19 August 2022

A mission of inclusion: Get involved

Ivan Radford

NeXus Youth Chorus performing at Together 2022
NeXus Youth Chorus at Together 2022
Ivan Radford outlines new initiatives introduced by the territory’s Racial Inclusion Working Group.

All of humanity is created equally in God’s image. That is the fundamental starting point for the Racial Inclusion Working Group (RIWG), which aims to identify and find ways to address any form of racial inequality within The Salvation Army in this territory. Moving from this theological principle to implementing it in practice, however, is not a simple step. That is where the RIWG comes in.

Following a recommendation from the Territorial Advisory Council, territorial leadership initiated the RIWG in 2021. The group comprises a diverse array of people from across the territory, all working together to prayerfully promote and facilitate the inclusion of people from all racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds at every level and in every context.

‘It’s very difficult, because if there was a blueprint, we would all be following it!’ says RIWG member Raj Gill (Guildford), who describes the group as ‘passionate advocates’ all determined to get things done.

‘The corporate world has taken a lot of measures to address inclusion already and we’re behind,’ he admits.

The group has met many times online to discuss suggested ways forward, with subgroups focusing on specific issues and feeding back ideas to the main group, before progress reports are presented to senior leaders in Cabinet and to the Territorial Advisory Council.

    Jennifer Laurent-Smart speaking at Together 2022
    Jennifer Laurent-Smart and Major Jonny Smith join a racial inclusion discussion panel at Together 2022

    Fittingly, it was only at Together 2022 that some of the group’s members met in person for the first time. As well as raising awareness of the group’s work through a stand at the event, and hosting a panel with the Moral and Social Issues Council on racial inclusion, the group used the weekend to launch a number of initiatives.

    Read on to find out more about:

    • The welcome and belonging survey
    • Inclusion Mission Advocates
    • Listening spaces
    • The welcoming and belonging video

    Welcome and belonging survey

    Including everyone requires understanding how welcome people feel. To achieve this the RIWG has created a survey that will provide a way to listen to how the Army is experienced by different groups of people and different protected equality groups.

    The results will help identify any barriers that might be excluding people and any potential areas of discrimination, as well as understand people’s perceptions and experiences of equity, inclusion and belonging. This will then help determine practical ways in which the Army can improve inclusivity and inform the development of future initiatives.

    Its scope is not limited to the protected characteristic of race, but looks more holistically, recognising that people may experience exclusion based on many different aspects of who they are.

    The survey is anonymous, comprises approximately 20 questions and is available in multiple languages, including Portuguese, French, Czech and Welsh.

    ‘I strongly encourage everyone to complete the survey, which focuses on inclusion for all protected groups. Your views will help us better understand the experiences and needs of all of our people and will help to shape our work going forward,’ says Equality and Diversity Manager Jennifer Laurent- Smart (THQ).

    Take the survey

    The survey is available to everyone in the Army, including employees, members, officers, service users and volunteers.

    Complete survey

    Inclusion Mission Advocates

    The Army spans many different settings and expressions, which means that promoting positive attitudes and inclusive practices can look different in different situations. A new volunteer role of Inclusion Mission Advocate has therefore been created to work on a local level and help communicate the realities of the equality, diversity and inclusion challenges that are being experienced by people in their agreed area.

    Inclusion mission advocates will help to identify behaviours that need to evolve and any associated training needs. They will work alongside divisional and corps leaders, as well as senior and service managers, to monitor current equality and inclusion practices, and support the implementation of policies and procedures. They will champion equality, raise awareness of inclusion and ensure that diverse voices are heard and that marginalised and minority experiences are understood.

    Initially, the role will focus on issues relevant to racial inclusion, but in the long term its remit will expand to relate to wider protected groups.

    ‘If you want to do something, we are giving you the structure to empower you to help,’ affirms Raj.

    Major Marjory Parrott and Major Beverly Baker at Together 2022
    RIWG members Major Marjory Parrott (Swadlincote) and Major Beverly Baker at Together 2022

    Inclusion mission advocates are not expected to be experts and will be fully supported with training and guidance by the territory’s Equality and Diversity Team.

    ‘The Equality and Diversity Team provides specialist advice and guidance to leadership and the wider Salvation Army on all aspects of equality diversity and inclusion,’ explains Jennifer. ‘We are passionate about equality, diversity and inclusion and are advocates in ensuring that this is at the heart of everything we do. To this end we work collaboratively to develop guidance and resources that promote and embed good equality and inclusion practice in employment, service delivery and mission.

    ‘We understand the important role equality legislation plays in enabling us to tackle discrimination and address inequalities and this, together with our values, provides a framework within which we operate. Our aim is to help create and sustain an inclusive culture where people are respected and valued for the diversity they bring.’

    Become an inclusion mission advocate

    You'll need a good appreciation of issues that relate to race, difference, inclusion, access and diversity, either from lived experience or personal interest. It is not a standalone role and will include working with other advocates to ensure that learning is shared.

    Email the RIWG

    Listening spaces

    The RIWG is also exploring and developing the use of Listening Spaces, which will be safe environments with trained facilitators where people can share their thoughts, lived experiences and concerns, so that these can lead to positive transformation and change.

    The survey responses will help to determine what level of need or demand there is for such spaces and, if there is interest, they will provide another avenue for voices to be heard.

    ‘It’s not about saying “we think you need this”,’ explains Personnel Officer Major Beverly Baker (THQ). ‘This is about trying to facilitate a safe space for people who want the opportunity to process out loud and be able to share something of their experience. Hopefully we will be able to collect themes and stories and experiences that can speak into the change that needs to happen.’

    Delegates talk at Riverbank 2022
    Delegates at the Riverbank women's conference

    From 30 September to 2 October at King’s Park Conference Centre, Intercultural Mission Enabler Major Jonny Smith is leading an Intercultural Conference with guest speakers and worship leaders, and people from all parts of the territory who represent numerous backgrounds and cultures. There will be Listening Spaces available to people who attend, if they want to use them, which will be the first time they have been tried in practice.

    ‘The spaces will also be confidential,’ Major Beverly adds, ‘because we want them to be a safe space. If group members agree together that the anonymised themes that emerge can be shared with the RIWG, then this can contribute towards the change required.’

    To attend the Intercultural Conference, speak to your corps officer, who will have received application details.

    Welcome and belonging video

    In addition to all this the RIWG hopes to introduce a Welcome and Belonging video in the next few months for use around the territory. The group is looking for people from different ethnic backgrounds and cultures who would be willing to tell their stories of how they may or may not have found a welcome and belonging at The Salvation Army. These stories can be made anonymous if requested.

    If you are interested in being involved in this project or have any other ideas or suggestions, email the racial inclusion maildrop at racial.inclusion@salvationarmy.org.uk.

    Written by

    A photo of Ivan Radford.

    Ivan Radford

    Managing Editor

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