Often when people talk about engaging Black Minority Ethnic (BME) or low-income groups, they talk about engaging the “hard to reach”. But what exactly do we mean when we say that just because certain groups aren’t involved in what we’re doing, they must be “hard to reach”? How often is it that we turn this back on ourselves and ask “how hard to reach are we?”
A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Black Environment Network’s annual conference where I had the great good fortune to hear a presentation from Miles Sibley, Development Director at BTCV (a British conservation charity which enables volunteers to undertake conservation work across the UK). BTCV have been working to diversify those involved in their volunteering activities for the last 10 years. They must be doing something right because in 2007-2008, more than 10,000 Black Minority Ethnic (BME) people from the London, South East and Eastern parts of the UK took part in BTCV’s projects.
So what have they done that many other environmental groups aren’t apparently doing? According to Miles, in addition to building relationships with groups on the ground, they’ve spent a lot of time looking at how they as an organisation are hard to reach. They’ve done a fair bit of self-reflection to identify the barriers to involvement that they themselves have inadvertently erected and have worked hard to become a fundamentally inclusive organisation.
This begs the question, what might our barriers be as a movement? I doubt there’s an absolute answer to this. Rather, I think it’s something that we need to look at in detail over the next year or so through a process of self-reflection and inner dialogue that genuinely and persistently questions ourselves to find any barriers that we may have unknowingly assembled. Equally important is a undertaking a process to truly hear and understand the views and opinions of others which in turn can feed that inner dialogue, enabling us to develop a movement that involves the skills, ideas and experiences of everyone in our communities.
I look forward to further discussions on this subject and the fruit that it will no doubt bring.
Catrina is the new Diversity Co-ordinator for the Transition Network. To find out more about Diversity in Transition including how to benefit from the training, projects and support that the Diversity in Transition approach offers, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To complete the Transition Diversity Survey, go to: www.surveymonkey.com/s/SXQJPVQ.