25 May 2024

Equality and Diversity: ‘We want people to achieve their full potential’

Major Julian Watchorn

A photo of Jennifer Laurent-Smart.

Equality and Diversity Manager Jennifer Laurent-Smart (THQ) talks about creating an environment where everyone can flourish.

The definition of respect in the UKI Territory’s value framework states: ‘We will welcome each person with the dignity of those created in the image of God, valuing their diversity, seeking to serve each other’s flourishing and transformation within God’s love.’ As THQ’s equality and diversity manager, Jennifer Laurent-Smart summarises the outworking of this statement with one word: inclusion.

‘My role is to guide, encourage and enable others to ensure that inclusion is the first and not the last thing that we think about when engaging in the many exciting programmes and activities across the territory,’ she explains. ‘We need to bring people with us on that journey.’

Although she has the privilege and responsibility of heading up THQ’s response, she is very clear that this is about culture change:

‘It is something that we all need to embrace, challenging our positions and being prepared to listen to the views of others. We are not going to agree on everything, but we need to look for those things that we have in common.’

As well as sitting on boards and groups such as the Moral and Social Issues Council (Masic), Jennifer speaks into learning and development opportunities with the Mission Service and advises THQ’s Human Resources team on matters such as making reasonable adjustments in the workplace. She also advises corps that want to make buildings and programmes more accessible. She sees her role as breathing life into policies and enjoys nothing more than coming alongside others and working collaboratively to ensure that their thinking is inclusive – whether that is at THQ, in divisions or in service delivery settings.

‘Respect is about people,’ she states. ‘People need to be seen, to be listened to. We need to hear and understand what their experiences are.’

In recent years the territory has invested in change with initiatives such as the Racial Inclusion Working Group. Jennifer is keen to see this level of investment and dialogue mirrored in our engagement with groups and individuals on issues such as LGBTQ+ inclusion, disability inclusion and inclusion of other protected groups. The Racial Inclusion Working Group recently undertook a Welcome and Belonging survey that will offer further insight into how corps members experience inclusion. However, there is more to be done.

‘Every interaction is an opportunity to make a difference,’ says Jennifer. ‘The more we do, the more it becomes second nature and culture changes. ‘Diversity is not a new thing. God created it. He wants it that way. Therefore, we need to work on it, we need to celebrate it. There are likely to be obstacles on the journey but, if we work together, we can find our way around them and continue to seek to be more and more as God intended.’

At its heart, The Salvation Army is rooted in compassion, a value that is clearly linked to respect as well as integrity. As Salvationists in this territory continue to learn from one another, there is also opportunity to be bold in the decisions that they make from a position of love for others.

‘Although there is much to celebrate there are still those that don’t experience a sense of belonging,’ Jennifer continues. ‘We want people to feel valued for who they are and to achieve their full potential. This is not about any particular group or protected characteristic, but about all people. We need to continue to create an environment where people can flourish.’

‘Change of this nature is often demonstrated not by policies or strategies but by the quiet practices of individuals,’ she reflects. ‘Thank you for making a difference just where you are.’

Interview by

Photo of Julian Watchorn.

Major Julian Watchorn


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