Our anti-racism progress

In January 2021 we undertook substantial strategic engagement with our people and stakeholders as we began to develop Versus Arthritis’ first Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. The strategy was signed off in September 2021 and a 12 month review of our Diversity and Inclusion journey completed in April 2022.

As the highlights in this review show we hosted over 30 engagement events with staff and volunteers. We conducted an anonymous demographic data survey with staff and hosted engagement sessions with our Board, Organisational Leadership team , employee forum and staff networks. We also reviewed and refreshed our approach to Access to work.

All staff now must attend a mandatory diversity and inclusion workshop as well as mandatory anti-racism training.

Towards the end of 2021, all staff attended 3 hour anti-racism training delivered by Aduke Onafowokan of Inclusivitii. We know that racism cannot be dealt with simply by telling people it’s wrong to be racist. To stop racism, we need to become anti-racist as a collective. This means evolving the way we think and act, and being prepared to educate others to do the same. The learning outcomes for our people included:

  • A learning mindset and understating of your role in promoting anti-racism and inclusion.
  • The ability to identify anti-blackness and intersectionality within the racism spectrum and how to create counter structures.
  • A detailed understanding of how to be an ally and anti-racist.
  • A practical anti-racist toolkit that can be adapted for personal, team, and organisational use.
  • Understanding how to address and respond to workplace racism including influencing and crisis management skills.

Each training session was followed up with a reflection session and new staff starters are also required to complete the training as part of their probationary period. The challenge for us aa a charity is to ensure anti racism principles and practice are embedded in our work and that we provide spaces for continual reflection.

With a five-year strategic plan now developed which promotes diversity and inclusion in everything we do, we will be refreshing our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and our approach to anti-racism, so that we are continuing to reflect, engage our people and keep up to date with diversity and inclusion trends and best practice.

We recently took steps to change our approach to the recruitment of a more diverse range of Trustees for the charity. One of our key objectives during this recruitment process was to diversify the Board to better reflect the experiences of people with arthritis. Our new trustees range in age, gender, and ethnic background, some have been trustees before, others have not. Some have been volunteering with us for a long time, and others are completely new to the charity, bringing a diverse range of expertise and experience to support our future development.

We have recently set up a menopause support group and we also have successfully established a Diversity and Inclusion Action Group, chaired by myself as Chief Executive, to scrutinise progress of our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and plan.

“At Versus Arthritis, diversity and inclusion must be at the heart of everything we do. Our research, services and influencing work must reflect the diverse needs of all those living with arthritis and our employees, volunteers and Trustees will represent the broad diversity of the communities of which we are a part. Everyone will feel they can belong to the Versus Arthritis community and feel comfortable and valued in bringing their whole self to our charity.

Our vision is clear, and I am committed to leading Versus Arthritis to become a more diverse, inclusive and accessible charity and to reach the broadest possible range of people living with arthritis. We are working towards three clear goals, each supported by a range of cross-charity actions and whilst we recognise achieving this is going to take time, we are committed to reporting on our progress in a rigorous and transparent way.

I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to our diversity and inclusion work over the past year, particularly members of our Diversity and Inclusion Action Group, our Staff Networks and Employee Forum.”

Deborah Alsina MBE, CEO