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2020 has been a year that has changed many aspects of our lives. In the earliest parts of the Covid19 outbreak, many of us hoped for and spoke about the road that would take us back to ‘normal’.

Events throughout the year have shaped and changed our expectations. As we started to come to terms with one pandemic, the killing of George Floyd, in plain sight, at the hands of police, was profoundly disturbing, and a reminder that our expectations of what passes for normal, and what is tolerated needs to change.

To see the death of Mr Floyd captured on film brings the brutal reality of his death and the loss for his family, friends and community, into horrifying focus.

Its echo is the reminder that this marks the most recent in a long series of deaths of black men and women at the hands of authorities. This represents a wider devastation throughout our black communities, and a very tangible reality of how their lives have mattered less than others.

“To simply break the silence was not enough”

As the data on Covid19 emerges around the world, the desperate inequalities of our way of life are being revealed. The higher rate of deaths in our black communities shows the health inequalities, and the differing health and social opportunities that face our communities.

In the immediate aftermath, I wrote to our Here community. As an organisation, it felt hard to know what place we had to address or speak to these issues, but I was struck by the words of Martin Luther King who told us:

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”.

For Here, as a group of people, to simply break the silence was not enough. We knew that we needed to pause and consider how we think about difference amongst ourselves to address this more meaningfully. To consider how we ensure a genuinely fair and open workplace for all. How we can maintain environments of safety, recognition and validation for any who are discriminated against and marginalised.

“We want to share with you where these journeys are taking us”

We knew that these conversations would be hard, and that we would need to take some risks in not getting them right. As we followed the events in America, and watched a flood of demonstrations in response, our world was driven to recognise that there are those that walk amongst us who face battles we cannot understand. As an organisation we made a commitment to learn more and to explore what we can do to remove barriers and help. We know we must repeatedly ask ourselves if we are doing all that we can to welcome and take strength from all the differences that exist between us.

As a starting point, we hosted a series of conversations for anyone who wanted to attend. It is our usual approach when we need to make sense of something, to check in with each other, and embark on difficult journeys together. These initial meetings led to a series of ideas that are being taken forward in different places. We want to share with you where these journeys are taking us…

Over the coming weeks you will receive an update from 3 key workstreams. These include:

  • Workforce – we need to know what we don’t know. Is our workforce representative of our communities? What action could we take if not? We are starting a piece of work to understand who works here, and what it is like to work here, and Denise McSween shares her story of being inspired to work in healthcare, her journey as a black woman and her experience of  accessing specific leadership coaching and support.
  • Recruitment – we know that bias expresses itself strongly in the traditional recruitment processes that are common in organisations. Sally York will share with us her learning about what helps and what hinders when recruiting for a diverse team that reflects the population it serves.
  • Book Club – in the earliest conversations we hosted at Here, we heard from people who wanted to know and learn more. In recent years there has been a wider publication of literature that documents the experience and context of racism in the United Kingdom, and many people wanted to commit to reading this body of work, and discussing it. Una shares her experience of hosting our Black Lives Matters book club.

We know there is no single right way to move forward on this issue. My instinct is that this work will move forward in a number of different ways. It is important we share it with you, and that you feel invited to be part of it in whichever way suits. We hope this series will share some of the steps we are taking to play our part in the wider changes our world needs.

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