In my view there are 4 primary reasons for – and benefits from – making Diversity, Equity and Inclusion real in the governance, operations, investment and grantmaking of trusts and foundations:
- It creates an improved understanding of needs within, and the capabilities of, target communities – particularly if people with lived experience are included (KNOWLEDGE);
- Diverse experience and ways of thinking will help generate more effective solutions (EFFICIENCY AND IMPACT);
- Organisations which reflect society and/or the communities they are seeking to serve will help to promote public trust in those organisations and in charities in general (LEGITIMACY AND ENGAGEMENT);
- Being diverse and inclusive demonstrates the commitment to social justice that many charities would say they have (FAIRNESS).
And there is an evidence base to support 1, 2 AND 3 above – drawn mainly from the commercial and public sectors.
Plus there is the legal / regulatory context – eg the Equality Act 2010 (LAWFULNESS).
Compulsion by the law or regulation has its place – particularly where voluntary change is slow or cannot be relied on. But law and regulation is not just about compulsion – it can be used to inform and empower the disadvantaged (in this case those excluded from roles, processes and resources) as well as to challenge, persuade, compel and enforce change where change is not happening.
As a values-based sector, the voluntary sector shouldn’t have to be compelled to make Diversity, Equity and Inclusion a core operating principle underpinning everything we do. Nor should we be so precious as to assume that we require our own evidence base to prove that DEI will improve our knowledge, efficiency and impact as it has in other sectors.
But maybe this time – because this is so important and change has been so slow – compulsion is now overdue.