Leading safe cultures: what have we done so far?

Bullying can and does happen in all sectors but we want the charity sector to take a lead in tackling it. That’s why earlier this year ACEVO and the Centre for Mental Health released In Plain Sight: workplace bullying in charities and the implications for leadership. The report revealed the trauma that can be caused by bullying, and the processes and systems that need to change in order to better prevent bullying in charities and protect those that experience it. Alongside the launch of the report, ACEVO made a set of commitments in What’s next? ACEVO’s commitment to action.

The report’s recommendations will not all be achieved quickly, and success is likely to look like lots of incremental improvements rather than one seismic shift. But we are committed to talking transparently and openly about the path to change, including the successes and the setbacks.

What have we done so far?

The report’s first recommendation was for charities to nominate at least one trustee and one senior manager to lead on staff workplace wellbeing. ACEVO has nominated Menai Owen-Jones from the board and myself (Kristiana Wrixon) from the senior management team. Today we have also published the role responsibilities for both positions to help other charities who want to adopt this approach but may not know where to start.

In line with recommendation two ACEVO has reviewed and updated its bullying policy to make it more detailed and robust. The updated bullying policy can be found on our website and other organisations are welcome to use it as a template if that would be helpful.

Recommendation four asks the Charity Commission to clarify how existing regulations and guidance should be understood and used by victims of bullying in charities and charity leaders in relation to workplace bullying. I have had an initial discussion with a representative from the Charity Commission and I will follow up with them again later this year so we can continue to work towards this.

In our ‘What’s next?’ document we committed to developing and implementing a new ACEVO staff survey. Work has begun on this with colleagues leading a session about designing the survey at our most recent staff away-day. Following this, a task and finish group has been set up to pull together the feedback from the session and create the survey. We anticipate running the survey in late 2019 or early 2020.

ACEVO has also signed up to Mental Health First Aid’s Where’s Your Head At? Workplace Manifesto and will be producing a mental health at work plan within the next six months.

Over the last four months, we have also been talking to our members about the research finding. Sarah Hughes, CEO of the Centre for Mental Health talked about the research at one of our London and South East CEO forums. Sarah, our CEO Vicky and Oxfam CEO, Danny Sriskandarajah will also be speaking next month at ACEVO’s annual conference on building safe, positive and inclusive cultures.

What are we still working on?

ACEVO will also look to build relationships with representatives from unions, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and the Health and Safety Executive in order to discuss the findings of the research and the potential for any joint initiatives.

Recommendation five is for the initiation of a sector-wide discussion about bullying and workplace culture that can frame a programme of collective sectoral action to address bullying behaviour and promote healthier, happier and more productive workplace cultures. This will be a substantive and wide-ranging piece of work. I have had a number of conversations with culture change experts and people that have experienced bullying about what this programme will involve but have not yet developed a proposal or plan for the next stage of work.

Support and commitment

We are only just getting started, and there is a lot still to do but the commitment to self-improvement and sector-improvement that has been shown by our members convinces me that our ambitions are achievable.

For further information about this work please contact Kristiana.wrixon@acevo.org.uk

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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