A key element of creating an
inclusive and welcoming environment is ensuring that those supporting the decision
making and running of your organisation reflect your local community and understand
your people’s needs.
Inequalities persist in all aspects of sport and physical activity including in the leadership and governance of organisations. If all members of your main committee and any sub-committees or internal groups share similar characteristics, they are more likely to have common viewpoints and share similar lived experiences. As a result, they might have less awareness of the challenges and barriers that other groups face.
Having people in positions of responsibility who represent different groups within your local community can help create a welcoming environment. This can lead to better decision making, helps ensure that your organisation has a strong focus on equality, diversity, and inclusion, and supports its sustainability by encouraging growth and improving community relationships.
What are the benefits of diverse committees?
Involving a diverse range of people with different viewpoints, perspectives and experiences in your organisation’s decision making can have a number of benefits:
- It encourages diversity of thought and helps people to challenge each other in a supportive way.
- It enables open debate, helping you to make more informed decisions and create better solutions.
- It helps organisations to discuss and act confidently on inclusion and demonstrate this to different stakeholders (including funders).
- Having decision-making groups that are representative of your people and your community will help you to grow and develop in ways that are attractive to local people, by understanding their needs and priorities.
- Diverse committees will show that your organisation champions inclusion. See our Reaching different audiences section for more information.
Underpinning the principles of good governance
For community sports clubs and groups, there are five key principles of good governance. These are covered in ‘A Code for Sports Governance’ (The Code), which applies to organisations who wish to receive funding from Sport England or UK Sport. The five principles are:
- Standards and Conduct
- Policies and Procedures
Developing diverse committees can underpin all of these principles for an organisation. Diverse committees will be able to identify the most appropriate legal structure for their club or group, because they will have a good understanding of where the organisation might be headed. Creating diverse decision-making groups also ensures the right people are in place to take the organisation forward and should encourage them to communicate openly and effectively with each other, as well as with the wider organisation. Also, by having an in-depth understanding of people’s needs and wants through being able to draw on a range of perspectives and backgrounds, diverse committees can identify and implement the right standards and conduct, backed up by their policies and procedures. For more information on good governance, click here.
Hints and tips for creating a more diverse committee
We have pulled together some hints and tips to help you work towards creating more diverse committees.
1) Make a commitment to positive change.
It is important that your existing committees are the catalyst for change. Achieving diverse committees relies on those already involved being open to more inclusive ways of working. If your committee members are resistant to change, achieving it will be more difficult. If your organisation has inclusive values and a welcoming, positive culture, it is more likely to embrace change.
2) Create a plan to address gaps.
Look at the make-up of your existing committees and consider if they are representative of your membership, volunteers and local community. Consider carrying out an audit to see if any groups are under-represented. You can use our Skills Matrix to help you. Once you have identified any gaps, determine how you can address them. Developing an action plan can be helpful to guide your thinking about where and how you can fill any gaps and who can help you promote opportunities (see step 5).
3) Review how your committees operate.
Consider how your committees currently operate and whether they support the diverse needs of the different groups that you are looking to attract. Being open and listening to the views of different people will help to create an environment where participants and volunteers feel comfortable to speak openly without the risk of feeling judged.
Work to address the barriers that might stop people from diverse communities being involved. For example, consider if you can be flexible in adapting the time or location and addressing any expenses associated with attending committee meetings (e.g. travel and childcare) to meet the needs of different people. Where relevant, consider options to attend meetings virtually.
Finally, consider the length of time you ask people to serve on a committee and your rules regarding re-election. Limiting both the length of service and re-election rules can help create appropriate opportunities to recruit new people. Where possible, try to create a pipeline of diverse new committee members through your succession planning activities.
4) Make sure your policies and procedures match your values and actions.
Review your organisation’s policies and procedures to ensure they are clear about your commitment to equality, inclusion and diversity. There a number of organisations including NGB’s and Active Partnerships that have produced polices outlining their commitment to equality, inclusion and diversity. Examples include UK Athletics Diversity Action Plan, RFU Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan and Kent Sports Equality Action Plan. Within these plans there are key principles that your organisation may consider when reviewing your policies and procedures.
5) Identify the best ways to promote opportunities to people.
Look at where you advertise any vacant roles and consider if this will reach your intended audience. If you’re looking to attract groups that are not already represented on your committee, you will probably need to go beyond your traditional recruitment channels. You could ask local organisations who already engage with the group(s) you’d like to recruit for help and advice. For more information on finding volunteers, click here.
6) Look at how you recruit and fill committee roles.
When recruiting, consider developing selection criteria that take account of the traditional skills required but also long beyond this to help bring in diverse perspectives, experiences and views. Focus on the skills and behaviours required, but then prioritise those from different groups.
If you do not already have them, create role descriptions outlining key roles and responsibilities, or set out the key tasks of any vacant positions. Clear role descriptions or task lists will provide potential recruits with all the information they need and help them decide if it is something they can commit to. Role descriptions should be written in a way which encourages a wide pool of applicants from different backgrounds so think about the language you use and the tone of your communications as well as any imagery you include.
7) Provide an induction for new committee members.
Consider providing an induction to all new committee members. This could include assigning mentors and running induction sessions to help new members of your committee settle in and quickly feel part of your organisation.