. Positive referrals and the halo effect from past successful funding applications also made the funding process simpler for some organisations further down the line. However, the positive recommendations can be challenging for organisations to attain in the first place if they cannot succeed in the initial application process.
Financial strategy 1: Consulting
In our discussions with Black-led organisations, some explained how they partner with organisations requesting their services and insights through the form of workshops or talks. By providing expertise and valuable services to soliciting firms, these impact organisations can generate revenue to fund their work. Doubly, through those connections they have the opportunity to function as ambassadors and thought leaders in a particular space (whether that’s a social issue, healthcare, education, etc.). This gives the organisation leverage as a renowned voice, and opens the possibility of future engagements with that firm or other similar firms later down the line.
Financial strategy 2: Grant funding
Several organisations we spoke with had attained grant funding in the past or were in the process of applying for grants. In our survey of 500 Black-led organisations we found that only 40% of them had ever received grants to fund their work. The types of grants and reasons for applying all varied, but the common thread was the expressed need for the grant to support vital operations, or core costs, within each organisation. Though grant funding is available, the process can be especially protracted and challenging for Black-led organisations seeking much-needed funding to continue or include basic functions within their organisations.
Financial strategy 3: Branded merchandise
An entrepreneurial route these impact organisations explored is the creation and sale of branded clothes and products to fund their mission. The items sold are tied to the organisation’s values, with the proceeds going towards the organisation’s operational budget. The motivation behind entering into this area was found to be based on the hope of galvanising their community to purchase products to support the work. However the low profit margins and the increasingly at-risk income streams of the immediate community means that the success of this method is much more work than the income it provides would warrant.
Funding for the future
As Black-led organisations grapple with the challenges of running their organisations, funding their work is a persistent concern, with many organisations facing financial pressures to meet their goals and serve their community.
There is a catch 22 when it comes to funding Black-led organisations in the UK; the corporatisation that funders seek from an organisation, or as one interviewee termed it, the “halo effect”, requires a significant amount of core operational funding for investment into strong hires, branding and marketing, website development and much more. However, there are very few opportunities across the social investment sector to gain core funding and those opportunities are typically reserved for organisations that have already achieved “the halo effect” to begin with.
We believe people with lived experience are best suited to deliver the solutions to their community, but they can’t resolve those issues without suitable access to finances. This is one of the key reasons our grant is entire core funding focused. We prioritise the continued activity and future sustainability of Black-led organisations because we recognise the impact their support has on the health, wealth and future of the communities they work in.
In our report, Stories from the frontline, we discuss the state of Black-led organisations and what civil society can do to help Black-led charities and social enterprises succeed as they stabilise and seek to scale to meet the growing demand for their services.
Please see the report below:
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The COVID-19 pandemic has left an indelible mark on the world, and the same is true for many Black-led organisations who seek to bring positive change to their communities. The global pandemic presents both challenges and opportunities in redressing societal inequities for these changemakers. Black-led organisations are doubly affected as they grapple with a preexisting lack of resources and tools and try to serve end-users who are hardest hit by health inequities and economic crisis.
Despite these strains, our Common Call Fund grantees show how Black-led organisations are still making a meaningful impact during these unusual times. Ahead of our upcoming report on the state of Black-led social enterprise and charities, we’ve spoken with some founders to find out how they’ve continued to support beneficiaries in these particularly testing times.
Supporting mental health awareness
The effects of COVID-19 have also exacerbated mental health issues, especially for Black essential workers on the healthcare frontline. A recent study by King’s College London urged for a national strategy to combat the medical staff’s mental trauma, highlighting the severity of the NHS workforce’s mental health crisis.
Launched amid COVID-19 and the recent Black Lives Matter movement, Equality 4 Black Nurses seeks to address the trauma Black nurses experience alongside institutional racism.
Founder Neomi Bennet tells Common Call, “I've never had to look after so many black patients in one time in the whole of my 10-year nursing career, so when I went into ICU, the people that were dying looked like me, intuitively, I knew that my risk was higher. Nobody took that into account.” Equality 4 Black Nurses offers therapy to Black nurses to address the trauma of COVID-19, which is magnified by racial discrimination.
