Stakeholder sessions on Equality & Equal Opportunities
In this second summative read, we focus on the other crucial cross-cutting theme: Equality & Equal Opportunities
This theme, as with the Environmental Sustainable Development/climate action theme, is mainstreamed across all BBO partnerships. So all grant holders and their partners have been required to make progress on the theme since the programme started in mid-2016.
Tis particular theme holds deep resonance with one of the core principles of The National Lottery Community Fund (dubbed ‘golden threads’ inside TNLCF): Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (E.D.I.).
So between 27.09.21 and 01.10.21 we held three different sessions (8 hours of talk time) focused on this theme.
Why does the programme have this focus on Equality and Equal Opportunities?
BBO is a significant programme: over £600 Million multi-annual funding since 2016 for well over 100 partnerships (approx. 2,000 organisations, majority VCSE).
That large scale, and multi-annual nature, is due to BBO having been co-financed between TNLCF and European Social and Investment Funding (within European Social Funding). Therefore some EU policy pieces have underpinned the programme since inception. Three relevant EU policy pieces underpinning BBO are ‘social inclusion’, ‘combating poverty’, and combating discrimination of any kind.’ Given those roots, it is easy to see why the BBO programme has this emphasis on Equality (predominantly addressing gender inequality) and equal opportunities.
What happened at the stakeholder sessions?
Our opening session for this theme cast several spotlights, to boost understanding and appreciation of what’s been achieved so far
- An explainer on this specific theme – and why it matters
- Understanding the wider TNLCF context, hearing from our EDI Manager
- A big spotlight on BBO’s programme-level data. This section came with clear caveats such as the data being a snapshot in time, an aggregated national picture and so naturally in contrast to specific local partnerships, and emergent/indicative not conclusive.
Our second session of the week optimised the talk time for grant holders and partners: 4 smaller groups, discussing 4 different topics in turn for 1.5 hours each (6 hours of total talk time).
The four groups stimulated a lot of conversation while airing some insights and many questions. Here are just a couple of highlights each from the four topical chats:
- The pandemic has impacted women heavily, some say more, as women have typically had childcare and home schooling work to do
- Increasing anxiety noted through lockdown, remaining an issue when engaging women specifically –some projects noted it as a reason for shortening/limiting time spent on the project.
- Partnerships bemoaned what they dubbed ‘the quality of referrals they received’ especially in the over-50s age category
- Lack of face-to-face time with young people was highlighted as a growing problem for relations and in specifics like obtaining exit evidence.
- Partnerships raised the idea that disabilities are being under-reported (despite high numbers shown at programme level)
- Various BBO partnerships stated that there needs to be a willingness to support employers and/or to challenge recruitment decisions.
- Clearly a contentious acronym/term, used by some not others, and used differently by many. Some offered alternative terms.
- Not a stopper to diversity and inclusion or the progress being made (evidenced by relevant BBO programme stats).
The above is just a taster. Look under “discussion points” (linked) for multiple points synthesised form all of the breakout chats, alongside Chat function comments. As with the other CCT, this theme sparked a wealth of material and debate, certainly enough for future sessions that might follow up and develop certain points.
Our third session on this theme encouraged reflective inputs from both the topical session chats outlined, but also opening up to include any and all relevant inputs from people working on the programme over time, from 2016 to date.
We heard several interesting reflections from BBO grant holders and partnerships, as well as the BBO programme team itself talking about gender equality and more on that ‘B.A.M.E.’ acronym. Interspersed throughout was a short and fun equalities-themed quiz.
In sum, the reflections spanned three main areas:
- Reflections on what it’s been like working on the Equality & Equal Opportunities CCT – in terms of being a BBO partnership; or as an organisation; or as a team/individual
- Reflections on how the pandemic has helped &/or hindered work under this theme
- Reflections on what ‘post-pandemic’ currently looks like, and how people might keep this specific CCT in mind, and at the heart of personal and collective actions taken.
Evaluating these sessions, as well as the BBO programme on equalities
Each session sparked a very positive response in the Chat as well as spoken thanks. A feedback form has been shared to all attendees (some 70 organisations were represented across these sessions) and the feedback was extended to those who could not join the sessions in order to gauge more ideas for follow-up sessions.
The feedback form remains open (November 2021) so when this closes we will post a summary of points on this webpage.
Many BBO partnerships have progressed well with their actions on this particular Cross-Cutting Theme over the past 5 years of the programme (as of late 2021). Yet this theme remains a crucial focus for BBO’s final extension toward 2023.
In the years remaining of BBO, and inputting to its legacy beyond, is a range of work that helps address stubborn inequalities in access/inclusion, health, poverty, and of course employment. Positive impacts are being felt through improvements made within organisations, and in better access to relevant services and activities for a wide range of participants. Also there are innovative pieces of work being supported by BBO such as social prescribing, among other approaches, as well as nuanced work streams like disability audits or localised evaluations.
The multiplier effect is strong too: over 100 BBO partnerships, and approx. 2,000 organisations to date, majority VCSE, translates to growing impacts from BBO in respect of Equality and equal opportunities since the programme began in the middle of 2016. Before the programme reaches its culmination in 2023, there’s plenty of time to grow the thematic impacts and optimise the legacies of BBO.