Our people – A report on where we are as an organisation

Our people – A report on where we are as an organisation

Our People - Diversity Report

We have published our first diversity report to highlight where we are and what more needs to be done to offer fairer and more inclusive opportunities


Toynbee Hall was founded in 1884 with the goal that future leaders would understand that poverty and inequality is caused by a political, economic and social power structure based on privilege, not individual character flaws. The founders of Toynbee Hall hoped that once these future leaders could see the injustice of systemic exclusion and privilege, they could use their own power to change that unjust system and help bring about a fairer and happier society for all.

In 2021, despite more than a century of huge economic growth and social change, the communities around us in East London still face enormous structural barriers, hugely amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. So our purpose – to build a fairer and happier future with those communities– is even more relevant today.

But today the challenge is not simply about how to influence leaders. It is more fundamental: to ensure that the very leadership of change itself is not the preserve of those with privilege, but instead includes people from all parts of society, from all backgrounds; so that the key drivers of social and economic change reflect the real, vital experiences of exclusion and structural inequality. We want power not just to be used for fairness, but also to be fairly distributed.

And we know that the change we want to see is not simply something for others to make. We firmly believe that Toynbee Hall – a community hub, a place of progress and social justice, and perhaps above all as an employer of over 100 diverse and talented people – needs to put our own commitment to change at the front and centre of how we think and act within our own organisation.

We are publishing today Our People, a first comprehensive report on who we are as an organisation, so that everyone can see where we are on our journey; and to set out clearly what more we intend to do, with the backing and involvement of our team, our stakeholders and the community around us.

Our ambition is to offer fair and inclusive opportunity, ensuring that we are helping create employment and influencing pathways for people without the types of privilege that traditionally lead to power, or just good jobs.

We want our staff and volunteer opportunities to be accessible to and representative of the local community, with people from all backgrounds able to join us and thrive here, making their contribution in whichever way is best for them. The events of 2020, both the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on ethnic minority and low income communities, and the racial injustice events here and in the US that led to a growing awareness of the continued impact of structural racism, have prompted us to reflect deeply on whether we are doing all we can towards building that fairer and happier society.

The report shows we have a hugely diverse team, with an incredible breadth of experience, talent, knowledge and skills drawn from a very wide range of backgrounds. The report highlights that diversity, looking at a range of indicators; and in drawing the data together, we have explored honestly what it is telling us, and in doing so, have uncovered clearly where we believe we have more work to do.

We need of course to acknowledge that as an organisation with a diverse staff team, in a hugely diverse part of London, our most senior leadership, including our Chief Executive, two Directors and Chair of Trustees, are all white.  However, over the past two years we have broadened diversity within our Senior Management Team and worked proactively to recruit talented new trustees with stronger local experience and from diverse backgrounds onto our Board. And as we move forward as an organisation, our Trustees will hold us to account on our commitment to continue to do more.

Making commitments is the easy bit. Making change is much harder and needs real leadership and willingness to learn. So in our report we set out our practical commitment to doing more and better, in four key areas:

  • More inclusive recruitment;
  • Supporting progression and fair reward,;
  • Better understanding and tackling the barriers people face; and
  • Using our existing people development tools better to maximize the benefit to each staff member from their time with us.

We want to increase our accessibility as an employer, and have committed to the Working Families pledge to make all our roles flexible. And we must deepen our support to staff from all backgrounds to help them progress and pursue their ambitions.

We are publically sharing the data because we want to be transparent, and we want to be held to account on our commitments. The Our People Report sets out key diversity and equality data across pay and grade as it stood in October 2020. It also sets out our understanding of what the data, staff and stakeholders tell us about where there are barriers to people joining us or progressing with us or elsewhere. Finally, it outlines some of the detail of those four pillars of our emerging Action Plan set out above.

We have already begun to take action. We have increased pay in the small number of roles where the data showed there were identifiable inequality gaps, explored how they had arisen and put in place a new process to monitor for and address any future unfair pay gaps.

We want to increase our accessibility as an employer, and have committed to the Working Families pledge to make all our roles flexible. We must deepen our support to staff from all backgrounds to help them progress and pursue their ambitions. And we have increased the level of community participation in our recruitment.

We partnered with You Make It, an East London charity with huge experience of challenging systemic inequalities facing local communities. The team at You Make It supported us to take our whole leadership and middle management team through their anti-racism programme, You Change It, using a human-centered approach to equip us with the knowledge and skills to build our own anti-racism allyship plan.  

And we have just launched a low-tech, open-to-all Skills Academy, where staff (and, in the future, volunteers and the wider community) can ask for and offer skills-sharing through informal learning sessions, shadowing and mentoring to help develop the knowledge and confidence to apply for more senior roles or start a new initiative.  

There is still much important work for us to do if we want to be the best champions we can for full inclusion and fairness for all people. We believe absolutely that by doing this work we will be better able to fulfill our mission to build that fairer and happier future with the communities around us.

We have committed to Toynbee Hall being a true ally against all forms of structural inequality, unfairness and injustice, both in the work we do and the way in which we create and open access to opportunity. And at the end of 2021 we will publish our second diversity report to share our learning and, hopefully, our progress. In all this work we want to be transparent and open to feedback and challenged, so that we can move forwards together with confidence that we are making the right changes, in the right way. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments on the data in this report or how we can make a greater positive contribution as an employer, we would love to hear from you.

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