The Local Government Association (LGA) has an effective expression for local government, it is: ‘Local government touches the lives of everybody, every day’.
In this simple statement lies the importance of people and the rationale for having a workforce that reflects its community: to empathically engage and effectively deliver accessible, quality services that touch the lives of everybody, every day.
This is not a simple demand, it is an expectation that local government is mandated to deliver amid its many complex regulatory, financial and multi-faceted constraints and opportunities. Whether these are concerned with localism, place, community engagement, education, health, wealth and wellbeing, all are intricately linked to equality, diversity and inclusion. These are all challenges that local government strives to get right but continues to grapple with as achieving true equity requires the realignment of attention and resources.
The workforce is the first point of contact with the everyday and it is part of a community. Workforces are multi-dimensional, their individuality and intersectionality bring a richness from a variety of touch points, including, visible and non-visible diversity, neuro diversity, ethnicity, religion and belief, gender and transgender, sexuality, age and inter-generational perceptive, socio economical and class. The list goes on.
This workforce provides local government with a lens into diverse groups, cultures, interests, thoughts, perspectives and a voice that can provide you with valuable data including ‘lived experiences’. They will have a view on what is going well, what could be better and what seems to be or is broken. This workforce can offer possible remedies to consider in light of the complexities faced.
This resource should be valued and recognised and there are multiple ways to do this. Some common approaches are to connect the workforce to decision-making channels or investing in training programmes – although on their own, these will not be enough.
How learning from these initiatives is integrated into the day to day is where the transition moves from attendance and completion to input and output, from outcome to positive or negative impacts. This observation is reinforced by Kirkpatrick’s model of evaluation which moves from reaction (the happy sheet) to learning, to behaviour to results to a return on investment, which is not purely financial but a measure of social impact and community activism.
The public outcry to the appalling treatment of Child Q, is a recent example of this type of community activism and allyship, to call for the right to dignity and respect and fair treatment. Other acts of community activism and leadership at all levels have included the response to COVID, addressing social economical inequity, health and digital poverty and, most markedly, the response of local authorities, their staff and communities to Ukraine.
Inclusive leaders and cultures pay attention to this resource within their workforce communities and nurture this distributed talent. They also harness the principles of strong networks and common goals to enhance everyday interactions for everyone. Saying it sounds easy but the how is maybe not so simple. Granted, the multiple challenges and ever changing and conflicting priorities cannot be solved in a day, but you can start from where you are.
As I look at the ‘CIPD 2022 Inclusion Calendar’ which outlines what is happening throughout the year, it points to something you can commit to doing as an inclusive leader, to value and recognise members of your workforce and the wider community almost every day.
April is a busy month for a number of religions, Buddhism, Christianity, Hindu, Islam, Judaism, Orthodox Christian, Sikh etc. People without a religion or belief or who may not be ‘practicing’ will take part in these events on one level or another and may also show allyship. April also hosts World Autism Day, International Asexuality Day, Lesbian Visibility Day, World Health Day, and more.
Inclusive leaders unify in their words and actions; in how they interact with the people in their close circles and those outside of it. Leaders set the tone and culture in whatever context they are. Diversity, equity, equality and inclusion does not happen in a day or one month, it happens fluidly, through conscious choices every day. It also needs collective action to garner commitment and build sustained momentum and leaders to support and achieve these outcomes.
Regardless of title, there is a challenge for ‘every distributed leader’ in the local government workforce. For instance, what more can you do in short order to champion equality, diversity, equity and inclusivity? What message will you send through your interactions and services, touching the lives of everybody, every day?
This is why we have developed inclusive leadership programmes and why GatenbySanderson sponsors the Innovation in Building Diversity and Inclusion category at The MJ Awards. We seek to put a spotlight on this broad agenda, recognise the work and impact of local government, as well as the commercial and non-commercial benefits and disseminate good practice in equality, diversity and inclusion. We look forward to partnering with you on this journey.
Charlotte Croffie is a partner with GatenbySanderson’s local government practice.