Female empowerment organisation, the Blossom Foundation, is providing young Black and African girls with resources and knowledge about mental wellbeing. Feelings of anxiety, grief, and loneliness are heightened at this time, impacting mental health. Blossom Foundation’s CEO Ruth Ogunji helps girls and young women between the ages of 10 and 20 identify the state of their mental wellbeing. “We educate them on their mental health, their mental state of mind, how to deal with loss and how to deal with issues.” The foundation’s online group sessions offer a forum to discuss pressing concerns in a safe and welcoming space.
Providing essentials for those in need
Some immigrant communities have faced additional strains due to lack of financial resources and cultural barriers that make it hard to maintain vital relationships with others during social isolation. Some people need to shield so they cannot go out and get the essentials they need to survive. Transportation may prove difficult or dangerous to use due to the risk of spread of the COVID-19 virus. Organisations catering to African immigrant communities have launched specialist delivery services to get resources to those most in need.
Walingamina Shomari’s organisation, Care Link West Midlands, delivers essentials to Central African immigrants in the Midlands struggling to afford or access basics. She tells us: “We deliver food supplies, medicine and day-to-day essentials. A lot of stuff has been done during this COVID period because people will not find this support - especially the elderly. They cannot get this particular support elsewhere because of the cultural and language barriers.”
Similarly, Support and Action Women’s Network (SAWN) is striving to meet unmet needs in the African community through the launch of a mobile food bank offering African staple foods. These food items are understandably underrepresented at mainstream food banks, as they aren’t as easy to come by as staple cupboard goods found in supermarkets. Beneficiaries welcome the organisation’s efforts to help them access foods from their country of origin. SAWN delivers food fortnightly to those in need of supplies. Its founder Rose Ssali says, “When you go to a normal food bank, you are expected to appear in person, and to carry your food. However, the size of one and two packs of potatoes and a pack of rice is too heavy if you're an elderly woman. Fortunately, we have a van and we use that to distribute food.”
A common call for uncommon resilience
As Black-led organisations adjust to serve their communities in a new capacity, the persistent lack of parity affects their ability to deliver the necessary support that allows beneficiaries to thrive. While these organisations’ efforts inspire us, we know more can be done to support them.
Our report, Stories from the frontline, discusses the current context for Black-led organisations and how we’re helping their development post-pandemic.
Please see our report below:
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In times of social distancing and social isolation, the need for community has never been greater. For our Common Call grantees, the value of shared bonds is what makes these organisations so meaningful to the people they serve. We spoke with some of the leaders behind these organisations to find out how they’ve elevated their impact through the power of community.
Around one percent of the UK population is on the autism spectrum. This can make it challenging to find people with the same shared experience, especially if you’re Black and dealing with stigma within your community. It’s why Mariama Kandeh set up Autism Voice to help bring together Black people with autism and their families after her son was diagnosed with autism.
Speaking on the lack of awareness in her community, Mariama says, “Some of us had never heard the word before.” Realising this need for community, she established the organisation as a place where autistic people and their loved ones could get together. “We organise weekly and monthly support group meetings wherein autistic people, parents/carers meet, share experience, gain knowledge from lived experiences, offer advice and support to others.”
The community is a vital component of Autism Voice’s reach. “At the moment, we are learning a lot from them, both as parents/carers, volunteers and through our support work to our service users and they have been instrumental in all our projects.”
A STEM career is a dream for many, but with a lack of visible role models in the industry, BBStem wants to increase the number of Black professionals in STEM and create a sense of belonging for those already in the industry.
Founder Kayisha Payne was inspired to launch the group after connecting with a Black chemical engineer who had forged a successful career with a similar background to her. Through industry workshops and peer networking, Kayisha introduces more opportunities to Black people interested in a STEM career. “I wanted to create a platform where other young black people could see themselves in roles they wanted to fulfil, but also be connected with professionals so that they could ask any sort of questions without feeling intimidated.”
