Leading with values: creating a safe organisational culture

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This report is part of a cross-sector tiered project developed in response to the Charity Commission’s domestic charity safeguarding summit. The summit was held in March 2018 in response to reports of harassment, abuse and exploitation in the charity sector. The project is led by ACEVO and NCVO covering leadership and culture respectively.

This report highlights three pillars of moral leadership that will enable leaders to create safe workplace cultures in which unacceptable, abusive or bullying behaviour is dealt with before it can escalate.

The pillars are:

1. Being values led

Values must be authentic, relevant to the work of the charity and resonate with the staff team. Values should be the golden thread that runs through all decision making in the charity.

2. Modelling ethical behaviour

Culture is modelled from the top and created through action. Leaders cannot just tell people what is important: members of the team will decide that based on what they see the leader do and by what happens within the charity.

3. Nurturing a culture of continuous improvement

Leaders should encourage open, honest, constructive conversations about areas of disagreement which will enable each staff member to feel that their voice is valued and listened to. This will create a culture in which staff and volunteers are not afraid to challenge the status quo. 

As well as outlining what good leadership looks like for charity leaders, the report provides suggestions as to how funders, the Charity Commission and government can model behaviour that facilitates an operating environment that does not inadvertently encourage or reward poor leadership.

The report finishes with recommendations designed to support the development of safe cultures across the entire charity sector.

Recommendation 1: As part of the civil society strategy, the government should announce the creation of a safeguarding centre of excellence. The centre should include reinstating the Safe Network training programme and the development of a programme of values-led leadership training.

Recommendation 2: Research is commissioned that examines the state of leadership in the charity sector, with a specific focus on understanding how bullying cultures are created and sustained in charities. This research should centre on the voices and experiences of those that have experienced harm or abuse.

Download the report.