View from the frontline: new Unlocked diversity and inclusion advisory group

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View from the frontline: new Unlocked diversity and inclusion advisory group

#An perspective from Unlocked participant Nathan who works at HMYOI Feltham

For me, the past year has been defined by 3 words: change, resilience and uncertainty, as the Covid-19 pandemic enforced a ‘new normal’ upon us.  However, the events of 2020 not only changed how we work and socialise, but also brought about a change in social discourse – with several ‘uncomfortable’ social issues entering the public forum on a scale previously unseen.   

Sparked by the killing of George Floyd, as well as several other unarmed Black  Americans, we witnessed the re-emergence of Black Lives Matter protests. Contrary to times in the past, these protests and the concept of anti-racism they promoted became intertwined with popular culture and social/mass media. With discussions around discrimination, diversity, and equality taking place with a freedom and honesty that had not yet been seen, this was an opportunity for many individuals and organisations to reflect on their place and the role they play in society.

From this, Unlocked made new commitments to becoming an anti-racist organisation, looking inward and exploring how societal inequalities and indirect discrimination manifest within it.

A hallmark of this journey has been the creation of a Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Group at the end of last year. An idea built from consultation with participants, ambassadors, and staff, the group exists to hold Unlocked accountable through review and scrutiny of Unlocked’s internal and external processes to benefit the experiences of current and future participants, alumni and prisoners in their care. Its aim is simple: to promote voices from every area of the organisation to benefit the collective experience.

The Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group includes 12 representatives from varied prisons across the 2019 and 2020 cohorts, as well as several ambassadors. Being a member gives individuals the space to share their stories and listen to and learn from another’s professional and personal experiences. Crucially, the group hopes to address a range of diversity issues whether it be race, gender, disability, sexuality, or allyship focused. With their divergent perspectives and backgrounds, I hope this group can effectively represent the thoughts and concerns of the Unlocked community on these issues.

The Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group will meet every few months to discuss a plethora of topics. Our first meeting involved discussing and reviewing the equalities curricula at SI (Summer Institute), the language and participant representation used in recruitment, and how to improve Unlocked/MPO support for those experiencing or witnessing discrimination whilst working in a prison environment. I believe incorporating participants’ unique perspectives into the development process will not only strive to create a more welcoming environment for people to feel comfortable expressing themselves across the organisation, but also to develop informative tools and resources for support, which hopefully make participants more resilient in the face of direct or indirect discrimination.

This is only the beginning. I am looking forward to seeing how the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group evolves, and am optimistic for what it can achieve via embedding itself and diversity considerations into the organisation’s decision-making processes.

Whilst there is no certainty over how exactly the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group will progress,  it’s critical to ensure the group is accessible and attuned to the views of participants and ambassadors. We want full transparency over the group’s discussions and actions – with others able to share their passions, concerns, and critiques to positively influence processes. Ultimately, the board is useless if it does not interact with and reflect the views of the wider group, so if you have any suggestions for the group to discuss or assist in any way, please do let us know via inclusion@unlockedgrads.org.uk