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We should never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world

By Jo Miller

This conversation is part of our series, Walking the talk, which explores the diversity of the UK’s charities and foundations, with perspectives from both in and outside the sector. Find the full collection here. 

5 minute read

The best two pieces of advice I’ve been given as a leader are fairly homespun. The first is that the greatest power I have is to pay attention. If I pay attention to something it matters, and the converse is true. The second was something like ‘the standards you are prepared to walk by are the standards you are prepared to accept.’

And so my focus as a CEO on equality, diversity and inclusion, and my desire to demonstrate focus by acting. Because we all know that we should never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has (at least according to Margaret Mead and President Jeb Bartlet).

Inequality is a scourge. Yes, we have made great strides to get to where we are today, but so much more needs to be done. Otherwise, we will exist in a world where the gap between those who have opportunity and those who don’t is forever getting bigger. We simply cannot have a society where people constantly feel left behind because of the lottery of birth.

During my time as CEO of Doncaster Council, and last year as the first female president of SOLACE, I have been vocal in my passion for building a fairer world for every section of society.

Some of you may recall my literal roar and disappointment at the predominantly male selection of speakers at the Northern Powerhouse conference a couple of years ago. I was aghast at the dearth of women speakers, so much so I organised The People’s Powerhouse right here in Doncaster, aimed at ensuring the inclusivity and diversity of the powerhouse.

Our aspiration is for Doncaster to be an open, diverse and inclusive borough which is receptive to new ideas, creativity and innovation.

We are fortunate to have individuals and organisations across the Team Doncaster landscape who are committed to equality, inclusion and diversity, promoting good relations between our diverse communities so that our services are appropriate and accessible for all.

There’s lots of great work underway. Take equality of opportunity and inclusivity in education for example, which is helping to build brighter futures for all our young people.

Doncaster is one of 12 areas nationwide chosen by the Government as an Opportunity Area (OA), designed to unlock the potential of young people through education. From a child’s early education to their post-16 learning, outcomes for disadvantaged children and young people in Doncaster are below the national average.

This cannot continue. All our young people deserve the best start in the life, the opportunities to succeed in and out of education, to be given both academic and vocational options across Doncaster and to have that support and encouragement to realise their goals.

Doncaster’s plan to improve these opportunities is ambitious and targeted, benefiting from a strong partnership of charities, businesses, schools and colleges all working together with the council.

Improving social mobility is at the heart of our Doncaster Growing Together plan. We are working together to improve learning, living, working and caring for all Doncaster residents.

I am passionate about promoting a diverse and inclusive working environment for council staff, and I am incredibly proud of our amazing workforce from many different backgrounds who bring a variety of perspectives and life experiences. We are at our best when we share our diversity and work together to make a difference for the people of Doncaster. Diversity brings with it fresh ideas and perspectives to enrich debate and to drive innovation. We value this greatly.

We have continued with our progressive policies and programme of activity to support our culture of equality, diversity and inclusion, our flexible employment provisions and our commitment to career progression. For example, we’ve introduced unconscious bias training and are developing programmes to expand this and promote Doncaster Council as an inclusive place to work.

Our busy diversity calendar promotes our ethos, with activities and exhibitions throughout the year providing an opportunity to celebrate, raise awareness and support inclusivity. To name but a few, Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month, World Religion Day, and Black History Month. Many staff also take part in the Doncaster Pride Walk of Unity. Doncaster’s Pride is a massive event for the borough, attracting thousands of event-goers from across the UK every year.

Our work around gender equality has received widespread recognition. In summer 2017, we were the first local authority to publish our gender pay gap figures – way ahead of the deadline. Our transparency work on promoting gender pay gap reporting was commended at the Global Equality and Diversity Awards 2018.

As detailed in our Gender Pay Gap Report 2018, our reported outcomes this year continue to show no proportional gender pay inequality in our organisation.

We’re proud of the flexible working practices and hours we offer at Doncaster. We strive to provide flexible working to enable our staff to balance work and home life, but still provide a quality service to our residents. It’s the small steps like this which help women return to work and which have encouraged more women to make their career in the public sector.

I have been fortunate to work alongside Mayor Ros Jones as a female elected Mayor and Chief Executive combination here in Doncaster. We’re keen to encourage other women to seize opportunities, to break down any obstacles in their way and realise their ambitions.

Mayor Ros and I have found that because we have paid attention to diversity, others have too. Our chamber of commerce now has a diverse, balanced board and it’s great to see so many female entrepreneurs coming forward. Our cultural and arts sector has embraced diversity and it runs through their programme like letters in a stick of rock.

We have much more to do in Doncaster to achieve equality so that everyone can be safe, valued, successful and free to be who they are without fear or rancour, whoever they are, wherever they come from.

We will carry on paying attention, setting standards and acting. Because that’s what makes the difference.




Jo Miller

Jo Miller held one of the most high-profile local government jobs in the UK, with an outstanding track record for motivating people, creating solutions and brokering agreements in major housing, economic regeneration and capital investment schemes. 

As Chief Executive at Doncaster Council, Jo was recognised as having brought exceptional growth and optimism to a previously economically depressed town. The Local Government Chronicle said Doncaster had been “dragged up from the depths of despair to something to be proud of.”   

Landmark projects with a total investment of £2 billion have boosted economic performance, putting Doncaster in the UK’s top ten for growth. Jo was the elected President of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives in 2017 & 2018 and now leads on the leadership portfolio on behalf of the profession. In 2017 the Local Government Chronicle named her the third most influential person in local government. 

Jo Miller

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