‘A key challenge will be how to ensure that the promotion of race equality and inclusion is embedded across reforms’: Civil Service Race Forum chairs review 2020 and look ahead to 2021

As 2021 approaches, senior figures from across government reflect on their highlights and challenges of 2020, look ahead to the next 12 months and share their favourite festive memories
Sharon Lo, Justin Placide, and Grace Moronfolu (co-chairs and deputy chair of the Civil Service Race Forum respectively).

By Civil Service World

18 Dec 2020

Sharon Lo, Justin Placide, and Grace Moronfolu (co-chairs and deputy chair of the Civil Service Race Forum respectively).

What are you proudest of the network achieving in 2020?

2020 has been a challenging year on so many fronts: from Covid-19, to working while at home and the media spotlight on global racism.

Despite being a relatively new team (having been elected in April 2020), we are proud that CSRF has accomplished a lot in a short space of time. Key achievements include:

●         Establishing clearer and more accountable governance;

●         Increasing engagement with 42+ member race networks, and providing support to Senior Leaders on issues such as Covid-19 and tackling race inequality;

●         Pulling together CS equality statistics as a resource to empower member networks;

●         Organising over 20 events attended by 1,000s of colleagues across government;

●         Organising the first ever virtual cross-network Black History Month launch, attended by 1000+ participants and 21 network co-organisers;

●         Publishing 3 blogs and producing 6 videos;

●         Writing 3 letters to senior leaders;

●         Launching our mentorship offer for junior staff; and

●         Organising the first cross-government art competition.

Overall, we are probably proudest of having transformed CSRF into a more transparent, inclusive and representative space for race networks across government.  Additionally we were thrilled when we were shortlisted for the Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Awards in the ‘Employee Staff Network’ category.                                                           

What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2020?

Making decisions on issues that could impact on the lived experiences of ethnic minority colleagues for years to come. It is a huge responsibility to represent the needs of our members, and particularly important that targeted action is taken to address the race disparity that is prevalent across the civil service – across representation, progression, performance and talent.

It’s also been challenging to lead amidst an ambiguous and shifting context: we’ve very much been reacting to one crisis after another, trying to empower and engage our member race networks the best that we can.

What are the main challenges facing the network in the coming year?

Simon Case, the Head of the Civil Service and Alex Chisholm, the Chief Operating Officer have both made clear how  important it is that the civil service reflects the diversity of our population we seek to serve: whether that be through our ethnic composition, socioeconomic background or geographical location.

A key challenge for CSRF will be how to ensure that the promotion of race equality and inclusion is embedded across these aims, whether that be through organising digital training and project management workshops or identifying opportunities for how ‘levelling up’ can benefit regional BAME communities.

As the world recovers from the pandemic, our support to colleagues transitioning back into physical office spaces and potential new forms of hybrid working will also be key.

People will have to be more creative about celebrating this year. How will you make the festive period on Zoom special?

Grace Moronfolu: I will be sharing zoom festive cheers throughout the festive period with family and friends. I am planning a virtual Christmas ‘cookathon’ as we all prepare our Christmas dinners.

Sharon Lo: I’ve returned home to Hong Kong to support my family through a difficult time, so thankfully hugs all round and no Christmas Zoom calls!

Justin Placide: I intend to be as creative as I can be over the festive holiday. I have a selection of seasonal jumpers, and I intend to wear a different one every time I speak to a family member or friend on Zoom or an alternative platform.

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