We assume that, because you have found your way to this blog, you want to explore and consider issues around equality, diversity, exclusion and discrimination in more depth so that you can improve your community engagement practice.
You probably won’t be able fundamentally to change people’s views and attitudes towards each other – as these are often deep-rooted, likely to come from formative years and be ‘cemented’ in! The aim of this resource is to to help you consider some of the issues that may come up for you around ‘equality’ in the context of your community engagement practice.
Question: what sort of equalities issues arise for you?
It’s useful to acknowledge that some people don’t necessarily subscribe to ‘treating people equally and fairly’ and you may find yourselves in the position of having to deal with some ‘hard issues’ that are raised by the notion of equality and diversity. E.g. religious beliefs about homosexuality; ‘‘immigrants’ are stealing all our jobs’; and, ‘women should know their place’ type views.
What you can do though, is commit to fairness all round, explore your own views and perceptions, think about how you will deal with prejudice and discrimination and give conscious consideration to the ways that you work.
‘Equalities’ is often seen as difficult and problematic: fraught with the potential to make mistakes, upset and offend people. It doesn’t have to be like that, nor does it have to involve masses of additional work. To some extent, it’s about recognising and acknowledging that people come from very different places, worlds and life experiences; they have different opportunities, resources and different views. In our society ‘power’ is a very real issue.
Whilst you may not be able to change all of these things, on a personal level, the starting point is a desire to be fair to everyone. You may find yourself in the position of having to balance different priorities and needing to consider the implications of your decisions for different groups of people. At a time when resources are scarce, you need think about how to protect those groups that are already disadvantaged, are most vulnerable and whose voices are rarely heard.
Working in more inclusive ways is likely to involve some personal change and development – at the very least, challenging some ‘commonsense ‘ and (maybe long held) views based on stereotypes and prejudices. We’ll talk a bit more about what these mean later.
‘Equalities’ is integral to empowering and inclusive community engagement. It’s important that everyone is clear about statutory duties and their responsibility for delivering inclusive engagement activities. This is especially true when there is a need to maximise existing resources whilst recognising the consequences of reduced services for particular groups within local communities.
As well as understanding institutional discrimination, it’s important to recognise that individuals who are in day to day contact with people in communities can exhibit attitudes and behaviours that are discriminatory (consciously or unconsciously) and therefore exclude people.