The African French Speaking Community Support (AFSCS) bridges the cultural gap for African immigrants in England and Wales, especially those in the West Midlands. The community underpins the organisation’s growth as it grew from a small English-language study group between friends. The group aims to help French-speaking immigrants from Africa to assimilate into UK life.
AFSCS’ Chair, Jacques Matensi-Kubanza is inspired to help others like him as he can empathise with the challenges they face because of the cultural and language barriers he experienced when moving to the UK. “Our hope is that everyone from the French-speaking community can be equipped with knowledge. We are here to engage young people to make sure they have a bright future and to excel in whatever they are doing.”
How do you build a sense of sisterhood for some of the most disenfranchised girls and women in London? The women behind preventative early intervention organisation Sister System believe the answer lies in giving Black girls the “big sister they never had.” The organisation’s programmes provide girls aged 12 to 18 access to leadership programmes, a “big sister” mentor, and a support group for at-risk youth.
Founder and director Okela Douglas tells us, “‘Sisterhood means support, encouragement, honesty, learning, growing, sharing, and empowerment.” These values underpin the work of her organisation. The sisterly touch comes from the team’s lived experiences navigating their teenage years. “It became clear that the one common denominator that allowed us to not only survive but thrive was our positive peer relationships with other girls and women. The difference was those positive, empowering female relationships.”
It takes time and effort to build a genuine community, something our Common Call grantees know all too well. You cannot manufacture understanding or empathy, which is why these organisations stand out as examples of Black-led organisations leading change through community-centred approaches. They know their work matters and we know systemic change must happen for these organisations to thrive to their fullest potential.
In our report, Stories from the Frontline, we examine the state of Black-led organisations and how Common Call is helping them make a positive impact.
Please see below to access the report:
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A word from Bayo Adelaja, CEO
So much has changed across the world over the past year. As an inequality focused organisation we have seen a significant rise in the need for our services, support and advocacy for the demographic of people we centre in our work, namely Black people.
We continue to be very grateful to our key partners and clients who have financially supported our work and provided access points for our beneficiaries to gain even more support than we are able to provide as a single organisation.In keeping with our belief in open innovation, we are happy to have a network of stakeholders that have seen the need for the deliberate and continued support of the Black community in the UK and across Africa.
2019-20 has been a learning year for our organisation, in terms of what we need to do for our beneficiaries, but in light of COVID, also what we need to do to ensure our organisation’s continued sustainability financially and as a deliverer of impact across under-served communities.
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Do it Now Now is excited to announce the creation of its new Futures Board, launching in January 2021, a new fellowship for 10 leaders from Black-led social impact organisations across the UK. As part of the launch, Do it Now Now is looking for applications from Black people leading organisations that are committed to the development of Black communities in the UK and are in their first 18 months of operations, to be part of the 2021 Futures Board.
The Futures Board will be a group of early-stage leaders within the Black Third Sector building social impact innovations and in the early stages of their work and development.
Our founder, Bayo Adelaja has experienced the struggle to get access to people that have “been there and done that” and believes having someone that is further along their entrepreneurial journey and is ready to have really open conversations about what they did, how they did it and where they failed is invaluable to new founders. This was the inspiration for creating the Futures Board, to offer a system of support to founders who may not have access to the key tools or people to help take their organisation to the next level.
Bayo and the Futures Board will meet as a group on a monthly basis to share updates on the work each member is doing, discuss future plans and opportunities for collaboration. Bayo will present the developments taking place at Do it Now Now, our thinking on core issues within the Black community and what we are doing to address them. Members of the Futures Board will have access to Do it Now Now’s internal documents such as our 2021-2023 strategy, or financial statements, our grant applications and other sensitive information that will help them understand the context of our work in clear detail.
Futures Board members will also have the opportunity to ask questions, ask for help as a member of our team will always be on hand for a call on issues that may be plaguing their organisation’s development. Where sensible, we will include them as partners in our funding bids and support them to gain their own grant funding independent of Do it Now Now as well. We want to fast-track the development of organisations that we can signpost our beneficiaries to.
