Incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion into our consulting work

By Angela Kail 29 June 2021 4 minute read

As many charities have done, at NPC we have been thinking about how to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into every aspect of our work, following on from our Walking the Talk project and conversations with colleagues across the sector. As Director of Consulting, I’ve been thinking about how we can work with charities, philanthropists and funders to consider the DEI lens of what they are trying to achieve. I’m grateful to those in the sector who have pushed me and the team to do more work on this.

Our consulting team currently has over 70 live projects—and each project is different. For some projects, there are quick wins on how diversity, equity and inclusion principles can be included in the work, others are more nuanced and its more difficult to think through the competing issues, and this involves more trial and error.

An example of one of the quick wins is how we altered our training sessions for new philanthropists—for example, making sure that the importance of responding to inequalities, particularly around race, is incorporated into our philanthropy start-up workshops. Our paper on power dynamics in grant-making talked about the need for trustees of foundations to really think about diversity so that the changes ripple down throughout their organisation. In our conversations with start-up philanthropists, we have found that they are interested in learning about how diversity, equity and inclusion principles can help them achieve their aims.

We are also working on helping charities and funders get the data they need to understand where they are on their DEI journey. Lots of organisations are struggling to know exactly who they are helping—in part because they need to develop more sensitive, appropriate and reflective ways of collecting demographic data, especially related to ethnicity and gender. Thinking about inclusive data has been a big part of our deliberations on how to incorporate DEI principles into our measurement work. This is something we recommended when we wrote about how we would have done the Youth Investment Fund learning and evaluation project differently.

This fits closely with the work we have been doing on trauma informed approaches—thinking about what trauma people may have gone through, how charities can be more strength based, and how to promote equality of access.

Thinking back over some of the projects that we have done in the past, we now think we would have done some of them differently and put more of an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion. Whilst we have long considered issues around DEI in our work, we have often not centred it in our analysis. For example, our Keeping us well paper on social determinants of health contained a small section on the intersection of social determinants with inequalities between ethnic groups. If we were writing this paper now, we would consider the inequalities between different groups as integral to the narrative of the whole report.

There’s still a long way to go, and there are many things that we are still working out. It’s much easier to work on diversity—something where there are often hard numbers that you can look at—than on inclusion or equity, where creating fairness and a culture of belonging can be more difficult to get right. It is also difficult to know whether you have got it right. It is work in progress, and we are learning from what others in the sector are doing and from what we have done previously as well. We know that many charities are trying to understand what it really means to be inclusive—and we are pleased to be on the journey with them. I hope that setting out some of what we have been doing here is helpful to others who are also navigating this terrain.