Audrey Okyere-Fosu has been appointed as the Coordinator for the Equalities Board of the VCSE Engagement Project. The development of this Equalities Board for Greater Manchester has arisen as a result of work carried out on behalf of the recently formed GM VCSE Devolution Reference Group.
She has a diverse and interesting background in equalities, the arts and community involvement, as a Community Development Officer with the BHA for Equality, as an Inclusion and Equality Advisor for the Salford Royal Foundation Trust and as an accomplished jazz vocalist with a catalogue of music releases.
VSNW asked Audrey about her ideal objectives for equality across the region, what obstacles might be in the way and what her strategy might be.
VSNW: What’s your vision for GM in 20 years?
· The creation of a vibrant cultural and artistic hub, where everyone feels safe
· High quality, sustainable transport links that serve all communities
· Lifelong education and training that highlights the benefits of diversity, and strong leadership that reflects this
· Fairer recruitment practices, for example using the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard data, and then using that data to inform equalities best practice
· Leaders who aren't afraid to challenge any cultural practices that exclude minorities within their own organisations
· Equality of access to information, services, advice and treatment for historically marginalised or forgotten communities
· Local people: true partnership working between the VCSE and statutory sectors
· Accountability for poor performance and cultural practices that discriminate and exclude
· More community spirit!
· Tougher action on hate crime and a recognition of its impact on the v fabric of communities and community cohesion. The link to health and well-being – i.e. preventative action aligned with budgets
VSNW: What’s the biggest barrier to your vision?
· A lack of vision (a culture of ‘we've always done it this way’)
· Practices and culture within organisations that cause exclusion
· A lack of understanding that an equality impact assessment/equality analysis identifies the issues and clearly highlights changes that need to be made - it is a dynamic document with an action plan that needs to be ‘actioned’
· Currently there appears to be a focus of attention and resources to south and central Manchester, and a perception that north Manchester has been left behind
· As members of the VCSE sector, we continue to address our assumptions and (un)conscious biases to ensure we are delivering inclusive services to all Manchester’s communities
· Our use of jargon, acronyms and a lack of plain English can exclude groups from participating
· Meetings that are held at inappropriate venues or times. These can exclude groups/individuals from participating
VSNW: What would you like to do?
· To continue to be an interface for organisations, businesses and the communities that they serve
· Keep the focus on achieving better equality outcomes for communities without any politics or agendas
· Encourage more collaborative working within the VCSE sector
· I’m a qualified trainer with nearly 20 years’ experience - maybe this skill set can be utilised to upskill staff, managers and leaders regarding cultural awareness, equality good practice, impact assessments and effective challenge. Perception is everything!
VSNW: Who will you connect to?
Audrey: I’m keen to work alongside colleagues in the VCSE, statutory, health and business sectors. Plus local community and cultural groups.
VSNW: What’s missing?
Audrey: Self-awareness – we don’t have all the answers and sometimes we get it wrong, but we’re trying. We need to listen to, and act on, intelligence already offered up by communities, while avoiding consultation fatigue.