Do it Now Now was created with the belief that there are many incredibly talented Black people across the UK and in Africa, who given the proper tools, resources, expertise and support system, would build innovations that could change the course of our civilisations. As an organisation that seeks to engage Black people in creating those innovative solutions and as an organisation that has greatly benefited from the support of others, we believe the creation of the Futures Board will make a significant difference in the lives and trajectories of those who take part.
In the same way, as we work with our Non-Executive Directors and Trustee Board, these individuals will get the unvarnished truth about our work, the struggles we are facing as an organisation, the triumphs and the faults we have found as leaders of an organisation that doesn’t fit the third sector standard - we are unashamedly Black-led and Black focused.
We have always believed that it is impossible for anyone organisation to support every Black person across the world effectively. As an entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership organisation, there are many support mechanisms we cannot implement. So we are determined to ensure that as many Black-led, Black-focused organisations as possible can build effective, high impact interventions that will support Black people that we could not reach in ways we cannot support them.
If you would like to be part of the 2021 Futures Board, please send a 300-500 word summary of your entrepreneurial journey titled “This Is How I Got Here” to [email protected]. Use the email subject heading “This Is How I Got Here - Your Name” and send it our way before 5 pm on November 30th 2020. The essay should focus on your lived experience and the intervention you are developing/have developed. You can see Bayo’s version of the essay here - This is How I Got Here.
Do it Now Now is an advocate of equal opportunities and as such we strongly encourage applications from people from Black women, Black LGBTQ+, Black non-binary and Black differently-abled people.
If you would like to offer your support to the fellows we select in any way, please email [email protected] with details of your offer.
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COVID-19 is no longer only a health crisis, it is now also an economic one that is drastically affecting the employment landscape of our UK society. This is a fact particularly felt by young people, within that demographic, the most at risk at people of colour, and more specifically, Black people. That is because:
In this current climate, Black young people are losing hope for the future. The government’s Kickstart scheme that has the intention of creating work placements is a fantastic addition to the landscape as it supports the creation of jobs for young people across the country. However, the availability of jobs is not the only issue and based on our research, it isn’t the root cause of the impending youth unemployment crisis we are facing. The UK government seems to acknowledge that there is a skills gap because the Kickstart scheme requires employers to train their placement staff in key employability skills such as CV writing and time management. While important, it does not place any regulation or guidelines around what is satisfactory training for young people. It also does not specify that there must be a transfer of any hard skills that would truly ensure the employability of the young people in the future.
The pressing challenge is that economic security post-pandemic, particularly for young people entering into the job market at this time, is going to be dependent on privileges that they already have such as who their parents know or where they live. We don’t want this crisis to continue to exacerbate the opportunity disparity we have seen over the years. That’s why we are focused first on the creative and digital sector (the least diverse sectors with the most potential for young people to enter into). Our work, therefore, seeks to train young Black people in tech skills and creative skills from coding to graphic design, sound engineering and video production. These are the skills that will ensure that they can enter and maintain their place in the creative and digital sectors once they do get a job. Why the creative and digital sectors? Its because the creative and digital economies are vital to the UK, with employment in the creative sector growing by a third between 2011 and 2017 and 50% faster than the wider economy and we expect this trend to continue.
Despite the strengths of the UK’s creative/digital sector and the opportunities within it, we are not seeing people of colour benefit in ways that reflect our demographic representation. Barriers to entering and building a career within the creative and digital industries include socioeconomic status, a lack of understanding of education and career pathways, employer practices, informal recruitment practices, high levels of freelance/self-employment and the pervasive nature of unpaid internships as a route into the sector and building necessary experience. Underrepresented groups in particular face a lack of knowledge about the sectors and types of job roles. As in other parts of the economy, issues of unconscious bias within the creative and digital industries also impact on the opportunities for underrepresented groups. Whilst many businesses have been hit hard and are not currently hiring, opportunities are still available and the creative and digital industries are well placed to lead the economic recovery. Young people are being hit hardest both through job losses and as they leave education and enter the labour market during the sharpest recession for decades. As a result, we have developed an innovation that benefits those most in need who would otherwise be most likely to be passed over for opportunities, and support employers in the creative and digital industries to take advantage of this diverse talent pool.
