At Thames21 we care passionately about our rivers and waterways, and as importantly, for those who use and look after them. We strongly believe that a diverse and inclusive workforce brings with it a diversity of ideas, thinking and ways of working which enhances what we do as an environmental charity.
A diverse workforce gives us access to a wider talent base and so enhances the overall capability of Thames21 whilst also giving us a richer range of experiences and perspectives, improving the quality of our plans and decision-making.
We strive to recruit, develop and retain the most talented people regardless of their social background, age, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, religion/belief or disability and to make use of their talents. We aim to make this charity a welcoming, inspiring and inclusive space where everyone feels they belong. In fact, our core aim is to gain the trust of people from all parts of society and make sure we engage with them to ensure that they can help to protect our rivers and enjoy benefitting from its wide range of amenities.
This is important because the environmental sector is not doing well with diversity, as it is regarded as one of the least diverse sectors in the UK after farming.
As a river charity primarily based in London – a city vibrant with diversity of all forms – there is a particular onus on us to make sure that we are representative of the communities we work in: through the volunteers we work with, through to the staff and board.
We believe that a diverse workforce and volunteer base is also necessary for our core goal of protecting waterways. We have much to gain by being inclusive: connecting with people from different cultures and experiences will expand our understanding and help us achieve our goals more effectively. This is not about bestowing a good from one community to another: being inclusive is fundamentally about mutual respect, exchange and understanding.
Governance of this policy
We have set up a review at board level to examine diversity of the board and a staff-led working group looking at all aspects of diversity and inclusion: from internal culture to how we deliver our projects. We will develop an action plan on how to make Thames21 an inclusive and diverse organisation – including the feedback from the communities we wish to engage – and will embed our approach in our new Five-Year Plan due to be published later this year.
How we measure our action plan and its effectiveness is currently under discussion.
Creating an inclusive and listening culture
We want to build a culture that is self-reflective, is continuously learning and is a welcoming and supportive environment to work in. We will:
• Develop a protocol on how to ensure voices from all parts of the community we work in are listened to when developing new project
• Implement a strategy where staff can choose to attend two/three, internal diversity events per year
• Expand the places where we recruit and advertise vacancies to ensure that the diversity of our workforce reflects the communities where we live and work
• Include diversity and inclusion in our company narrative, on our website, and in our job descriptions
We have begun by:
• Launching our Thames Connections Project in early November 2020 and inspiring underrepresented communities from six London boroughs to engage with their local rivers.
• So far, the initiative has made significant steps in achieving its long-term goals of promoting and delivering a programme of river-based activities for local communities. For instance, last year, local communities enjoyed participating in foreshore clean-ups, art workshops, and a river ritual celebrating the West African water deity (Mama Osun) during London Rivers Week/Black History Month. More than 100 people participated in these events
• The Thames Connection Project has also led and organised a series of webinars that focused on exploring the significance of rivers in different cultures. The series was attended by more than 100 people
• Establishing a staff EDI group to help progress practical and impactful change initiatives
We realise we have more work to do. This is a continuous journey and with everyone’s input we’ll make diversity and inclusivity an everyday reality! If you have suggestions on how we might improve this process, please get in touch!