2020 was the worst and the best of years. It was really hard and yet we have a lot to be proud of. I am sure we are all looking for a bit of let up and a better year in 2021. So, here are my Big Three Resolutions for 2021:
We all know the story of President Kennedy’s visit to NASA in the 60’s when he asked the janitor what he did at NASA, and the janitor replied: ‘I’m helping put a man on the moon.’ The janitor really understood how he contributed to achieving NASA’s vision. Last year we launched our new Business Plan 2020-25 with a slightly amended mission: ‘We are in the business of changing lives. We fight inequality by working with people and places to create opportunities and inspire change.’ I would like every member of staff to see how they help fight inequality. Most of us work in Big Life so we can make a difference, but sometimes it can be hard to see the impact we are having. By gathering and presenting our data and stories better, we will all be inspired by the results of our work.
We’ve ticked the boxes and done the training. We are, after all, good people working in a socially aware organisation. Yet in our diversity survey in 2020, more than 20% of staff said they didn’t feel they could talk openly with their team about a protected characteristic. Race and gender identity/trans status were the areas where the lowest percentages of staff reported they could talk openly in their teams (64% and 68% respectively). For some organisations this might be a good result – but for us it is not enough.
So, my resolution is for us to become an organisation where every person is open to having uncomfortable conversations. We should not be scared or defensive when we are corrected for assuming someone has a partner of the opposite sex, or for using the wrong pronoun, or stereotyping by religion or race. We need to welcome the correction, which might feel uncomfortable, and educate ourselves. Also, we shouldn’t leave it to someone else in a group to correct it, or (as I am guilty of in the past) thinking it’s best done in private to avoid embarrassment. We need to all be allies and champion diversity.
I have spent my life wondering when to tell people I meet I am a lesbian – before they make an assumption or negative remark or after? Many people of colour and people with physical disabilities constantly have to think about whether it is worth correcting people, or whether they will just be seen as the person making it uncomfortable if they do.
So, let’s be the organisation where it’s okay to have uncomfortable conversations. An organisation where valuing difference is really meant – where we value the opportunity to learn and see the world and learn from people who are not like us.
We’ve done our best in 2020 – with quizzes, team lunches, socially distanced walks – and the communications team did us proud with a fabulous online Staff Awards. But I really miss celebrating with you all in person, and I am sure you are really missing each other too. So, my final resolution is that – when we can – we have a really BIG PARTY. You are fabulous people doing fabulous things and you inspire me every day with what you do to make the world a better place. We really deserve to celebrate together and in 2021 we should make sure we take every opportunity to do so.