The starting point for our work has been a recognition of the diverse and elaborate nature of communities and the need for a collaborative approach which allows us to assess progress from different starting points. At Do it Now Now we believe that community participation is both a process and an outcome. For us, change must be seen to be taking place and benefits must be felt, but for this change to be long-lasting it must be underpinned with learning and commitment. Therefore, we highly encourage and facilitate our beneficiaries’ participation in decision-making. We have found that creating a transparent process gives them the opportunity to engage in the mechanisms that run the process and empowers them to engage in employment systems effectively. The young people will each gain:
(1) A better understanding of and focus on their desired career
(2) An understanding of how to use their skills to inform strategic decisions and improve services
(3) Increased knowledge and skills of negotiating, client services, leadership and operations
(4) Increased knowledge of the employment ecosystem and key networks in their chosen field
(5) The ability to collaborate and build teamwork
(6) A support system of fellow creative and digital professionals to support them throughout their career
The Black experience is very different from that of other racialised and non-racialised groups. We have to contend with different issues, fall prey to different gaps in the availability of resources and are in need of different support mechanisms. We need this now more than ever and the moment we are in calls for it. Like the last economic recession, the Black community has been hit very hard by COVID and the economic impacts of the pandemic have created a real knock-on effect. Now more than ever, we need employers to understand the needs of Black people through the creation of opportunity and training through specific approaches they may not be used to. This funding will allow us to identify Black people, not in employment, education or training and support them in developing their hard and soft skills to ensure their future at work.
Through the program, we will ensure that the organisations we support to onboard the Black employees we train are able to contribute to the local and national effort for job recovery for young people. Our goal is to actively support every school in the UK and every business in the UK seeking to engage in fairer practices and increase the diversity of their talent pool. We see this becoming one of the predominant ways young Black people, particularly those that have not attended university, to gain access to the creative and digital sectors.
Our ambition is to solve the access to industry problem once and for all while also working with the organisations to decrease the diversity problem that also exists at the senior level of these organisations. We are creating a qualified talent pool for them to recruit from and then a diverse pipeline for senior-level positions from within their own organisation. Through the continued support we provide to their staff through myriad engagements and training opportunities, the employers that work with us will contribute to a much more equitable future for young people, while also benefiting from the innovative thinking that comes from a diverse workforce.
As we continue to develop, we see our definition of creative and digital industries loosening to include all businesses that are hiring for creative and digital entry-level roles. One of the key upsides of our innovation is that even when the young person is in the role, they continue to be supported by us, their programme peers and by the mentors we have connected them to through the course of the programme. This lends itself well into supporting Black young people at companies that are not yet truly diverse or where they may not have other key creative and digital senior leadership to help them make the most out of their role, position or help them further develop their skills. Thereby, we are ensuring that even those young people who are somewhat isolated in terms of race or skill-wise are being effectively supported.
In the future, we expect that every business will have to own up to its part in the diversity and inclusion issues we are noticing across all industries. We are positioning ourselves to be a key player in the solution of the issue in a way that plugs into the needs of employers while solving the problem at its root.
If you would like to support us or engage with us on this subject, please get in touch with us directly via our contact page.
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We believe the changes that are to be made for the continued development and betterment of our collective society must be drawn out from the lived experiences and acquired expertise of people that represent the populations that we are trying to support. Beyond statically giving people the opportunity to access resources through a globally viewable website or “open” application form, organisations that hold the key to the further development of our integrated societal systems through fellowships, funding, resource allocation and more must seek to be actively inclusive of marginalised populations. This is the only way to ensure that the future we create will have a marked positive difference to the present day we currently inhabit.
The world we are building is one in which each person has access to the tools and resources they need to effectively engage in the systems around them to affect positive change for the benefit of all stakeholders. So what happens when a vast majority of the connected population to a system of services, principles and governances is not? You rarely attain forward movement and instead get a re-constitution or re-make of the things that were seemingly successful before. More of the same isn’t what systems change is about. We need to upheave deep-rooted behaviours that stem from the allowances of policies and practices that are no longer fit for purpose.
There are a few key methods that organisations can adopt to ensure that their work is both actively diverse and effectively inclusive. Here is our vehicle, RED METRO; it is formed of 8 keys organisations can use to ensure they are putting Diversity and Inclusion at the centre of their systems change initiatives:
We implore clients to work within as many varying circles as possible when seeking opportunities to attract potential candidates. As your organisation seeks to employ people from diverse backgrounds and demographics or gain access to skilled volunteers, some creativity will have to be utilised to help your organisation compete with the big companies who can pay more and offer better perks. First tap into the motivation of the potential employees or volunteers. Second, ensure that you are authentically and actively reaching into community groups and professional networks that specifically cater to the demographics you are seeking.
The most effective way to ensure systems change within your organisation is to ensure that the people with a vested interest to see that change come about are effectively empowered to voice their opinion and move the culture of the organisation forward in a way that includes them well. There are a number of methods your organisation can adopt to increase the active engagement of underrepresented people. One such way is to break the barrier between ranks and create open floor discussions on as many things as would make sense.
For your organisation to succeed in its attempts at reshaping the internal policies and practices to suit more demographics of people, the leaders must be willing to divest power to change aspects of your organisation to the employees that are directly affected by any organisational change. Divesting power is the overall theme of this work and it runs central to all the suggestions that we can make. You must submit to the influence of your employees and other key stakeholders to ensure your future success as an organisation.
As an organisational leader, it is up to you and your employees to develop a set of metrics that you can commit to in terms of your Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. You might want to consider a place-based approach in some of this. For example, the Black population in the UK is 3% whereas the Black population in Lambeth (London) is 30.4%. If your organisation is based in Lambeth and delivers its work in Lambeth, it makes sense to commit to a 30% Black population in your workforce or volunteer brigade. We also suggest that you develop and utilise a wellbeing survey and a culture survey for your entire workforce on a bi-annual basis.
This is about ensuring that the interventions you are adopting are having the desired result for your organisation. By adopting effectiveness measurements across your Diversity and Inclusion work you will be more able to ensure that you are remaining cost-effective in your engagements and that you can continue this work for the long term. The last thing you want is to adopt a flash in the pan campaign that costs a lot of money, doesn’t have the desired effect long-term and eventually breeds animosity towards the leadership.
It is important to recognise that though you have hired people from different demographics for the same role, their starting positions are in fact different. As an organisational leader, you have to figure out what the needs are of your individual employees and support them effectively to get to the next stage within your organisation as cost-effectively as possible. From a Diversity and Inclusion perspective, you should be targeting your development initiatives first to those in most need of support.
This goes beyond ensuring that the senior management has a reporting system that holds them accountable, e.g. trustee board or investors. The type of reporting we are referring to is done by individuals within the organisation to give the senior management a 360-degree view of what is happening in real-time. If anyone in your organisation sees something that they think contradicts the culture you have intentionally set within the organisation, they should be able to tap into an existing reporting structure that will evaluate the complaint and update them on the situation when it has been addressed and again when it has been resolved.
The first real interaction your employees will have with your organisation is through the onboarding process that you create. It is therefore in your best interest to ensure that the culture you have intentionally created for your organisation rings true in that process as well. Something we encourage our clients to adopt is a suite of training that takes place in the first three months of every employee’s lifespan in the organisation. This includes unconscious bias training, workplace race relations and training to support employees as they combat imposter syndrome. Provide a compulsory suite of training as well as a few options they can engage with based on their own known needs.
RED METRO is how you can engage in effective, long-term systems change that has Diversity and Inclusion at its centre.